- 03 Dec 21
Aghogho Sophie Okpara shares her thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
Aghogho Sophie Okpara,
president of UCD Africa Society from 2019-2020
My childhood was not full of war and terror; in many ways, it was like the average child’s. However, it was tainted by both blunt and micro-aggressive acts that would leave me questioning myself and my worth more often than not. It was like what a typical woman might experience in your average patriarchal society – but on steroids.
Growing up as a Black woman in Ireland meant that at times I would walk into rooms and be immediately labelled as unimportant. I was subject to people’s condescending attitudes before I was even given a chance to speak, because I was at the bottom of two hierarchical structures – gender and race. You get used to being treated that way, and you adapt to it. That adaptation sometimes looked like downplaying my gifts and abilities, changing my personality to be more palatable to my white counterparts, and wishing sometimes that I were born in another body. Thankfully, I have learned to love myself.
When somebody asks me where I am from, and I respond with ‘Dublin’, it never seems to be an acceptable answer. It used to make me frustrated, but now I am indifferent to it. A multicultural Ireland won’t be embraced until people understand that integration and cultural assimilation are not the same thing. One requires two cultures joining with one another and learning about each other, while the latter simply forces the minority community to adhere to the culture of the majority. The more powerful side has to be willing to embrace the less powerful.
Read Part 2 of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism in the current issue of Hot Press:
Special thanks to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their support in this project.