This post is going to be slightly more personal, but I think it is a really interesting prompt so here goes.
- We all have many individual identities (personality, hobbies, etc.) and group identities (race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability, religious/political affiliations). Please reflect on a part of your identity that you are seeing or feeling in a different light.
What is not at all obvious from my past few posts is that I am an African American woman; a fact that was reinforced as an important distinction from when I was very young. What I mean by this is that because I didn’t grow up around many black people, it was clear to me and everyone around me that I was “different” in at least one specific way. Now I won’t get into how this affected me and things such as that, but I say all this to note the fact that being one of the few black people in an area and having comments (nothing terrible usually, just misguided) and stares because of it is nothing new. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how one sees it) I’ve gotten used to it in the states. Admittedly, however, I was not sure what to expect before coming to Macedonia. Here, I am constantly aware of my race in a way that I haven’t truly been since I was younger. I want to preface this by saying that I have not had any negative reactions at all because of my race (but not knowing Macedonian I guess this could be false), but the stares are numerous whenever I leave the apartment.Perhaps surprisingly, however, instead of making me self-conscious or uncomfortable for the most part, it constantly makes me reflect on how homogeneous Macedonia is and how little exposure to anyone different from them people here have had. In recent years, the Macedonian government has done a lot to try and up tourism here, although the methods they have used has angered most Macedonians (that is, using a lot of money on new buildings and statues instead of helping their citizens). But regardless of everything that has happened, few people seem to come here in general. As I mentioned before, I had never even thought about coming to Macedonia before I saw this internship. I had never really thought about Macedonia at all to be honest, and I’m sure that can be said for many people in the world. My experience here so far has simply made me think about how nice it can be, personally, when I am surrounded by people who are not like me, when I can learn from people and help them learn from me as well. I have valued being in a new country, surrounded by new people, and being able to learn new things about the world. But when someone does not have that opportunity, it can be understandable to a certain extent that having someone new around will cause questioning glances and curious stares.
I suppose what this post has really been meant to convey is that I am constantly aware these days who I am and how I am different from people here. Though that is not necessarily a bad thing, I wonder what the world would be like if diversity was more common in all aspects and in all places.