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Friday, February 26, 2010

Multilingualism and multiculturalism in a global community.

The election of Barack Hussein Obama is a victory for many of us, regardless of race. Of course he is the first black president in USA. However he is multicultural and multilingual. When he was elected I felt that I was in United States of America for this. It was fate, our son was born here and will  learn about the first black president at school. He was the proof that everything can change. I was proud to be here and proud to be me. And we all  felt  it, a step forward, and a change for the future. I was American that day!

I was raised in a multicultural and multilingual community. I did struggle with my identity during our migrations. The place that hurts me the most was school. That place of education was a battlefield for me. School reflects inequalities, differences, and injustices. I could enjoy being everything and nothing but at school I had to choose. Or the history lessons or teachers or others children would say something that will slowly tilt my balance. I was grateful that Obama won, because our son will hear and see a different History.

According to Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm a British historian, "The coexistence of peoples of different languages and cultures is normal. A single national language only became important when ordinary citizens became an important component of the state. The original case for a standard language was entirely democratic, not cultural."

That brings me to my parents that stressed the importance of education. My mother used to remind us that our brains have no color that we make it what we want. She did not take any excuses. She will make me wake up two hours earlier so I could memorize words, definition, addition tables and conjugations. I hated it but I loved having good grades. I was often up before Sunrise. Once I was done, I had the luxury to enjoy the sunrise eating breakfast. Priceless!!!

My parents studied in French, Burundi was a Belgium colony.They were able to have a better quality of life because of their education. As parents they sacrificed a lot to send us to a French private school. As much as I loved learning, the school did not say the same things as my parents. Every day, I was double checking with them. The worst day was when a teacher said that Africans were inferior to Europeans. For this reason they colonized Africans. At home my parents told me not to believe everything said even in books because it is theirs history. And my dad said “it is all about money, politic and democracy” .At six years old, I already knew a lot. I knew about passport, laisser passé, visa, transit, exile, refugees, immigrant, local, cooperant, work permit, citizenship, residency, private, public, war, ethnic, tribes, countries, America, Asia, Europe, Africa, theirs and ours.

So when Obama won, I won something priceless. Our son was proud to be him, in his multicultural complexity in this global community.

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