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The purpose of this essay is to give a summary of my life experience and what I have encountered. This will also include facts, about my life journey and will be backed up by different theories. I will also be analysing different perspectives of my identity, religion, gender, and culture.
Hilda Tenkorang is my name I am the eldest and the only female among three boys which includes a set of twins. I grew up with my father, mother and my three brothers in West Africa, Ghana. My father moved to England when I was in year three, we had the opportunity of seeing him occasionally. My dear mother had to resign from her job as an office clerk to be a stay at home mum, this was to enable her to take good care of us whilst my dad was away. I grew up in a Christian home. Christianity has been part of me growing up and so we went to church every Sunday. We all went to a private school and I went on to enrol at teachers training college. I graduated in 2002 to became to be a teacher.
I taught for two years and decided to do something different, this was because I was a teacher in a state-funded school. However, due to the lack of resources provided to us, I found it difficult to get through to the children. I decided to come to England to join my father, I was made to believe that England had everything one could dream of.
I arrived here in England in 2004 and realized England is not what l thought it was. Upon arriving in the UK to join my father and my step mum, I found out that my dream of UK was a fallacy. This was because I was made to sleep on the floor, as there was not enough room for me. However, I understand that my life is not a bed of roses. I faced many challenges and hardships during the transition of living my country to a new environment. I also felt isolated and frustrated, because I went through a stressful period which left me feeling lonely; there was no support and love and I was not motivated. I felt I did not belong in this country. Whilst I was contemplating whether to go back to Ghana I found a job at Tesco. I made some very good friends with people from the Caribbean; I realized they spoke the English language fluently. I wanted to improve upon my English, so I avoided my Ghanaian community because they only spoke the vernacular language, because of this I was not liked very much within my Ghanaian community.
Anytime I visited Ghana, my family and friends would always tell me I behaved like the British and even sound like them when I speak. moreover, when I come back to the UK I realize I do not sound anything like the people who were born here.
Whilst my job and my friends made me forget about my misery in the UK, I decided to resign from my job at Tesco. Whilst I was growing up my passion has always been teaching, I often remembered how much I enjoyed imparting knowledge, this led me to pursue a course to become a teacher. Few months into my educational journey I found out I was pregnant, but because of the hyperemesis gravidarum I suffered, I was not able to continue with my course.
I had my first child in October 2011 and then I went back to work to enable me to support my family. Two years after the birth of my second child, I applied to start the Access to teaching program to enable me to get into university. However, this was not as easy as I had to work, be a wife and juggle motherhood. I have been able to secure a place to pursue my undergraduate degree at the Goldsmiths University, this will enable me to become the teacher I have wished to be.
Firstly, to all my friends both here and in Ghana who asks me the question on why I behave like the British, like Maalouf Amin (2000) explained, each of us has two heritages, a vertical one that comes from our ancestors, and a horizontal one transmitted to us by our contemporaries and by the age we live in. I told them patiently that I was born in Ghana and I lived there until I was twenty-three; the Ghanaian language Twi is my mother tongue, and that it was my native village, the village of my ancestors, that I experienced the pleasures of childhood which involved eating with your bare hands whilst sitting on the bare cemented floor. Even though we had slippers we preferred to walk and play barefooted and play in the sand and during the night time, we would all gather by the fireside and listen to endless folktales some of which I still remember. On the other hand, I have lived for 15 years on the soils of England; I drink her water and food, I have had my children here and I am studying here; never again will it be a foreign country to me. So, I have not got several identities: I have got just one, made up of many components combined in a mixture that is unique to every individual.
Mills (1959) suggests that we are shaped by culture: the way in which individuals fit into cultures that produce them, and that they themselves maintain and recreate over time; who we think we are- our identity is related to what society says we should do and be. During the course of our lives- our biography – we should be able to look at ties and social structures, or culture, fit together.
My family is a religious one, I went to church every Sunday where I was actively involved in church activities; this made me a strong believer. l had numerous activities that I had to partake in on Sundays, this included being a member of the choir, ushering and treasure. Therefore, this has been an important aspect of my life whilst growing up. This was part of the norms and values that were instilled in me back in Ghana. It is this same norms, values, and principles that I have grown up within my household that I intend to pass it on to the lives of my children. The church served as a place of comfort for me when I found out that my father had remarried in the UK. On numerous occasions, I could remember my faith being tested, because I was terrified that my family was not going to be united again and I will be growing up in a broken home, but the counselling I received from the elders at the church kept me going. The bible says that ‘be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6).
According to Marx, Religion is an opium of the masses, what Marx is saying is that religion’s purpose is to create illusory fantasies for the poor. Economic realities and distress prevent people from finding true happiness in this life, so religion provides solace and tells them that this is OK because they will find true happiness in the next life. (Karl Marx) religion is an expression of material realities and economic injustice. Thus, problems on religion are ultimately problems in society. Religion is not a disease but may merely a symptom. It is used by oppressors to make people feel better about the distress they experience due to being poor and exploited.
Being a 21st-century woman is difficult, females were being put down the hierarchy and not given the chance to work in the same positions as men; this is because men are recognized as the main breadwinner whilst women are carers of the children and the home. But this is not exactly so in my case because I must work to support my home, manage the home and then take care of my family coupled with pursuing a degree. But because of men’s dominance early feminist thinkers and philosophers Simone de Beauvoir wrote in her book the second sex (1972) that ‘one is not born, but rather, become a woman’ what this means is that women are taught how to behave; that what we understand by femininity is the product of culturally learned behaviour rather than the result of biological programming. This inspired a key theme in feminist thinking: that men and women might be biologically different in terms of reproductive organs their sex, but the behavioural differences between men and women called gender are cultural creations, and therefore can be challenged and eventually changed. Steve Jones (1994), in his book the language of the genes, suggests that what we often call the battle of the sexes is not only real, but it is also rooted in the human genetic code: it is a fundamental feature of all animal species and is the basis of many features evolution. Jones argues that conflicts over sex are behind all human society: men and women themselves conflict in society since they seek different things from life. Comparing human too closely to animals stresses the fact that humans and animals should not be forgotten. To state that the social and behavioural differences between men and women are natural is to justify male dominance and female subordination known as patriarchy.
I can clearly recall feeling all alone and unwanted when I first arrived in the United Kingdom. I did not know whether to return to Ghana, where I knew my old profession will be still available for me. I just could not help thinking about the little achievement I had acquired which included land and a car. I was able to purchase this because I was still living at home with my mother and siblings where there was enough room for everyone and here I was feeling so lost and alone, and to make matters worse I was sleeping on the floor, I had to share a room with my step-sister but when you reflect on Gustav Flaubert’s quote ”travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world” that humbles you. Getting a job at Tesco was able to fill in the void, my friends from work kept reassuring me that all was going to well. Bear in mind, it was the first time I had been away from home, so I needed all the love and comfort I could find. My step-mother, on the other hand, was cruel to me; she made life a living hell for me at home. My father’s work pattern made it difficult for me to see him as much as I would have liked. My most difficult times was when my shift ended I would dread going back home because I did not feel I was needed there. My job was my happy place, I was able to let my hair down and have meaningful conversations with my colleagues; it was a place I felt loved and appreciated by my colleagues.
My first encounter with UK racism came in 2005 when I requested for overtime during the twilight hour. It was a good place to get a sense of dynamics; all kinds of people came to Tesco to shop. What I experienced whilst at work that evening did scare me mentally and emotionally and it will forever stay with me. I received an abuse from a white man because of the colour of my skin and even refused me from serving him, I felt violated by the racial comment that was thrown at me; I remember feeling embarrassed, so I ran off to the staff canteen, broke down and cried my eyes out, but the duty manager came to assure me that the incident has been taken care of. Racism is as pertinent an issue today as it was twenty years ago. Racism is a product of the complex interaction in a given society of a race-based worldview with prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination.
According to Glasgow (2009, page 63-93), Racism can be subtle or overt, it can be intentional or unintentional and it can be conscious or unconscious. actions, policies, people even the whole country can be racist without even realizing it. Whilst there is some excitement over the proposition that only the most powerful members in the society can be racist within it, a consensus seems to be emerging that just about anyone can be racist. Perhaps, then, as racism can worm its way into so many various corners of life, it should not come as a surprise that there is considerable disagreement over what is common to racism’s variegated forms, indeed, some recent writings embrace the prospect that the nature of racism may resist being captured in a single, monistic formula.
To sum up, as I mentioned in the beginning, I was born and raised in Ghana, that is where I have had all my childhood memories, but I have lived here in the UK my whole adult life, I am governed by its laws, rules, and regulation; , I am currently living my life here with my family and pursuing a degree to enable me to achieve my aim of being a teacher this is where I met my partner and had my children. So, I do not view myself as I half Ghanaian and half British, I agree with Maalouf Amin because he stated that identity cannot be divided into sections. It is made up of many components combined in a mixture that is filled with uniqueness to every individual. I believe I neither belong here nor there.
- Amin, M. (1996) On Identity. (page 77).
- Amin, M. Culture and Identity reading pack (page 3).
- De Beauvoir, S. (1972) The second sex. (London: vintage).
- Jones, S. (1994) The language of the genes (HarperCollins Publisher).
- Mills, C.W. (1959) The sociological imagination (London: Oxford university press).
- Flaubert, G. quote: ”travel makes one modest… in the world”.
- Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1955) On religion.
- https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/648588? Accessed on the 31st of Dec 2018.
- Bible (Deuteronomy 31:6) assessed on 2nd January 2019
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