I’ve been taking up a course on post colonial literature in Manchester. I haven’t done it in the Netherlands, which in the end I’m very happy with because I’ve heard only bad things about the course and the ignorant people who voice their ignorant opinions. I’ve noticed this already on discussing <em>The Book of Negroes/Someone Knows My Name.</em> A girl in class thought that it was not realistic that the main character, a black slave girl, had learnt English and Arithmetic. To that girl and many others who think I alike, I want to say, “please, suck it. You’re ignorant and ‘brainwashed’ by white media and journalism.”
But I don’t want to dwell on ignorant people. I want to share my opinion on something I’ve learnt in my post colonial literature course, which is the concept of the “exile”.
The exiled is a term that was used by Edward Said, an American literary critic. I find it hard to define the term, but I relate to it. An exile is someone who has been exiled from their own culture by having another culture forced upon them in the imperial sense or any other sense. It’s more complex than how I just defined it and I will return to revise my definition.
I am an exile. I’m culturally and socially exiled from my Moroccan/Berber roots and my Dutch/Western surroundings. Growing up, I’ve never been able to connect with the Moroccan social circles in the Netherlands, because the people would bully me or make me feel uncomfortable in other ways. I stopped speaking Moroccan, because I got judged when I made mistakes and I was quite sensitive to those kind of reactions. Another reason I never felt at home in the Moroccan culture is because of the misogyny. As far as I’ve experienced, the Moroccan culture does not appreciate women, at all. I’ve often voiced my thoughts on this at an incredibly young age and the responses I got were terribly disappointing. In Morocco, in my village, I’m like a trousers-wearing alien. I didn’t speak the language well and to most Moroccan people I was like this Westernized fake Moroccan (something which I’ve actually been called a few times).
I’ve grown up in a culture that I’ve never really helped me develop positively. Yet, the Dutch culture was not very welcoming either. Now, I’ve been discriminated, but I have dealt with prejudice a lot and it gets really tiring. The Netherlands is not keen on Moroccans and it’s become a sort vicious cycle of young Moroccans being delinquents and prejudice developing against all Moroccans. Again, i don’t want to dwell on this. It’s just with my background and many racial and cultural concepts, I’ve never been able to relate completely to my Dutch friends. I’ve always felt like there was this barrier between me and Dutch people. For example, the way my family has its rituals compared to Dutch rituals and habits. When Dutch people in my neighbourhood would have dinner, they’d send me away instead inviting me for dinner. And there are so many other cultural differences, which can lead to awkward conversations like, “Oh, that’s so weird that you do that.”
Of course, it’s not awful or harmful, but it sets a barrier. I don’t have a cultural home.