Chimeras in SoCal
We sat down with Alexandra near the USC campus in LA. At 6 years old, while living in London with her Swedish father and Dual-American/British mother she decided she didn't like the British or Swedish pronunciation of her name. She goes by Ally now.
Ally has 3 citizenships from her parents and spent the majority of her childhood in Europe, vacationing in the States occasionally. The last 4 years she's been living in Los Angeles and pursuing a career in media. Ally feels she doesn't truly "belong" anywhere because she has spent so much of her time across cultures. Her Swedishness misses the nuance and insider-feel that her Swedish friends have. Her Britishness lacks the ethnic English base that would allow her to feel like others could see her as British. Her Americanness feels shallower because so much of her family, friends, and memories are rooted in Europe. Her feeling of America was most interesting, not just because of the America-centrism of this project but because her reason for being excluded from America was entirely personal. Ally said at a couple points in our conversation that "anyone can come to America and become American." And that was one of the things that she felt a whiff of patriotism about. Rather than feeling somehow left out of the communities of Sweden or England, she enjoys being different in America, which is a big part of why she feels not fully American. It's a distinction by choice.
Ally voted for the first time in the last US election, and says she feels more American now after the election than she did before. Some of this is because she participated in government for the first time but the other reason she talked about was particularly interesting:
One of the last things that sticks out from our conversation is an echo of other conversations about belonging. She told a story about a question a professor posed to her class years ago: "How many people would protest if the university raised tuition by 50%, how many would go to jail for the protest?" She recalls someone saying that everyone in that class was so privileged that no one would protest or even notice. The premise of this was offensive to her, that the privileged don't care about money or changes in their world because they are somehow above it all. Regardless of privilege, people care about their world, want their work to be respected, and want to feel like their opinions and concerns are listened to. Privilege makes that status easier to achieve but to suggest that anyone doesn't feel that way felt dehumanizing. She complained that many of the problems of access in her industry are specifically because of wealth inequality:
Her perspective on privilege had an interesting nuance to it. She of course the advantages it afforded were remarkable and the problems of inequality are very real, but that even from high perches people have the same basic motivations. They want to be understood and have their feelings valued, and there is an insecurity about that for everyone.