Cultural Pride when Land is Burning

How do you teach your children to be proud of who they are? Not just proud of their personality or the person they have and will become. But how do you teach them to be proud of their heritage, their cultural background and all that may surround that?

I’ve never really taken much notice of Egyptian politics. It has always felt so distant to me. I was born here, raised here and I’ve never been there. I never met any of grandparents and I still have so much family I’ve never met. I’ve always heard snippets and stories of the hardships, the prejudices, but it always felt so removed to me.

This time though, with the current, horrific turmoil taking place, I’m finding myself drawn to it. I’ve been seeking out alternative media sources to know more, to form my own opinion on what’s going on and to be involved. My parents are glued to skype and Arabic TV stations online to keep up with the news. They are passionate, angry and worried.

What gets me is the little remarks from people in the Western world that I keep seeing on social media. Things like, “perhaps they should go back to being run by Pharaohs”, or “this is what happens when Religions rule or Islam governs”. I think about what people might say or think when my children are asked of their heritage, or the dreaded question “Where are you from?” because brown skin and dark eyes means you are NOT from around here *insert eye roll*. I don’t want this stigma to be tied to part of their origin. And I know that’s not realistic and that this is inevitable. So I guess, I just want them to be able to say it with pride and ignore all the assumptions and stigma that comes with it. I want them to feel lucky to be in a country where they can make friends with people from all different faiths and cultures. I want them to feel lucky to have freedoms in education, equality and the workforce. But I don’t want them to feel like in order to do that they need to feel LESS lucky to be half-Egyptian.

Being Egyptian means they get to say they have ties to one of the most exotic and mysterious countries in the world. They get to say they have ties to a country with the most amazing historical and biblical locations. They also are exposed to awesome foods and experiences because of it.

As for fighting all the stigmas and assumptions some people make, eg. you must be Muslim, or you must be a terrorist (no they’re not the same). Well I hope they can explain that Christians are a minority in Egypt. That they only make 10% of the enormous population. And they are lucky to have grandparents who were part of that 10% which is a part of who they are today.

So how can you teach all that? I guess you just have to live it. Show them what it’s like. Pay respect to that side of their heritage as equally as paying respect to being Australian. Never forget it, embrace the culture and the good things about it. I’m lucky to have an Aussie husband who is equally committed to making sure of all of the above.

Are you from a multicultural family? How do you plan on instilling cultural pride in your children?

9 thoughts on “Cultural Pride when Land is Burning

  • I was born and spent the first thirteen years of my life in Poland. I’ve been back twice to visit, but haven’t felt very drawn to it since then. My mum keeps in touch with some of her relatives and both my parents get very passionate about the political goings on back there, but I’m not really interested. I’d like to take my boys there one day, but am afraid of the criticism I’m likely to encounter for not teaching them Polish or to eat Polish food. So for now, our trip may have to go on the backburner. Great post, Angela!

    • Thanks Dorothy. So great to hear your experiences too. Like you, it’s never really been something I’ve been drawn to. It’s only recently that I’ve started to feel the need to ‘hold onto’ certain parts of it. I also haven’t taught my little man Arabic although I speak it fluently. The food is mostly at mum and dad’s house unless I decide to try a dish out! I’d love to go there one day too…can only hope it will be safe again one day.

  • Thanks for sharing, I can only imagine how difficult it is to teach your children about their cultural heritage against the story the media is telling 🙁 We’re recent arrivals from NZ and hubby is Maori, in NZ we were surrounded by the culture, whereas here my girls are the only Maori children at their school and my middle three have next to no interest in learning anything about where they come from. We’re working on it though! Hubby is teaching them basic Te Reo commands and Miss 10 can say grace in Maori at family gatherings.

    • I grew up like that too. I was always the only Egyptian growing up through school, apart from my siblings! I’ve only really started to appreciate and accept my cultural background as an adult, and I know my parent’s exposure to it all has helped me, so hope to do the same for my own!

  • My background is just English however I just wanted to commend you on this post and to continue to stand strong in your identity. Part of the teaching I guess is how perceptions can be skewed by how information is passed on to us and accepting that there will always be people (unfortunately), who will judge.

  • My daughter is half Russian. I speak practically only Russian with her. Even though English is her first and preferred language, she understands both and speaks a little Russian. We read Russian books. She watches Russian cartoons. We give small pressies to each other on NYE (just what we do back home)… other than that I don’t think I am passing a lot on to her… I don’t expect her to get interested in her background until she is older.

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