The dilemma of Zimbabweans abroad

21Jun 2022
The Guardian
The dilemma of Zimbabweans abroad

Torn between cultures and continents, our children in diaspora do not really know where they belong and do not appreciate the sacrifice their parents made for them.

This applies to children who have been left home and their parents are abroad.

Most of children are being raised through the phone and supported by Mukuru.com or Western Union - the Union generation.

They are in a quandary here in the diaspora than those in Zimbabwe. They are not accepted in the diaspora where they are staying and they are not accepted in their own country.

An identity crisis has crippled them. Even if they are born in the UK, they are never regarded as English, Scottish or Welsh. They are treated like third-class citizens and, viewed as criminals before the fact.

By and large, as immigrants, we have lost the sense of belonging and identity, but can our children ever truly understand what their immigrant parents have lost?

Virtually, everything they want is either a phone call or a mouse-click away.

So how can they fathom the hardships, sacrifice and, sometimes, tragedy most of us were forced to endure to provide the comfort they take for granted today?

Foreign-born children are the recipients of a windfall of opportunities that our generation never had.

Because of the tremendous sacrifices we made, most of our children now have the luxury of not having to worry about food, shelter and clothes.

Our children have been thrown into a foreign culture. They have been taught to spy on their parents and to shun their own culture while relying on social services.

The fabric of our culture is trashed and made to look inferior.

Our children are made to believe their culture is backward and primitive. They are taught to scorn their own culture. Parents do not make it any better by giving children English names.

Whites lived in Zimbabwe for over 100 years yet they rarely gave their children Shona or Ndebele names.

Their culture is rooted in their minds. Our own black parents are ashamed to give children indigenous names. I have never seen a Chinese person giving his or her child an English name. What then is wrong with us as blacks? We have accepted mental slavery and have abdicated our culture for foreign cultures.

Children cannot identify with their country and do not identify with the diaspora either. They become misfits and end up candidates for the prison. As Zimbabwean immigrants in the diaspora, our children have inherited a sense of exile from parents.

As parents we are culturally displaced and our children are literally forced to grow up in two worlds, simultaneously.

They are struggling to reconcile their new culture with their African heritage. And that is creating a lot of friction within the Zimbabwean immigrants' homes.

More Zimbabwean children have been taken into care because the predominantly white social workers refuse to understand the black culture.

This over-protection by the social service department and the bullish system they practice has turned our children into monsters.

We have parents that lost their children because they have asked them to go to church.

The praying Britons give "birth" to respectable children but they will not allow ours to go to church.

Social workers have become family destroyers and refuse to accommodate cultural differences.

The truth is, the hearts of Zimbabwean immigrants living in the diaspora are still trapped in their youthful days in Zimbabwe.

In our quest for a "better life", our loved ones have been lost, friendships fractured and punctured and new triumphs like births and educational attainment are celebrated 'alone' -- without those who really matter.

I do not know about you, but as a Zimbabwean immigrant, I sometimes feel these conflicting emotions.

I know I am not alone, but few have been able to articulate their feelings of loss and longing, neither have their foreign-born children really understood what they have sacrificed as parents and for what!

The Zimbabwean immigrants are not only caught between cultures and continents, but they have come from halfway across the globe, leaving loved ones and a lot of good and bad memories behind.

Majority of our foreign-born children also have their own unique issues to deal with. They are struggling to find their own identity and balance their two worlds.

They may never visit Zimbabwe and they may try all they can to disassociate themselves from Zimbabwean culture, but they cannot break away, they are Zimbabwean.

They are not accepted in the country they are. They are always reminded that there is no black English, but a black British.

When you fill an official document, you are always asked your ethnic origin, always reminded that you do not belong here. The first and second generation Zimbabwean immigrants - call them Zimbabwean-Briton or whatever hyphenated name you want - face many similar conflicts in their own way.

In some cases, the small part of the second generation Zimbabwean immigrants are torn between family allegiance and choice.

The most "obedient" ones sometimes do things to please their parents and meet their expectations.

They also want to meet the expectations of their peers, in their countries of birth.

But, there is always a conflict when it comes to things like dating, living on one's own, having close friendships with the natives and selecting careers of one's choice.

These things have been the cause of tension in some Zimbabwean immigrants' homes.

Sometimes, the tension is exacerbated when these children's Zimbabwean part is unacknowledged and therefore negated by the host country's uncompromising environment, and vice versa.

Zimbabwean parents believe the best career path is nursing.

The whole plane to Zimbabwe is full of nurses and Zimbabweans have become blind to other courses.

Unlike Asians, Zimbabweans easily and readily abandon their culture and adopt the English one.

Marriages are broken because the English culture is misunderstood. Even in churches, God weeps as Africans worship in a pagan way and lie it's the African way.

Zimbabweans should be very fearful and suspicious of 'foreign-cultures', which their offspring are forced to consume.

It is critical to maintain ties with the African culture in general and Zimbabwean culture in particular and preserve Zimbabwean traditions in a foreign land.

We will be foreigners, no matter how long we stay in other people's countries.

Unfortunately, our newly-minted acquired citizenship cannot change the feeling of being an 'outsider'.

So we do struggle to hold on to our "identities". However, our foreign-born children will never understand us or sympathize with us. They think of our "predicaments" as an indirect opposition to the reality of the world in which we live.

We sometimes have a difficult time getting our children to embrace our values.

They hear us but do not fully appreciate the message because they have not experienced the hardships, pains and other things we endured.

Still they are blind to the fact they are not wanted in their assumed country.

But, whether or not our children will maintain our culture depends largely on how we bring them up and how much they cherish the sacrifices made for them.

The experience of being torn between one's home country and the host country is not uniquely Zimbabwean.

It transcends many other cultures.

For us, sometimes the disquieting memories of home and the hostile environment of our new home makes it very difficult - as first generation immigrants - to wonder if we really made the right decision to leave Zimbabwe.

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