Many of us have experienced culture shock. I used to think those that have migrated to America probably experienced the most disorientation from being in a whole new country. I had always tried to imagine what it was like for my mother to be raised in Qatar then living in America, because they seem like two different worlds. However, after reading Chimamanda Adichie’s book, Americanah, I realized it may be immigrant’s children, or first-generation Americans, who may actually have had it harder. Also, I was able to closely relate to Dike’s experience since I am a first generation immigrant as well.
Dike was a very crucial character in this book. As the story progresses, it almost feels as if you are watching Dike grow up from a little boy who is always happy and naive, to a young man, who has been greatly affected from racism. Adichie does an amazing job of using Dike as an innocent kid who is experiencing racism and not fully comprehending it, to a teenager who simply laughs it off, to a young man who becomes depressed from it.
There is a passage that exemplifies the way black identity first started to affect Dike. “‘My group leader Haley? She gave sunscreen to everyone but she wouldn’t give me any. She said I didn’t need it.’…and the next time she visited, she saw it lying on his dresser, forgotten and unused.” (226–227 Adichie). When Ifemelu heard his camp counselor didn’t give Dike sunscreen because he was black, she knew it was a form of subvert racism. At a young age, Dike is being raised and molded with these kind of experiences imprinted in his mind. Afterwards, he even contemplates the thought, “I just want to be regular” (227 Adichie). As if he truly believes, because of the color of skin, he does not need sunscreen like everyone else. Adichie’s addition of how Dike has abandoned the sunscreen shows the manner in which Dike is accepting his black identity by how it’s perceived by others.
As Dike grows older, it is clear that he is accepting this “blackness” and dealing with it in a gradually, unhealthy way. Once he becomes much older, Dike attempts to commit suicide. After this event Ifemelu is telling his mother, Aunty Uju, “‘Do you remember when Dike was telling you something and he said ‘we black folk’ and you told him ‘you are not black?’” (470, Adichie). She proceeds and tells her aunt she feels this may be why Dike attempted to kill himself. He believes that he is black and does not understand why his mother has to tell him he isn’t, as if there is something wrong with it.
This black identity causes both Ifemelu and Dike to become depressed. However, another reason this book has turned my view on which suffers more from racism, is because Ifemelu was able to snap out of it and prove herself. Dike, on the other hand, it affects him so much he tries to commit suicide.
I used to only imagine coming from a world where everyone was the same to a world where you clearly stand out must’ve been very difficult. After reading “Americanah,” I believe it is even harder to grow up in a world where you clearly stand out because you never had that self security of knowing people around you can be the same as you. The black identity is hard to accept when you have been raised non-black; whereas, being raised black is hard to neglect.