“I am moving back to Liberia.” The words shocked me to say out loud. But after 26 years in the United States, the timing seemed right.
I had just turned 30. My successful sports management public relations business was at a turning point and I’d proved myself. But there arose a yearning I couldn’t suppress: a desire to return to Liberia, my homeland.
My mother and I fled Liberia in 1990 after a violent civil war erupted that engulfed the country for more than a decade and killed 600,000 people. Growing up as a first generation Americo-Liberian presented many challenges. My mother was on edge at every turn because she landed in a strange place, causing her at times to be extremely over protective.
I remember in grade school wanting to assimilate so badly because I had a trace of a Liberian accent that I was desperately trying to get rid of. I was teased often, repeatedly being called an “African Booty Scratcher,” a crude epithet whose meaning I still haven’t figured out. Still, it left me feeling ashamed of being who I was, ashamed that my family was from this strange land, this “dark Continent.”
Most of the teasing came from children who looked just like me. Those whose didn’t tease me were no less fascinated, completely intrigued by this “alien” who spoke strangely. So I assimilated because I had to. I became fully American – whatever that means – and because of where I was raised, other African Americans viewed me as a “black white suburban girl.”