Suffice it to say, I’m not one to wear my nationality as a badge of pride.
But for all our similarities, I’m discovering the cultural differences are greater than I first imagined. I suppose it’s because I’m cautious about being sure not to paint my perception of other countries with too broad a stroke. As an American, I have been indoctrinated to think of the continent of Africa as a single country where everyone is starving, and I have spent my adulthood undoing that narrative by educating myself. Nigeria is as complex as the United States, in its history, culture, and economics.
So I have to admit that I have a good deal of privilege as a citizen of the United States. I can obtain treatment for my psychiatric disabilities, whereas in much of the world, I’d be expected to simply solider through when I’m at most debilitated. I can live in many parts of the country as an out gay man, and as time goes on, the areas where I can’t grow fewer and further between. Even if I am lower-class by American standards, compared to the rest of the world, I live a quite comfortable life.
What I’m trying to get at is that American identity is complicated. Just like Nigerian identity. Just like any identity. There are always myriad intersecting factors. And you can simultaneously be grateful for what you have and fight for a better world.
Whittier Strong is an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He presently serves as nonfiction editor for Permafrost. His work has been published in The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, Apogee, Jonathan, QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology, and elsewhere. A native of Indiana, he earned his BA in creative writing from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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