Wise & Young

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mon Ivorite

Mon Ivorite

“Where are you from?” or “Where are your people from?” better yet “You don’t look American” these are all comments and in their slight variations that I have heard growing up, even to this day. Some people call me “Exotic” or different, or just plain ugly. To all of them, they are right. I am all of these things and more, for one simple reason. I am mixed.

When you say that you are mixed people automatically assume that you are bi-racial, with me and surprisingly a lot more than you would first assume, both parents are of the same race but we are mixed culturally, and ethnically. In my case, my mom is from the United States, and my father is Ivorian, from Cote D’Ivoire. Having parents from two very different cultural backgrounds, would have been more interesting or more trying if I had from an early age had to deal with the duality of my being. But because of my parents divorce when I was 3 or 4, my father deciding to take a six year hiatus from paternal duties, and the fact that it wasn’t until I turned 18 did I meet an aunt and cousins on my father’s side, I never “felt” African or mixed. Growing up I was that kid with the funny name no one could ever pronounce right, and that didn’t really look like everyone else. When you are young it is very important for your self-esteem not to be different in a way that makes you stand out. But unfortunately I did. I mean to this day people don’t understand that how could French be my first language but I don’t speak it now or can barely pass a French class. Its easy, when I first came to the states with my Mom, I could understand English because my mom would speak to me in English, but I didn’t respond in English only in French because I was living in a Francophone world. When I was put into pre-school the teachers would separate me, from everyone else, because they didn’t understand what I was saying, when I would talk to them. Plus no one would ever talk to me, so I was really isolated with the exception of my Mom, no one would speak to me. So one day, I went to her, and said I never will speak French again. Fast forward 20 years later, and I’ve kept my promise for the most part.

Then growing up southern VA, which is not the most cosmopolitan of places, and where many African-Americans there are extremely ignorant of Africa and feel that they are better than them for one reason or another. I learned to really distance myself from anything African, my mom would try to teach me about African cultures but when it came to Ivorian culture, that is something that I would have and should have learned from my father, who opted not to do so. In fact, when he called after five years it was to tell me that he was coming back from my Grandmothers funeral, MaeMae as she was called, was the ONLY family member of mine to ever come and visit and see me and my little brother. Granted I never knew her really, and I was one of 35 grandchildren but I was the first born male, which usually counts for something. It would have been nice to pay my respects.

It wasn’t until I went away to college did I really start thinking and trying to learn about Ivorian culture and the country itself, ironically when I started to learn that it was considered one of the few successful African nations with a robust economy, I learn that the economy is starting fumble, and that there is Coup the nations first. Then the civil war starts. Then I start to meet and hang out with Africans at college, first it was Habesha, and Eriterans, which lead to Nigerians, Congolese, and then a few people who lived in Cote D’Ivoire and two brothers, who were Ivorian. I learned a lot from them about Ivorian culture and ways of life, but whats interesting is that I am not really accepted my Ivorians or other Africans either, partly because I’m only half, and I never have been “back home” and because I’m very ignorant about my own culture. Oh, well one day it got on my nerves so bad that I called my cousin Evelyne and tested her Ivorite. She could not and did not know of anyone who could speak any of the ethnic tongues, and she told me that our ancesteral village was Gerkain (sp?).

Somedays I wonder if I will ever go back to Cote D’Ivoire, well I know I will to bury my father one day when that occurs but before that I don’t know, I’ve recently started thinking about it, thinking that it would be nice to visit the grave of my grandmother. But then I think I’m only half, and going back there would probably jog memories that I have long suppressed and/or now are grappling with that I will save for a later post.

Here I am, this is me, a guy in between two states and I could never be president of either.

Just my thoughts


  • Damn, 3 posts, lol.
    And what posts ? 2 sexy men and a deep personal story, what more could a culturally mixed bisexual male ask for ? lol
    I know a lot of people who are in the same situation. Asian or african kids who were born in Canada, and live with their canadian parent only. And god ! They had a TOUGH time growing up ! because other people thought they were "different".
    Imagine what kinda crazy mix your kids would be if you married an italian/jamaican girl :
    That's wild aint it ?
    Well i'm "French/Ivoirian/Italian/Senegalese"
    But there's such a cultural mix in Cote d'Ivoire that there's actually a strong community of mixed people, and it's what really saved me.
    Growin up around people who were bi-racial, tri-racial, people from 3 different countries or 3 different continents etc... nobody could be called "different".
    In the end, the degree of attachment to one of the cultures you belong to is proportional to the influence that culture had on the different processes that made you who you are today.
    I dont speak a single african ethnic tongue, and the concept of speaking italian is still not moving me, even though i understand a bit of all those. Life made me speak and master french very passionately though... lol
    Now that you're a grown man you don't have to pay the consequences of the ignorance of other people anymore, you can learn more about the side you don't know much about and make the best of your mix.

    Just finished my glass of wine, have to get 2 or 3 others :-)...

    By Blogger Soldier, at 9:37 PM  

  • You’re a product of your parents – collectively. To negate or ignore any part of your heritage, culture or biological make-up is in essence, only acknowledging part of yourself. To most, I appear to be a light-skinned black man – I admittedly realize I am a man of color – but I celebrate my Puerto Rican culture and background because that’s who I am. Although both my parents are Puerto Rican, we have traced my father’s ancestry to European Spaniards and my mom’s to native Indians and Africans. You’re a beautiful African-American man. Celebrate it! Enjoy it! Live it!

    By Blogger Cocoa Rican, at 12:03 PM  

  • I find it interesting that you started researching your history once you went to college. Congratulations to you for doing that. Do you know how many of us have no idea where we come from?

    Though you do not feel proficient in your heritage I think you are lucky. Your heritage is not lost. You can still learn much about yourself and your people.

    You are right, no one wants to be singled out as a child, but isn't it interesting that as young adults we strive for individuality?

    Great post!

    By Anonymous kennyking78, at 4:13 AM  

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