1. Theoretical presentation
At this stage, young adult refugees expressed their excitements and feel good of being in Europe at the first time. They are looking for a new life away from violent conflict and persecutions, and being granted a refugee status, means starting a new, and straight forward life. However, starting an integration programme exposed them to another hidden reality:
- For instance, White European stereotypes classify many young adult African women in Europe as sexual deviants. This analysis of young adult African women’s sexuality is affirmed and legitimised in mass media that present them as sex objects. Not only does this serve to diminish self-esteem, but also encourages sexual abuse or exploitation of African women. Similarly, the rape of a young adult African woman in Europe, is not seen as serious as that of a white young adult woman.
- Furthermore, young adult refugees are banded together and branded as criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers, and all of them are suspected of being illiterate. Hence, for some young African women, to survive they have to work at the low and sinister end of the labour market such as prostitution, and in return they are condemned and despised by the system and by the African diaspora that sees them as low status women with poor morals and who are a danger to the African culture, values, and belief.
- Thus, an African migrant or refugee in African diaspora who believes that young adult refugees are more prone to criminality, prostitution, and/or drug trafficking than White European, and thereby, condemns and despises them is also exposed to a variation of internalised racism at this stage.
STAGE-2. RACIAL GASLIGHTING
At this stage, young adult refugees expressed their frustrations and confusions on how they are treated when they talk about witnessed stereotypes and racial prejudices about them. In different settings, institutions, schools, and even at home they are often told that what they are experiencing did not happen or is in their minds when they do confront their teachers or parents about it. Those teachers and/or parents might have the best intentions; to protect these young people, but this is a form of gaslighting, and an emotional abuse, if from young age one is not trusted by guardians, it makes them unreliable narrators of their own lives, being told that what they went through did not happen. Thus, having their experiences dismissed forces them to question their own sanity.
- Racial gaslighting is deeply rooted in the societal structure and social inequalities, and young adult refugees in Europe are more likely to experience gaslighting both in the professional environments and in their personal lives due to inequalities. The assumptions or stereotypes that a young adult refugee is illiterate and more prone to criminality, prostitution, or drug trafficking are often used to excuse the dismissal of their feelings and lived experience and forced to behave like White Europeans if they are going to make it.
- Racial gaslighting is a way of maintaining White European supremacy in society by labelling young adult refugees psychologically abnormal, just not in a visible way. Therefore, racial gaslighting is something that many young adult refugees experience growing up without knowing what it is. Sometimes, their teachers or parents might not know how to talk about racism, or the parents might be frustrated as they are facing racism or have internalised it a long time without knowing.
At this stage, a person is frustrated, confused, questions their own sanity and knowingly or not knowingly the inner live is adjusted by adapting a sense of inferiority to other human beings, being grounded in victimhood, and denying one’s own power and responsibility for their own emotions. This is the inner dimension of internalised racism; a young adult refugee is trying to fit into the White European scenes by acting, thinking, and behaving in a manner that lessens the value of being a young adult African. The person is experiencing emotional issues such poor self-esteem or anxiety with a thirst of acceptance from their White European peers.
- Dealing with stigma and scars of racism that questions and attacks one’s full humanity, dignity, and existence, makes it more difficult for young adult refugees to take any actions. They are growing up in communities that are always going to treat them differently, simply because they are refugees. It is no longer normal to talk or socialise with other young adult African refugees. Hence, they are trapped and overwhelmed by strong emotions translated into feeling of Irritation, Anger, Humiliation and Frustration, enhanced by daily pressure, and stereotypes from their White European peers.
- Hence, the easiest thing is to take it all in; feeling that, in some way, they are inherently not as worthy, capable, intelligent, beautiful and good as their White European native peers, and thus, act as if that was true, by socialising only with their White Europeans native peers, which impacts their ability to maintain healthy, and fulfilling relationships with other young adult African refugee, projecting their own sense of inferiority and inadequacy onto being a young adult African refugee.
At this stage, in addition of being submerged in a sense of inferiority and emotional turmoil, the person is struggling with sexual and gender identities. That is, being a young adult woman or man and belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community is different in African cultures from it is in Europe. A young adult refugee experiences even greater challenges in the traditional, conservative, and Christian African cultures and beliefs that privilege heterosexuality by maintaining and sustaining monolithic and hegemonic concepts of femininity, masculinity, sexual identity and gender expressions.
- This monolithic and hegemonic conception of femininity, masculinity, sexuality, and gender fosters aggressiveness and power of one gender over the other, homophobia and homonegativity. Hence, in young adult refugees’ own cultures, they have to internalise and live by the hypermasculine conceptions that define manhood or womanhood by social behaviours and sexual prowess fuelled by the heterosexism that adheres to rigid gender norms, political, and religious environments, and cultures of the African refugee communities around them.
- Though gender struggle is universal or the most powerful phenomena that ties sexual and gender minority groups across generations, young adult refugees experience fear that there will be no future or place within their own refugee society; affecting how and when to decide to disclose and embrace their own sexual identity or gender expression.
- At this stage, young adult refugees realise that they are a misfit for both the White European and African refugee group. They experience life changing events that shatters their view on life and determines how they look at their identities. That is, they see their own outlook as irrelevant and experience mixed feelings because their identity is lost in confusion, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, anger, frustrations, lower self-confidence, and lower self-esteem.
2. Session materials
You can download below an activity to implement with your group of young people