Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I Used to Push Back on Being Identified as Black

By Carla Murphy Nov 03, 2014

Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes a common experience for many immigrants: pushing back against "black identity" in the U.S. "I found myself taking on a new identity, oh, no rather I found a new identity thrust upon me," Adichie tells journalist Michele Norris who founded The Race Card Project to foster candid conversations about race. Adichie, of course, obliges in a substantive 15-minute interview. "It always makes me happy making people uncomfortable," she says of reaction to her novel, "Americanah." "Discomfort is a necessary condition for a certain kind of justice, a certain kind of progress." For more Adichie, including her reaction to American coverage of Ebola and Africa, check out the interview, part of this weekend’s Washington Ideas Forum:

I like to say I’m happily black. So I don’t have a problem at all sort of having skin the color of chocolate. But in this country I came to realize…that meant something, that it came with baggage and with all of these assumptions. And that the idea of black achievement was a remarkable thing. Whereas for me in Nigeria, it wasn’t. It was not. And I think that’s when I started to internalize what it meant and that’s when I started to push back. So for a long time I didn’t want to identify as black. …

It’s very easy when you’re an immigrant and you come to this country it’s very easy to internalize the mainstream ideas. It’s easy for example to think, "Oh, the ghettos are full of black people because they’re just lazy and they like to live in the ghettos," because that’s sort of what mainstream thinking is. And then when you read about the American housing policies for the past 100 years it starts to make sense. And it forces you to let go of these simple stereotypes.

(h/t The Atlantic)