Dr Masimba Mavaza
If you’re experiencing an identity crisis, you may be questioning your sense of identity.
This often occurs due to big changes or stressors in life, or due to factors such as age or advancement from a certain stage (for example, school, work, or place of stay).
Many Zimbabweans have moved to stay in other countries where they have a different way of raising their children and as a result their children are not sure if they are Zimbabweans or not.
The Zimbabwean Diaspora community has been one of the most important drivers of economic recovery in the United Kingdom.
Those born in the UK and those who arrived as children continue to feel the effects of the living outside Zimbabwe because it directly affects their families and the ways in which their adoptive country relates to them.
Zimbabwean youths in diaspora are ‘stateless’.
The youths are caught between their host and their home countries and have come under intense scrutiny from Western policymakers.
The children born from Zimbabwean parents always suffer from uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.
The issues that propel young Zimbos to lose their identity are complex; relating to identity formation, diverse generational views and how different generations engage with the homeland.
Zimbabwean children in England suffer from an identity crisis.
They are not white so they are not viewed as English.
Surely they can never be English.
They cannot speak their native language so they cannot fit in the Zimbabwean circles.
They are now in limbo and the crisis surrounding them is best described as identity crisis.
In a most embarrassing scenario, Zimbabweans in the UK are battling with impression management.
They try to speak English through their nose with the hope of being close to the real English.
The English do not understand any word coming from the ‘nose brigade’.
Some parents even refuse to give their children vernacular names and settle for English ones.
Most Zimbabwean children in the UK cannot speak native Shona or Ndebele. They have lost touch with their roots.
They now float in the pool of confusion.
Many Zimbabweans now feel their country has become yet another holiday nation to fall back on when there is too much negative pressure in the host nation.
Zimbabweans are naturally proud but this pride has vanished from our youths outside the country.
In a vain belief that if they behave like whites they will be more accepted, many have crushed their culture under the jaws of Western culture.
Zimbabweans have found themselves as part of a wider African Diaspora, although they still consider themselves different from other African migrants in that they are both educated and refugees but they are the first to throw away their culture and identity.
Identity formation in the Zimbabwean Diaspora community has been influenced by where people end up settling and which generation they belong to.
Identity crisis and issues of belonging affect older generations less, as their connection to Zimbabwe is stronger and their beliefs more crystallised.
The surge in communication systems in today’s globalised era has enabled Zimbabweans to remain connected with their home country and in touch with families dispersed across the world.
But they hardly include their children in family groups or family chats thus effectively divorcing their children from their motherland.
Socialised and educated in Western countries, they often find themselves between two cultures and do not get to know or fully experience them.
Therefore, questions of ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Where are you from?’ evoke different responses depending on which country they reside in, their relationships with their parents and their understanding of Zimbabwean identity.
Many young Diaspora Zimbabweans are raised in single-parent homes and role models for young boys in particular are hard to find.
Zimbabwean youngsters are also involved in crimes and currently form the highest ethnic minority in juvenile detention centres in the UK.
Their parents, who seem to have no qualms with divorcing, clearly are not prioritising or taking their children into consideration when they divorce.
These structural factors can be instrumental in creating a sense of alienation among young people, in addition to the pressures of racial discrimination.
Institutional responses to crime in the West leave Zimbabwean youngsters disenfranchised as they are targeted for ‘stop and search’ police operations or feel under attack for simply being black.
Such factors feed into processes that lead to social misfits.
Vulnerable young Zimbabweans feel excluded in the countries in which they live, exacerbating their growing sense of resentment, which can then be exploited.
It is this sense which fuels their identity crisis