If you’re from Africa, why are you white?

This clip is from the movie Mean Girls. The main character has just returned from Africa to enter a typical American high school, and she totally doesn’t fit in. Besides this scene, she also says “jambo” to a table full of African-American students, and has to hide her mother’s tribal fertility vase while she’s throwing a party.

Mean Girls exemplifies the challenges faced by a really transnational group: Third Culture Kids. As a TCK, I was raised outside of my parents’s home countries (in fact, they were both TCKs as well). When I think about transnational space I think about the way I can feel at home in a place other Americans consider “foreign,” but feel out of place in, for example, an American high school.

In fact, I often find that I have more in common with other TCKs (regardless of where they’ve lived or where their parents are from) than with other Americans. We’ve created a transnational space where we can connect, not because of our shared backgrounds or nationalities, but because we feel the most comfortable with others who cross-cut national boundaries.


One thought on “If you’re from Africa, why are you white?”

  1. I think a lot of the comedy comes from the second line, too: “Oh my God, Karen, you can’t just ask people why they’re white.” The movie shows the ignorance that many American high schoolers have towards Third Culture Kids, but also the taboo around talking about the TCK’s “foreign” backgrounds. The main character is treated as if she were an American high schooler, rather than an African, or an international student. Her social group plays a game of pretend around her: Pretend that she is American. This joke comes from the real problem that American High Schoolers don’t know how to address Third Culture Kids.



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