What my life is like as a 2nd generation Black British
Life as a diaspora is a whirlwind, to say the least; I am British, born and raised in London; however, my parents are Congolese born and raised and moved to London in their 20s. Two years after their arrival, I was born.
I have to be honest, for a long time, I assumed that was classified as a first-generation diaspora as it made more sense being the first new generation of the Congolese culture and within the family (most Congolese migrants arrived in the early ’90s) but discovered otherwise through some research to make sure that I was providing correct statements for this article.
Being a Black British is not like Being an African American
I feel it is necessary to make this clear as the African American descendants’ lineage goes back multiple generations in the US to the point where some may not necessarily know where and what country their heritage starts. (but thanks to the new DNA heritage results companies, it is now possible) Unlike African American, Black British Diaspora’s from African and Caribbean descendants, predominantly our family tree history doesn’t stretch as far, and most likely, it is as early as the Windrush. These are people who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean Countries are labeled as the Windrush Generation.
Every Diaspora is different depending on the country of your ethnic background, how much you resonate with your heritage, and the impacts it has on your everyday lifestyle. As a Congolese British / Britsh Congolese (I will explain why I alternate between with two later on in this piece), the culture clash stems deeper than some people I know who come from other neighboring African countries due to their countries British influence from colonisations, etc. Belgium colonized Congo and therefore speak French.
I think communicating with my parents is quite unique, who speak the national language Lingala and French, and English is not their strongest vocations for apparent reasons. Despite my Parents giving their best efforts to allow me to be multilingual, growing up, I naturally swayed towards English, and french became a second-hand language due to my everyday influences of friends, school, media, and just living in London. This has meant that my parents will predominantly speak French to me, and I will reply in English as I find English to be my fluent language and requires less thought in speaking, which is the same for my parents with French.
I am entirely aware of how strange it is for many people who don’t experience or have yet seen this, and I can imagine for all of my diaspora descendants reading this can relate and nod to this.
This has meant a lot of explaining goes behind communicating. I am fully conscious not to use complicated or difficult phrases in English. By that, I mean the way I would speak to fluent English speaking person — friends, professors, etc., but this has gotten better with time because whilst living in France during my university days, my French, reading, speaking, and writing (I learned to write at uni) has improved significantly. Of course, my parent’s English improves with time too.
Despite the efforts that go behind communicating, I wouldn’t want it any differently; I like the uniqueness.
Lackadaisicalness In Our Lineage From 2nd Generation Family Line
My younger sister is eight years my junior, and you would think of meeting us that we have more in more than 1 generation apart because of the way our Congolese Culture impacts her life compared to mine. She has an elementary level of understanding of our Parents’ languages and also shies away from speaking it because she thinks her accent will be terrible. She has very little interest in learning Congolese culture and history in general. (hopefully, with age, it will come)
Baring in mind young people around my sister’s age range or ( Generation Z) unlike myself as a millennial, some of their parents from African countries have actually grown up in Britain and moved here at a very young age and not as adults like my parents; therefore, the root of their ethnic culture fades, and it intertwines with current culture climate they are living in.
As the years go by, this has taught me that children of the 2nd generation will have different experiences despite growing up in the same household.
Going back to why I alternate between British Congolese / Congolese British. It’s because It depends on who I am talking to and how I am referred. Congolese natives who are born and raised in Congo don’t see me as a complete Congolese person. As much as it is frustrating, I can understand them, as they say, this as I haven’t lived or experienced the livelihood and status quo that they have.
Similarly, due to discrimination and prejudice, I am reminded of my blackness in Britain and that I am not equal to my white British “English” counterparts.
So as a diaspora, I have had to learn this and accept the middle ground and, to an extent, to prove myself to be eligible to both. However, I should make it clear that I feel much more Congolese than I do British. I always say I am Congolese first and British Second, despite yet returning to my motherland.
Gratitude Towards 1st Generations.
Whenever I experience life predicaments in my adult years, I tend to reflect on how Parents or other 1st generations have experienced this plus the challenges of being in a completely different culture and coping with the people’s mindsets as it was very different than for many reasons… they have had to graft, work through barriers as well as they learn a new language and raise a young family at the age I am currently at, which is so hard to fathom their experience sometimes but instead become appreciative.
For the first time in my life, I will visit Congo in the summer of 2021. (The plan was for 2020 but Covid) I am incredibly excited to learn so much and crazily be in a country whereby everyone looks like me, and I cannot wait to write a follow up of my experience and compare this article to my next as I know I will learn so much.