I'm originally from North Kent, and my family are from Nigeria. Part of my family were born there; my brother, who is the oldest, came over when he was eleven, but the rest of my family were born in the UK. Growing up I knew about my roots, but because I lived in a majority-white area, I was quite conflicted even though I had heard about it from my family I didn't really know about it, outside of that context. From the age of 4 and up, spending most of my time at school, I didn't really know where to call home, because people ask where you’re from, and you’re more inclined to say Britain or London specifically, because if you say anything else it draws attention and everyone would always get a bit confused.
I think more so now, I tend to say my home country before where I actually live. Now, it is more about me owning my identity rather than saying I’m from London, because that is what I identify with. I don't see myself staying here beyond education. So I know myself a bit more. I definitely want to explore after education. I went back home last year, but I didn't fully experience what it would be like to live in the city there (Abuja). It is more of a case of going back there and seeing how I would be working there, but right now my other option is Canada, to do finance.
Initially, I wasn't really sure between Law and Finance, because a government role was not something I wanted to do, because the political outlook right now is very unstable, and I think even though there are people from minority backgrounds in politics, I think within the Western sphere it's not really as overt. I think that has put me off, and knowing that the people in power right now don't advocate for people of my background to be able to have certain viewpoints or have importance has affected my decision. I think there are a lot of deeply rooted systemic problems within Western history. With law the UK industry is obviously heavily white-male dominated, and even though I say that has put me off, it's not something that I actively saw as a reason for me not to do law. I ended up just falling into finance more, because that's where I was getting more experience from. Going through insight days and different work experiences, I don't really think I was hindered by my background, but at the same time I do. I could see that there were people that looked like me, but I could also see the lack of interest in hiring people who looked like me. That conflict of interest has affected the way I am able to enter the sector, and I would be passionate about knocking down those barriers. However, I’d say it’s a thing that is not solely my responsibility and my issue.
A friend and I were discussing how there are people within the sector who are from our background who actively don’t want to throw the ladder down for other people to get to where they are... And not only that, but I think those with the power to bring these people into their organisations, e.g. HR, are usually majority white - females. and they may not have the diversity of thought to understand how to create these different pathways. Most top organisations don't actually have diversity initiatives in place to tackle these problems, and that's because of who they are recruiting in their HR teams. Once you get past the face-to-face stage, and get into an organisation, it’s up to the team to decide, however that team is also likely to be majority white as well. Once you actually get there, you could end up being set back just because of that. It's a lot.
When critiquing public figures I think, you have to look at how a person has grown up, and what they have done to get there. For example, Samira (from Love Island season 4) is an individualised case. You can tell by her upbringing, that she has had to make herself look a certain way, act a certain way so that she is able to sort of get to where she is. She sparked controversy as well because she was using ‘white’ hair extension companies, and people saw that as her betraying her identity because it doesn't really make sense for someone with her hair type to do something like that.
I think there is a fine line between adapting or assimilating and rejecting your own identity and not accepting your roots. I think that's what a lot of people end up doing,as a result of receiving different forms of rejection in life, e.g. because they have a different surname. Growing up, I didn't have my current surname, when my parents divorced, I had my mum’s maiden name, so seeing my name you would have probably thought I was someone else, and when I would go to an interview they would be like “oh… hi.”
In my area the shopping centres never actually had any diversity whatsoever. If there were any people of colour, it would be generic stores like JD, and it wasn’t actually diverse at all. So if I was to actually get the job in the end, I would get there and notice that I would be the only Person of Colour. It would be so uncomfortable because you would get these sly remarks, that are slightly offensive and you just don't know what to do, because there was no one to turn to. So I think, people end up getting to the point where they are so uncomfortable that they think the only way forward is to sort of assimilate and pretend that you're not who you are. I think people can get lost in that and forget that that’s what they’re heading towards. That is what the status quo wants, they don't want people to come into organisations with their own personal views, personal backgrounds, and disrupt the wall that they already created. I think people can get too deep into that and it ends up being a thing where they alienate others who may come into an organisation, looking like them, and not recognise that that's sort of where they come from.
I participated in the uni debating society for awhile, but there was a reason why I left. We had a debate on Feminism, and I spent a good 45 minutes, listening to what everyone else said, and their whole idea was based on Western Feminism. When I introduced the idea of FGM (female genital mutilation), and feminist ideas that were experienced outside of the Western sphere, everyone thought it was revolutionary, like it was something really different to come up with, but it’s standard. Feminism should not be seen as just a Western idea. The fact that we’re meant to be global students whose thinking is such a straightforward route, is not somewhere I would want to be. If that's something that the society wants to represent then that's something that I don't want to be a part of. People don't realise that their version of ‘international’ is something that is only catered for themselves. The concepts that were brought up, only affect white women. They don't realise that intersectionality within feminism means that you could be affected as a white, black, or Asian woman.
My culture is a massive part of my life. The community has gone through a big process of reclaiming their culture and you can see that from western musicians in particular, and how they’ve become more widespread. They’re more well-known, they chart well, and I think that is to do with the fact that they've found a way to reclaim their culture. And I think a lot of people think it’s more to do with the fact that Africans are branching out, a lot of them have travelled out, living in Western societies, but personally I think its to do with the power of the movement. It’s to do with the music, and the language as well. A lot of Western African countries are fortunate to still have their own languages that have been retained by their tribes, and you don't really see that with more Southern African countries like Angola, who haven't managed to retain it, and they are stuck with speaking Portuguese, which is a colonial language. We are lucky to have some languages that are being passed on from generation to generation.
I think people need to acknowledge not only the issues created by colonialism and racism and their impact on the black diaspora but also how that has created issues within the community and how they’ve been perpetuated as well. These issues are so deeply rooted that people can't find where it dates back to, and put focus on the roots rather than where we can actually make the change and move forward. If we keep blaming other people, then that is going to create more issues than it’s going to solve.