Identity Conflicts Aren’t Just for Mixed People. I’m Black and I Have Them, Too

My Thing Is: To white Americans, I’m black. To black Americans, I’m African. To Africans, I’m Nigerian and to Nigerians, I’m Urhobo. Being multicultural can be just as complex as being multiracial. 

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My answers to questions about my home or citizenship lead to more questions from some people, and I have smiled to keep from wincing when an answer of “West Africa” has led someone to ask me if I know such-and-such from Kenya or Tanzania or another African country (because all Africans are friends?).

I’m not fully comfortable speaking of myself as “African” among my American friends when I’m specifically Nigerian. Similarly, it can be uncomfortable explaining to my Nigerian friends that I’m Urhobo and Yoruba and not just one.  

Having traveled, lived and claimed citizenship in so many different places, I don’t feel entirely comfortable picking a simplified cultural identity. For now I’m working on ways to tailor my answers to suit the questions I’m asked, while keeping them easy to understand and still true to who I am.

The color of my skin might make it look simple, but it’s not.

Omonigho Ufomata is a public-policy professional who resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter.

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