I got PTSD from America, but I was blessed enough to have a way out. Even if that way out was a war torn country that hadn’t seen peace in a quarter century, it was still a way out. I never forget the fact that so many of my black cousins, born and bred in that hellish place, don’t have such a luxury.
I’ll never stop being thankful to my black brethren who took me in from jump, especially when my own people saw me as too unorthodox to associate with. I’ll never stop fighting for the liberation of all black people, everywhere, but especially in places where they don’t have a way out. Black America, you helped shape me into the man I am today. Even when I was lost, I always had an anchor. An unspoken acceptance, a seat at the table regardless of how I expressed or repressed my blackness.
In coming to America, I adopted the black struggle as my own, because it became my reality. I don’t know what generational trauma feels like, but I know that trauma has more parallels than it does differences across cultural lines. I see myself as black, I saw my ethnicity stripped away from us as soon as we landed at JFK all those years after having escaped the very real trauma of a country scattered.
I saw myself staring at those 5 options whenever I helped my parents fill out a public housing application in elementary school: White/Caucasian, Hispanic/Non Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black/African American. In between asking my teachers at school what the hell a spouse was so I could finish these applications and get that section 8, I was asking myself if there was a difference between Black and African American.
Was there a difference between Somali and African? What did that make me, an African in America? What box did I check? And why did the white female teachers treat me differently then my African American counterparts? Was it merely smugness, that their ego was being stroked by my presence? That they felt responsible for saving my family from a sad, unfortunate fate in despicable, destitute Africa?
Was my very presence in their classrooms a physical assuaging of their white guilt? Why, then, did I feel guilty for this special treatment? Why did I shy away from their praise and try to keep my thoughts to myself, my mouth shut in the back of the classroom?
How did this help me grow a triple consciousness, trying to navigate through it all as a third culture kid? What does it all mean, how can I reconcile all of this shit within me?