The mixed-race Moroccan: Conflicting cultural expectations

Children of mixed ethnicity are often stuck in a sort of limbo, unable to fulfill the “authentic” traits of their parents’ heritage. In her blog post, Yasmina Achlim flips the script on authenticity and forces us to embrace our heterogeneous makeup.

“Well, you’re not really Moroccan.” Those words were etched in me because I was labeled as not worthy of a label – of a label.

The Moroccan population in general has a very precise idea of ​​what a “Moroccan” is.

There is a unified sense of self that really comes from the small North African country, a sense of camaraderie that allows one Moroccan to spot another from across the room, whether they are at London, Bangkok or somewhere in the American Midwest.

“Poor command of Arabic? Went to an English-speaking school? Unable or disinterested in intervening in socially expected and accepted discussions? Better then not to mention your Moroccan side at all and avoid humiliation”

In many ways, I can participate in this camaraderie. With my big, deep-set brown eyes and Fatma’s golden hand hanging from my neck, I look the part.

When I meet fellow Moroccans in a London Underground kiosk or at lunch in Orlando, their first reaction is one of excitement, of genuine connection. But my unimpressive Arabic skills and life story soon made me look like a “half-blood”.

Born in Morocco to an American mother and Moroccan father, I moved to the United States soon after and lived there until I was seven years old before returning to Casablanca.

In the United States, it was always generally accepted that I was half American and half Moroccan. My sister and I started learning French at age six and wore our djellabas for the cultural day at school.

Ironically, I started to feel less Moroccan once I moved. There was a less than subtle checklist of requirements for a ‘real’ Moroccan that I struggled to meet; a checklist that classmates, family, and complete strangers would use to affirm that my father’s rich Amazigh-Moroccan lineage ended against him.

This cultural exclusion judges an individual’s language skills, personal and cultural experiences, appearance and personality to determine their worth.

Poor command of Arabic? Did you attend an English-speaking school? Unable or disinterested in intervening in socially expected and accepted discussions? Better not to mention your Moroccan side at all and avoid humiliation.

When I came home from school with stories of classmates invalidating my nationality, the one I grew up being so proud of, my father insisted, “You are Moroccan! Your father is Moroccan. Your grandparents are Moroccan. If only it were that simple and dry for others.

It is not an exclusively Moroccan experience. Speaking to family and friends, they also didn’t feel “black enough”, “Turkish enough”, “American enough”, etc. fully accepted in at least one of their communities. The shame, anger and frustration that comes with spending your whole life trying to prove your ethnicity or nationality is exhausting.

But this form of cultural (and racial) exclusivity is more than emotionally draining, it can be horribly dangerous.

The comments on the Morocco World News Instagram is a prime example of a purist, cutthroat culture that many have fallen victim to.

When the news site published an article about Brahim Saadoun – a Moroccan sentenced to death by a Russian-backed court for fighting in Ukraine’s war against Russia – many comments read that Saadoun did not deserve the help or the sympathy of Morocco because he was “no longer Moroccan.”

However, both the Middle Eastern Eye and The Guardian describes Saadoun as Moroccan, so why wasn’t he Moroccan enough for his own country?

The current POW moved to Ukraine to attend the Faculty of Aerodynamics and Space Technology in Kyiv.

According to a friend of Saadoun who spoke at Middle Eastern eye, the young student “fell in love with Ukraine, the rave scene, and he often said that he would like to give something back to the country that had given him so much”.

This prompted Saadoun to join the Ukrainian army long before the war started, which ultimately led to his capture and unjust conviction.

While Moroccans often preach about the unity and camaraderie they have with each other, it’s not hard to find a serious lack of empathy for anyone who dares to step out of the tight mold of a “Moroccan”. .

Saadoun was sentenced to death at just 21 years old. Despite countless pleas from his grieving and panicked family, his country and his government have completely “abandoned” him.

Saadoun’s story is far graver than most, but it’s a prime example of how this radical mindset has infested and punished anyone who dares (or simply cannot) stand up. conform.

The United States is generally considered a melting pot of languages, cultures, colors and identities. To say someone is not “American enough” would be considered racist or nationalistic. “American” can mean so many things, so why not “Moroccan?”

I look forward to the day when I can proudly proclaim my Moroccan-Amazigh side without encountering the skepticism, confusion and judgment I endured growing up.

Morocco is a beautifully diverse country. To deny its history and limit its people to a small list of do’s and don’ts is to ignore and disregard the plethora of cultures, religions and experiences that Morocco possesses.

Yasmina Achlim is an Amazigh-Moroccan-American writer with a passion for culture, art, and the environment. She graduated from St Mary’s University in London and has lived in the United States, Morocco and England.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff, or the author’s employer.

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