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Stephen Seitz Seminar-Lovett 03/06/13 Identity Crisis Sometimes as I look in the mirror, I question whether I am any different today

than I was before I came to Wheaton. Sure, my appearance has changed in that three-year span, like the amount of facial hair or hair on my head but has my identity changed? Am I still that rebellious 18-year old who smoked marijuana and partied on weekends or have I changed into the Godly man that my future children would be proud to have as their father? Many people throughout history struggle in their lifetime to define their identities. While reading the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, it seemed that he struggled to identify himself with a specific race, and rather often identified himself with his fellow citizens of Africa as well as of Europe. By his firsthand experiences as a slave, Equiano defined himself as an African. I would also define him as such. If Equiano wants to speak out against slavery and have any validity, he needs to formulate his argument from his experiences as an African slave in the African Slave Trade. Although Equiano seemed to associate himself with Africans and Europeans simultaneously throughout his narrative, the evidence clearly lead the reader to conclude that Equiano thought his identity was in his African heritage. Within the first two pages Equiano said It is true the incidents of it are numerous; and did I consider myself an European, I might say my sufferings were great: but when I compare my lot with that of most of my countrymen, I regard myself as a particular favourite of Heaven (43). Equiano carefully phrased this comparison because he wanted to show the reader that he clearly was an African by referring to his African natives as a my countrymen. Even in his phrasing of that sentence, and did I consider myself an European lead the reader to believe that Equiano did not consider himself a European.

Through Equianos account of his country and their manners and customs, he constantly identified himself with the customs of his native people by using a possessive pronoun like my or our. For instance, Equiano discussed his favorite color and used a specific pronoun to show that he was indeed an African. This is usually dyed blue, which is our favourite colour. It is extracted from a berry, and is brighter and richer than any I have seen in Europe (47). Not only did Equiano say that it was our favourite color but he continued to describe how he never saw this color anywhere in Europe. He wanted to specifically show that his favorite color was found only in his home country, not in Europe, and associated this color with Africa. Equiano did such an exemplary job in identifying himself as an African that he was not the only one that would consider him an African instead of an European but I found myself drawn to that conclusion as well. In addition to Equiano identifying himself as an African, by reading his narrative, I would also have to concur that Equiano was an African rather than a European. Although Equiano later associated himself with the Europeans that he was on the ship with, he only did this in order to help the reader fully understand the events that were going on. For instance, when Equiano started to explain the vessels military expeditions, he began to associate with the Europeans. Our troops pursued them as far as the town of Louisbourgh [. . .] our land forces laid siege to the town of Louisbourgh (80). The only reason Equiano changed his use of this possessive pronoun was for a better account of the events happening. It would have been a lot harder to distinguish the troops of the English and the enemy troops of the French if he were to say, Their troops or Englands troops. It would also be too strenuous or tedious to continually write England instead of our in every scenario especially since he wrote about every event that happened to him as a slave. In no way was Equiano identifying himself with the Europeans but

instead was trying to illustrate the events that occurred to avoid confusion. Furthermore, Equiano gave the reader insight into why these designations or labels were so important in order to abolish slavery by his comparison of the two different races. On the one hand, Equiano may had been one of the more privileged slaves in the Atlantic Slave Trade, he didnt think he was European because he needed to identify himself as an African in order for this firsthand account of all his struggles to have any validity in the eyes in the world. These labels, such as African and European, were so important during this time in the attempt to abolish slavery because these two designations had two completely separate connotations. If an African man committed an act similar to that of a European man, no matter how much more heinous was the act of the European, the African would receive a much worse punishment if the European received a punishment at all. The example that Equiano gave was how there were completely different repercussions for a European who raped a ten year old African girl and an African who slept with a white prostitute. As if it were no crime in the whites to rob an innocent African girl of her virtue; but most heinous in a black man only to gratify a passion of nature, where the temptation was offered by one of a different colour (107). The European sailors were discharged by the captain while the African man was staked to the ground, and cut most shockingly, and then his ears cut off bit by bit (107). Both acts seemed similar in nature, even though the rape of an innocent girl seemed much more despicable than the other, but the punishments were severely different. These two races actions had two significantly different impressions in society as Equiano came to understand. While Equiano flirted with the notion of identifying himself as a European, he decided to continue to write as a proud African because his people needed him. Almost all Africans were not literate at this time so for an African to write a narrative of his life with such detail as

Equiano did was quite astounding. If he had associated himself with Europeans then his narrative would not have been as significant in abolishing slavery because it would have been another anti-slavery piece written by a European. In being African, not only were people shocked at his account of all the events and people he remembered, but also more importantly this was the first insight into the Atlantic Slave Trade written by an African who could articulate all the atrocities he had seen and all the blessings he had experienced. All in all, Equianos narrative was the first of its kind. No one had ever seen or read anything like it before. It provided firsthand accounts of what actually happened to the slaves during the Atlantic Slave Trade. In my opinion, Equiano identified himself as an African through his narrative. In order for slavery to be abolished, Equiano needed to distinguish himself as an African to give this voiceless race a voice. Although Equiano may have felt blessed as an African slave, almost to the extent of calling himself an Englishman, it was essential for him to be able to define himself as an African while writing his narrative to relate to his fellow countrymen as well as speak to them. In the same sense that Equiano felt blessed in his experience as a slave, I feel that I was blessed in coming to Wheaton College and in becoming the godly man that my parents would be proud to have raised. I may be a changed man but I need to realize that I was put through those trials in order to reach out to the partiers and try to evangelize to them. In the same sense that God put me through those trials as a partier, God put through Equiano through the trials with the Europeans in order to learn to write so he can evangelize to the world through his narrative in an attempt to abolish slavery.