What does a Third Culture Kid look like? I have written a little on this in the post ‘You Cannot Fail at Your Identity’, and ‘Third Culture Kid: a nonsense label?’ but I want to look at another aspect of this here, Race.
Mary Bassey writes in her article, The Third Culture Kid Article I Wish I Had Read, about her navigation of the Third Culture identity as a Nigerian TCK, both her relief and elation at finding the label and then her increasing discomfort as she realised that even in the TCK world of fluid identity and blurred boundaries, there was a mould she wasn’t fitting:
I realized that there is a cultural script for TCKs and I am certainly not the starring role.
Who has the starring role? What does a TCK look like?
Mary reminds us that they look White.
What impact does Race have on the TCK experience and Identity?
It has the potential to ‘Other’ a crucial aspect of our sense of self.
** Any idea how hard it was to find a picture of a person of colour that wasn’t sexualised, scary or just a White shot in black and white? Sigh. Though love how this young man’s locks look as though they would repel any cap, TCK or otherwise!
A client recently shared his life story with me in the context of some therapeutic work we were embarking on together, and he told of her first experience of being different. It was at the age of 4, moving abroad, and being the only Indian in school. He was teased, out of curiosity primarily, but the experience deeply etched upon his sense of self that his racial identity was shameful, and something to disassociate from. His racial identity had been ‘Othered’ from himself. Now in his fourties, we are embarking together to revisit that identity, and bring it Home.
A student I interviewed as part of my doctoral research shared with me his struggles for acceptance in the international school he attended. “They won’t believe I’m a missionary kid,” he exclaimed, “because my parents are independent rather than affiliated. They also think I am poor because I am Black!” The misunderstandings born of racial and cultural assumptions stung, and the rejection was real to this young TCK.
The Black Expat is a fantastic website that interrogates both the Expat and TCK cultural script, and introduces voices into the conversation that have hitherto been overlooked.
With the black perspective so limited in visibility, we want provide a stage for the voices of the growing number of black travelers to be heard. The other side of the coin is that there are obstacles, challenges, and moments of profound meaning that are unique to the black expat lifestyle. And we mean black in the most inclusive sense, from the Bajan who goes to the U.S. to study to the Nigerian entrepreneur who moves to Jamaica, and everyone else in between who may find themselves in Beijing or Tokyo or Amsterdam. – The Black Expat, Our Story.
Check it out, interrogate the cultural scripts around you, and do what TCKs do best: Improvise!