I’m what I call a “Hybrid Haitian”. I’ve adopted pieces of both my Haitian culture and my American culture, and made them my own. I am not only Haitian, but I am also American. I was raised by Haitian parents in a Haitian household, but in a primarily African-American world outside of the home. I love being Haitian and I love being African-American; they are both a part of me. So, no, I’m not all Haitian — nor am I all American.
Some not-so-hybrid Haitians think that I’m “less” Haitian because I’m so “Americanized”. They assume because I was raised in the US, and English is my primary language, I am somehow “not Haitian enough” or not a “real” Haitian (meaning I don’t speak the language, don’t understand the culture, etc.) Many of them assume I don’t know or understand kreyol. I may not write or speak kreyol flawlessly (although I can certainly get by), but I do understand it perfectly. I also speak French pretty well and my English is fluent. So how could I not be Haitian “enough”? I have Haitian blood running through my veins, I was raised on Haitian culture, the Haitian language and by my Haitian parents. This is as Haitian as I get. There are a great many ways that people can be Haitian — and each and every way is valid. Despite being Haitian, we are all still individuals…so each person’s expression of their culture is valid and unique to them.
In fact, in my experience, having been raised in the United States doesn’t lessen my Haitian and/or American-ness, it actually enhances it. I have a unique multicultural perspective that makes me both a better American, and a better Haitian. Can you imagine how useful that is to a Haitian-American such as myself? Pontificating on that uniqueness has even helped me to get into some of the best universities in the country!
And what does it mean to be “not Haitian enough” or not a “real” Haitian anyway? Am I not Haitian enough because I don’t listen to Haitian music when I turn on the radio? Isn’t being Haitian simply having Haitian ancestors? Identifying with the Haitian culture? Am I not the product of Haitian immigrants seeking a better life for their family/children? I claim and identify with my Haitian heritage despite the fact that I have been Americanized. To deny either culture is to deny my life experiences. So I’m as Haitian as my life experiences have allowed me to be…and that’s “real.”
Has anyone ever questioned your level of “Haitianness”? Has a Haitian person? How did that make you feel?