THIRD CULTURE SYNDROME: THE STRUGGLE AGAINST POST-BREXIT RACISM

by Faizal Nor Izham

On Saturday 9th I took part in the Anti-Racism and Anti-Austerity March in London, and it was during this event that I met two lovely young ladies of colour – one was Irish-Palestinian by descent (whose parents were both Catholic and Muslim) and the other was a Moroccan-French Muslim. It seemed rather fitting that, on this day, I chose to march against creeping racism in post-Brexit Britain alongside other people of mixed heritage.


And so, it was during our time spent together that the issue of ‘Third Culture Syndrome‘ was brought up. You see, all three of us were born and/or raised in cultures that are not entirely our own. Our respective cultural identities are mixed-up and fragmented and yet at the same time, we often feel we don’t entirely fit in on either side. We are the by-product of globalization in the 21st century – stateless’ kids, a lost generation that doesn’t always feel like it truly belongs anywhere in the world. We speak multiple languages. We interpret reality through the framework of various cultural lenses. We’ve lived in multiple parts of the world. We’re lost, confused, existential; angry at the state of the world, and how it’s continuously being pillaged and manipulated by an uncaring, unfeeling elite that appear to care only about profit at the expense of community.

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Photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

In an increasingly complex and confusing world being further complicated by globalization and identity politics, this “lost generation” is often not made to feel at home no matter where we go. British-Japanese author (and UEA  creative writing graduate) Kazuo Ishiguro once said in an interview that such cultural confusion is certainly going to be more common in the near future. We’re either ‘too Western’ or ‘not ethnic’ enough. Not ‘Arab’ or ‘Muslim’ enough. Too ‘Muslim’ to be French. Too ‘Western’ to be Asian. And so on. And yet we’re caught in the middle of a cruel and conflicting battlefield that still prefers to divide and rule so that large groups of people will not unite against a common enemy.

So while post-Brexit Britain appears on the outside to be more of a straightforward ‘us vs. them’ struggle between migrants/refugees and the working class, to us, it’s an entirely new can of beans. Like any human being, we crave for a place where we feel we can belong and yet this current conflict between two opposing sides, that paradoxically we also happen to belong to on either side, hardly makes life easier for us at all. It’s therefore important for people like us to make full use of this inherited role of ours by trying to patch up an increasingly divided society, as well as concentrate our collective focus on a common goal instead of allowing hatred and prejudice to fester.

The only thing we can do in order to weather this existential turmoil is to act as cultural mediators within this political battlefield.

The only thing we can do in order to weather this existential turmoil is to act as cultural mediators within this political battlefield. We are the bridge between various cultures and classes, and it should therefore be our responsibility to constantly ensure such bridges aren’t completely burned down. We must assure Westerners that Muslims aren’t all violent extremists, or that immigrants and refugees are not here to make life more difficult for the working class.

Having said that, there are also minor advantages that we people of mixed backgrounds do have. We enjoy social mobility, and can weave between various cultures without having to endure much fuss or prejudice. And we also enjoy some pretty good genes too. For one thing, the Irish-Palestinian girl had both freckles on her face as well as the most beautiful pair of green eyes I’ve ever seen. So it’s not all bad. All we have to do now is take our existential disadvantage and turn it into something positive for both ourselves and the rest of the world, for the benefit of increasingly mixed-up future generations.

Featured Image: Stand up to Racism

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