In a recent interview with David Remnick of The New Yorker, acclaimed novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about her experience being black in America.
According to her, because of how being black was perceived in America, she once backed away from blackness when a black man referred to her as his sister.
However, Chimamanda said she has embraced her identity and in no way does she feel ‘white.’
With Americanah I was free, I wanted to break the rules, I didn’t want to be dutiful. I wanted to write about my take on America and much of it was about race.
“Much of the writing about race I found to be dishonest. I would read some fiction and I would be like ‘No’, and it seemed to me also quite ideological, that idea that you know the sort of thing that race is just a social construction, all of that.
Racism I found funny, absurd, infuriatin. The first time I wrote an essay in my class, my very first essay and at the time I used my initial and my last name and my last name could be anything some people tell me sometimes it could be italian. So the professor came into the class and said who wrote this essay?
And he called my name and I raised my hand and he looked surprised and even though it was a very small moment, that’s when I knew what being black meant, it meant that you’re not supposed to write the best essay in class if you are black it meant that black achievement is considered so rare.
And I was so irritated by that because for me growing up in Nigeria, black achievement is ordinary. And there was a part of me that wanted to say this man – really I was saying it in my head “you’re stupid.
I remember once a black guy referred to me as sister and my first reaction was “No, no, no, I’m not your sister. It was me backing away from blackness because I knew being black in America is a bad thing. So, in some ways, my denying my sisterhood with him is an indictment of American rasicm. If being black in America didn’t come with a lot of crap, I wouldn’t have said that. And now I want to find him and hug him and so, I am so your sister.
I remember in college I was in a class and I was the only black person and I remember somebody saying the black girl, and I thought oh that’s what I am the black girl – that’s thrust on you but I think it kind of that internalizing of that identity you need to do consciously and I did that by reading African American history by trying to understand because I really didn’t understand America. I didn’t understand in the my first two weeks why the two black people in one of my classes got offended when somebody said something about watermelons