Taiye Selasi is from Ghana but she is a foreigner when she goes back to visit her country of birth.
You see, she is different now and recognizes her identity is the confluence of her human experiences. Everything from how she has lived, what she typically eats, her education and her experiences traveling in the U.S., Europe and the world have all shaped Taiye.
In a world that sees people as global citizens and nationalists of a particular country, Taiye gives us something interesting to consider. Taiye believes our identity is more accurately a colored, textured, rich layer of the sum of our human characters. This is in sharp contrast to how the more traditional response we give when someone asks where we’re from. Typically, we put the language of country – where we are from – over the reality of our human experience.
Taiye says this is a misleading. In her TedTalk, she shares some pretty interesting questions that help us to better understand concepts embedded in our identity and how we are perceived by others.
You don’t have to agree with Taiye. But what’s important are the issues she raises and understanding what truly shapes who we are. What does culture mean? Does our country of birth truly reflect who we are? Are there systemic biases embedded in that birth country that affect how we’re perceived?
At the very least, I think most people will agree the human connections we make and the relationships we build to each other have little to do with nationalism and everything to do with shaping who we are.
When culture is defined by our connection to community, “where are you really from” is less about the language of nationality.