Hybridity & Culture in the Age of Social Justice

As my time with FEASTA comes to a close, I want to take the time to thank my supervisors Mark, Theresa, Morag, and Caroline for being so welcoming to me and allowing me to express myself freely. I’m grateful to them for facilitating this experience and ensuring that I got all the necessary support.

I recently recorded a podcast episode where I spoke with scholar Dr. Washington Marovatsanga about the relationship between culture, migration, and a post-pandemic future. Dr. Marovatsanga provided me with a lot of valuable insight surrounding his experiences in academics and navigating various geographic locations.

Both of us are Black and a part of the African diaspora. Even though Dr. Marovatsanga is older, male, born in Zimbabwe and living in Ireland, we were able to relate to each other about family dynamics and navigating a “hybrid” identity. The hybridity concept is one that I know many of my peers of colour have experienced. To put it simply, the hybrid identity involves claiming one nationality but possessing a different cultural background or ethnicity. For me, it has been difficult trying to have a “happy medium” as someone who was born in Canada but is culturally Ghanaian. I’m sure many are familiar with the phrase “too white for the Black kids; too Black for the white kids”.

As I finish a step in my academic journey and embark into the job market, I’ve gained a lot of practical experience in entering spaces that have not usually included marginalized groups. This experience is one that I’ve had to deal with my entire life and it’s still jarring every single time. One would think that I’d be used to being the only or one of the few Black people in a room but you never do. And the impostor syndrome that comes with it never goes away either. It’s extremely damaging to one’s self-esteem to constantly fight feelings of not belonging somewhere. These feelings are exacerbated when you have to deal with bullying at school and constant jokes from one’s own family about being “too white”. Well damn, if that’s the case, where do I belong? It’s extremely exhausting to combat these feelings while trying to carve a place for yourself in society. But again, I am not alone in this experience. Almost all of my POC friends can empathize. And that is the issue that I’m trying to highlight. We are all human beings sharing one Earth. We all belong here. I am tired of the colonial influences that try to say otherwise.

The running theme that I’ve had for my work with FEASTA relies on intersectionality theory. I always aim to emphasize the importance of considering how an experience is shaped by one’s race, gender, age, economic status, etc. With this in mind, the topic of my conversation with Dr. Marovatsanga is very relevant. The hybrid identity provides the perfect scope for examining intersectionality. Being Black, a woman, and Ghanaian all shape my life’s experiences. Having parents who immigrated to Canada in the nineties was a determinant for our family’s economic status which played a role in me being able to financially access post-secondary which then plays a role in my future financial status. All the aspects of our identities play a role in how we interact with society.

Since we’re living in a time of more people being aware of issues surrounding racial justice, it’s important to consider how the erasure of different cultures plays a role in creating these same issues. Living in Global North countries means living under a relationship of power that does not function to uplift marginalized groups. It means living in a society that does not value those based off of merit alone, but on the power they possess and are able to exert. And this privilege of power is not easily given to racialized folk. My conversation with Dr. Marovatsanga highlighted how this process can occur to racialized folk across all western nations.

Finally, COVID-19 has provided the opportunity to create major structural change as we have been able to clearly see that the systems we had before were not working and will continue to not work. I’ve tried to illustrate this idea through analyzing Direct Provision and Ireland’s education system. The question we’re now facing is ‘how should we move forward?’. The conclusion that Dr. Marovatsanga and I both agreed on was that we need to shift into a society that is truly culturally inclusive. That can mean incorporating various cultural practices into western society such as shifting to restorative justice and different approaches to sustainable agriculture, just to provide a couple of examples. The bottom line is that in order to progress to a future that is racially just and inclusive, it means dismantling the oppressive systems we currently have in place and replacing them with ones that value distributing resources and power equally. It means completely rejecting white supremacy and embracing cultural relativity. And those are my final thoughts on how we need to move forward.

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.