dark woman.jpg

An article recently in an online hair magazine asked whether we had allowed bi-racial women to hijack the natiral hair movement. The resurgence of natural hair ‘movement’ in the early 00’s was a space for black women, specifically black women who had been told and taught that their kinky, napppy, coily hair was not enough to collectively celebrate their beauty. as time has gone on, the article notes that natural hair products and gurus are largely bi-racial  or light skinned women with looser curl patterns. The most popular youtube channels are of women who are either bi racial or, regardless of shade, have a curl pattern that suggests some proximity to a non -West African lineage. There are entire product lines that seemingly have as their main selling point the notion that you can buy a certain curl pattern, namely a pattern that suggests that you could plausibly have “Indian in your family”. Thousands of women with the kinkiest of hair textures drown themselves in a variety of curly puddings,  looking for the magical formula that will transform them from Lupita to Alicia Keys.

The article was somewhat controversial, which I find laughable and similarly upsetting. We are still as a community unable to acknowledge our blatant obsession with venerating mixed race people, more specifically mixed race and light skinned women, at every oppotunity, even to the point that we  confine black representation in black owned and controlled spaces to light skinned or mixed race women.

The natural hair movement is just one small part of a larger destructive w(hole). I can’t count how many times recently I’ve rolled my eyes at a thumbnail or trailer (because I refuse to watch most them for a variety of reasons) of yet another film or show where the black female romantic interest is, as per usual, no darker than  a brown paper bag or has wavy hair and features that conform to a European standard of beauty. Inevitably there will be a sidechick dark skinned friend who is always there in every film  as the wing woman and proverbial mammy for the light skinned woman to be comforted by. It’s imperceptible to some but glaringly obvious to me, that in the UK in particular (less so in teh US perhaps) dark skinned black women are pushed out of spaces and black female representation in media is almost exclusively mixed race.

I don’t blame the women themselves for it. On the contrary they are as light skinned black  or mixed race people, both victims and beneficiaries of a vicious system of colourism that we can no longer blame exclusively on white people for creating and promoting when we also uphold and perpetuate it in our own community. As dark skinned women, we have been emotionally and mentally disenfranchised from ownership of beauty – we are told that for us, it is only a commodity that we can purchase instead of owning innately while at the same time seeing others celebrated for features we naturally own. However, we cannot wait and expect others to do the work of acknowledging our worth.Whilst appreciating that society is invested in creating a narrative that we are less desirable, we cannot wait for society to change and beg for inclusion. Mainstream media will do what it wants but in our own spaces we must demand to be at the forefront and refuse to be under and unrepresented.

We are scared of being exclusionary maybe because we know the pain too well of being excluded. We do not want to be seen to be saying to mixed race or lighter black women with loosely curled hair that they do not belong, that they can’t sit with us, that they are not one of us.They too experience racial prejudice and profiling.  Rosa Parks, with her near straight hair and light skin sat on the bus and endured abuse for our sake too.But even her presence in the civil rights movement was one of privilege – lighter skinned black people had access to education and social circles that their darker brothers and sisters were more frequently denied access to. It’s not a wonder that many of the leading civil rights activists in the early and mid 1900’s passed the paper bag test. But it is no longer 1952 and it is backwards to demand justice and equality from those outside of the community while continuting to uplift the race based hierarchy inflicted on us by them within our community. This is not a work of exclusion, but one of inclusion. Dark skinned women, who make up the majority of black women are being disproportionately excluded from black controlled spaces. It’s beyond ridiculous.

The reason why we allow ourselves to be erased from our own spaces is because many of us simply do not yet believe in our own worthiness. We empty our pockets to give our hard earned cash to Miss Jessie’s in the hope that their curly pudding will allow us some proximity to the racial ambiguity that is continually celebrated in and outside the community. Whiteness is still so aspirational for us that in many aspects of our lives, beauty aesthetic being only one of them, we desire to assimilate to it.

Black women are berated for so many things,and I don’t want to add to the list by screaming “you don’t love yourself enough, why don’t you love yourself, your kinky hair, your round nose, your full lips??!!! Why don’t you love yourself??!!” We know that it is hard to love yourself when so many things militate against that love, but is possible. And its difficuly does not negate its absolute imperativeness. We must learn this love, for the sake of ourselves, our children, the men we love, even the black men who don’t as yet love our or their own blackness.

It is possible. I know it is because I’ve done it. I absolutely love my skin colour, I absolutely love my curly, coily hair, that does not look like Tracee Ellis Ross’s (although her hair is beautiful too). I genuinely think I’m beautiful, and it did not happen overnight. It happened with some good contact lenses, youtube tutorials and a relationship with God that gave me a God-fidence that defied anything any magazine, BET show or ignorant man can say to me. It also happened with looking at a few pictures of beautiful women who looked like me on Instagram and Pinterest and rarely, on TV. It happened through my Mum and the fabulous women I saw in my every day journeying who had a sdilent confidence that refused to be diminshed.

That is why I demand to be seen and I demand to be acknowledged. I demand to write and tell other women, to remind myself, to create a memory, that I am present and I am more than enough.I won’t be silenced by those who claim that speaking about this is redundant or divisive or hateful, becuase I know I am motivated out of a great love for myself and for others. I write this because, in the words of Zora Neale Hurston, “If you are silent about your pain they will kill you and say you enjoyed it”.

I am a dark skinned black women. I refuse to be erased.

mixed race blog

I periodically vow to myself that I’m not going to blog about race….and then Vogue declares that derrières are de rigueur because Iggy Azalea and J-Lo have decided to parade them but only give a cursory heads up to Bey and Rhi, or some twit decides that a human zoo with half nekkid black people is a sensible idea, or another black kid gets shot. You know, the usual. To top it off, some well meaning black or mixed race (because apparently these have become entirely separate races) will say something to me like – “If everyone was mixed race, racism wouldn’t exist!”. Or “mixed race people are the future”.

Let’s have a Kit Kat and take a break from the nonsense, shall we?

Firstly, statements like this usually come from a lack of understanding of what ‘race’ actually is. As the kumbaya crowd like to squeal at every available opportunity technically, – “we’re all mixed race, we’re all a rainbow of colours, there’s only one race, the human race!!!  (They also love other assorted distracting comments that come from a loving place, but are completely irrelevant to the situation at hand).I refuse to feed into this silly, and frankly offensive trope about people being more intelligent, beautiful, and interesting if they are mixed. Funny how no one seems to apply that to African Americans or African Caribbeans although on average we have at least 10% non-African blood. Technically we should be super smart and gorgeous right?

Race isn’t purely biological, it’s a social construct. Someone that might be considered white in India, may not be considered white in England. When I visited Chad, I wasn’t really seen as African, and I didn’t look like a Chadian. When I explained slavery to them and the whole concept of being ‘African-Caribbean’ it was probably the first time I understood a little bit of what it would be like to be seen as ‘mixed race’ – I wasn’t quite African enough to be considered one of them, and I definitely wasn’t white, so they called me ‘the black-white girl’. At the beginning of slavery in America, people with a white father were classified as white – then the system changed, and it was decided that anyone with any black blood in them was to be classified as black.

Basically, race isn’t as simple and clear cut as looking at someone’s parents and grandparents and splitting them up into halves, quarters and thirds like a pie chart. Culture, self-identification, life experiences, language barriers – all these things are thrown into the pot when we define someone’s race.

But being black is more of a political and social identity in a climate of racism as opposed to a statement about your specific ethnic mix. Malcolm X had a white grandparent, Obama’s mother is white. We all know this and acknowledge this, but we understand that both these men would have experienced life (with some nuances distinct to their shade of ‘black’)as black men. In our current society, a society dominated by white supremacy and with a historical legacy of that, one thing is fairly certain. If you don’t look white, you don’t have white privilege. A white parent will not protect you from the police. They will not make you immune to the stereotypes and social disadvantages that come from being black. Which is why although for some, the distinction between black and mixed race is important for self identification as acknowledging the totality of their heritage, from a political standpoint it’s not hugely important.

The other thing that is certain, is that the closer you look to white, within the black community (and to a limited extent with non-blacks), you will have a form of privilege that darker skinned black people don’t have.

So my point is this.

Assuming that if everyone was mixed race, racism would cease to exist makes some huge, blatantly false assumptions about the nature of white supremacy. Unless we stop stratifying people using whiteness as a standard, no matter how much mixing occurs, the negative pathology of it will still give rise to some form of racism. For example, someone who is ‘mixed race’ but who has very tightly coiled, kinky hair, is seen as having less beautiful hair than someone who has wavy, silky hair. Or, a ‘mixed race’ person with typically black features such as a widespread nose, or very big lips, will generally not be seen as universally attractive as someone who has more typically European features. In countries such as Brazil, here the vast majority of the population is mixed race, and all that happens is that within the variety of mixed race people there is a social hierarchy which places those who are lighter and closer to white at the top of the social ladder. It’s the same in the Caribbean.

Until black people see themselves as equal with white people, until we see our culture and history as of equal value, until we do not measure facial features and hair texture against whiteness, until we stop thinking that something has more credibility if the white community stamps it as such, we can never ever give the mixed race children that we parent the resources to be able see themselves outside of the lens of whiteness. If every single black person had a baby with every single white person and their kids then had babies with every single asian, but it occurred in a context where whiteness was the standard, then the offspring of those relationships would still judge themselves and others according to that standard. It’s the reason why when some mixed race children are born, people worry about whether they’re going to be unfortunate enough to get that nappy hair or not. It’s why people make under the radar comments about kids that are mixed with black and asian getting their smarts from the asian side.

Entering a romantic relationship with someone of a different race and making a baby with them is not a commentary on whether or not the parties involved have some level of racism, or in the non-white partners case, internal racism.
There are a myriad of ways we can end racism, (I’ve written a post about it), but just having babies without black people de-constructing their own internalised racism, and without white people asking themselves hard questions and having awkward conversations about the way race plays out in society, is a lazy solution and does a disservice to the the children who deserve a better legacy than the one we’re currently handing to them.
What do you guys think?

5%Indian

In case you didn’t get the memo, it’s not ok to just be plain ole’ regular black any more. I don’t know when it happened, maybe sometime around 1982 when Jherri Curls took the heads of black folk by storm, but someone, somewhere decided that regular black was just insanely boring, and that we should break down our ancestry into minute fractions to grasp at whatever non-African blood might be lurking there..

As a child, going to a pretty much all white primary school, I was somewhat shielded from this strange phenomenon for a significant part of my week – to the kids who teased me about my skin colour and my hair, a black person was a black person, regardless of their particular blackalicious mix. Church on the weekends was my little negro oasis though, where my ‘white’ accented, non-keeping it real, Westlife loving self would be introduced to the various black shenanigans that had developed over the past week. It didn’t take me long to learn that having a little extra sumthin sumthin in your bloodline gave you a bit more pizazz. Kinda like when Jamie Oliver tells you to add balsamic vinegar to a salad to give it an extra kick.

Being mixed race or multi ethnic is in fashion. It’s been fashionable in the black community (Caribbean and African American community) for the past 400 years I guess, but recently we seemed to have upped the ante with our obsession. In fact, the media in general seems to love celebrities who can lay claim to more than one ‘race’, but no other group of people are as excited about not being ‘pure’ as black people.

It always makes me snigger a little inside to sit in a room full of black people and raise questions of ancestry. Aside from people who do actually have a non-black parent, the rest of them will inevitably drag up a grandparent who was 1/4 Irish, a great grandparent who was Indian, a third cousin twice removed who might have been Scottish..very rarely will anyone say “I wonder if my ancestors were Nigerian/Ghanaian/Angolan”.

Now it’s true that pretty much all African Caribbean/Americans will have non-African blood in them. The Jamaican motto is ‘Out of many,one people’, a testament to the fact we, and most other Carribean countries are a melting pot of cultures and races. I don’t take umbrage with recognising that – I have knowledge of my non-African ancestry and embrace all parts of me. What does worry me is that we take pride in being ‘mixed’ over being plainly African. It’s frankly embarrassing that we are so intent on clinging onto groups of people that in general, neither accept us, or look at us favourably. No Indian person is ever going to claim you as one of their own because of your Indian great-grandparent. Heck, people who are half Indian and half Black barely get accepted by the Indian community, so why on earth are you so obsessed with making your tenuous link to them known at every available opportunity?

The media intensifies this pathology by being intent on alerting us to the fact that successful black celebrities, especially women, are in fact mixed, almost as if this offers up some sort of explanation for their stunning features. “The award winning actress, who is 13% American Indian..bla bla” “Mary, who is of African American, Indian, and German ancestry…”. It would be hilarious if the message it sends out about the value of blackness wasn’t so insidiously damaging. Folks who up to 20 years ago would just be regular negroes are now ‘multi racial’. In fact, I’m pretty certain if I ever by some freak accident became a billionaire pop star, someone would manage to drag some ‘exotic’ fact about my ancestry from the depths in a pathetic attempt to make me more ‘interesting’.

There is nothing wrong with being  a regular black of house slave mixed with field slave. There is nothing wrong with being African. An added splash of Chinese does not make you more interesting, more beautiful or more deserving of attention, affection, or accreditation. I added the last word on for alliteration. Being mixed is cool. Being Black is cool. Being Asian is cool. Being white is cool. It’s cool to be human, stop grasping at mixed race straws and pedestalling it.

In fact, the whole idea that black and mixed race are mutually exclusive terms is troubling  but that’s another post…

What percentage of Indian are you? If you’re less than 4% it doesn’t count 😉

 

inter1

So according to national government statistics, or some sort of group masquerading as some sort of official type conglomerate, 50% of black men in this country and 35% of black women are in relationships or married to people who aren’t black. ETA – people have mentioned that I need to provide links to studies , statistic etc so here they are..(http://www.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/socialchange/research/social-change/summer-workshops/documents/unionsbetweenblacksandwhites.pdf) (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1120963/Ten-cent-UK-children-mixed-race-family.html)

Now I know this is a controversial topic, so I’m gonna start out by apologising to those people who are going to be offended by my opinion. Opinions are like university degrees nowadays – pretty much everyone’s got one, they’re all important in their own right, but some are more useful than others. Mine might be useless to you, that’s cool.

I have to put the same disclaimer at the beginning as I initially put at the end of this piece. I am not against interracial relationships. I am simply discounting the popular narrative that interracial relationships are automatically positive for racial progress. Please re-read that.  Please, please actually read the entirety of what I’ve written instead of jumping on certain things that might rub you the wrong way. Thanks :-).

Looking at the statistics, it’s clear that black people are far and away the only group that dates interracially in such high numbers, especially black men. Most Asian men marry Asian women, most White men marry White women etc. (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/one-in-five-wont-marry-white-1002413http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/one-in-five-wont-marry-white-1002413)

There’s no doubt that it’s becoming increasingly more popular and according to many people, a sign that the people who date interracially are not racist – therefore we are as a society are becoming less racist, that love is colour blind etc. To which I say nonsense, doo-doo, and complete twaddle-wrap.

Firstly, it’s quite obvious that the vast numbers of black men especially dating and marrying outside their race is pathological. The fact that 50% (48% to be exact) of a group of men date or marry outside their race (primarily white women) is a clear sign of some sort of problem within that community, especially when this is not replicated by the vast majority of the male populations of other races. We can bury our heads in the sand and sing Kumbaya choruses and pretend that this is all wonderful and part of Martin Luther King’s dream, but frankly, it’s not, because the reasons why it is occurring in such high numbers are not positive.

1) Black people as a general group have deep seated psychological issues when it comes to self image.

You only have to look at a hip hop video, or a black rom com to see that black people in general idolise beauty standards that are not ‘black’.  A large proportion of  hip hop artists are dark skinned black men. A large proportion of hip hop video models are racially ambiguous. Looking at them, they could be black, they could be Latina or they could be a white brunette with some good fake tan. I know black guys who are as black as a pot of burnt rice who have only dated girls Beyonce’s shade or lighter, and then have the nerve to talk some excrement about ‘preferences’ and how everyone’s entitled to them. Of course you’re entitled to them, but if I’d been systematically brainwashed to believe that beauty was at it’s highest point when it was 5 shades lighter than me, then I think I’d try to revisit my preferences.

How many times have you heard a black person say that they want children with ‘good hair’ or ‘green eyes’? I’ve actually heard black women say they wouldn’t date someone because their hair was too ‘nappy’ (basically too African). This isn’t a small segment of the black population who talks like this, a sizeable amount of us have said or heard someone else make these ridiculous statements at some point.  I’m not sure how the majority of black men or women can be confident that their dating choices aren’t somewhat influenced by the negative images we have of black beauty around us. Little black boys internalise ideals of beauty that tell them the only acceptable form of black is Halle Berry, Beyonce and Rihanna. When they grow up, it doesn’t magically go away. The unhealthy veneration of mixed race people by black people is nothing new, and interracial marriage is only serving to feed this.

2) Many black men and women  who date interracially state that their reasons for doing so are because of issues they have with black men or women, or things that they believe other races of men and women do ‘better’.

If you primarily date black women and happen to fall in love with a white woman, it is entirely different to you spouting generalisations about black women or men as your reason for dating outside your race. “Black men don’t know how to treat a woman”. “Black women have too much attitude”. “Black men can’t handle a successful woman”. “White women are more easy going”. “Asian women know how to treat a man” “Black women don’t wear their real hair”. (Ever considered that black women are just trying to imitate the type of women that black men clearly find more attractive? i.e. Long hair, straight hair or wavy hair?) “Black men are dogs and they all cheat”.

I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it a million times. I know plenty of white girls with attitude. I know plenty of white men who are serial cheaters and treat women like crud. I’m not denying that there aren’t particular attitudes and behaviours that are more common amongst the black community, but a lot of these are to do with class and not race. Black men talk about black women’s apparent attitude, when they only date a particular type of women. I’m sorry that Shaniqua wasn’t wifey material, but have you ever considered that her life circumstances caused her to develop a certain type of attitude to cope? And that if you dated a woman with different circumstances, her attitude would be different? I’m sorry that Tyrone didn’t turn out to be the model boyfriend, but really, you were the one who wanted a Rick Ross lookalike. And you pretty much got a look alike and an act-a-like.

3) Some white women fetishise black men. Some white men fetishise black women.

We (black folk) are a race who seem to suffer from general amnesia. When has the ability of white people to have sex or procreate with us meant that they were no longer racist? Um. Where do you think all the racial mixing in the Caribbean comes from? There a sizeable number of white people who still describe black people as ‘exotic’ ‘exciting’, and rave about ‘chocolate skin’, how good black men are in bed, how black women are more spicy and passionate, how black men are more manly, and how ‘mixed race babies are so cute’.

All these statements are highly problematic and objectifying. What’s even more problematic is that some black men  and women are stupid enough to be flattered by these unhelpful stereotypes, and will go on to date and have children with these people. The offspring of these unfortunate unions often then grow up with defective racial identities and internalised stereotypes about themselves.

I’ve heard the most ignorant and ridiculous nonsense come out of the mouths of white mothers who have mixed race children. I know of people who have had their white wives turn around and call them nigger in the middle of an argument. I know of black women who have married white men only to be disturbed by their deep seated racial prejudices that were not apparent while they were dating them. Just because someone marries someone of another race does not mean they are not racist.

Black people often require very little from the white people they enter into relationships with – ignoring the fact that they have a shallow understanding of black history, white privilege and racial identity. I’ve heard many white mothers being offended when their children are called ‘black’. This shows a woeful ignorance of the politics of race in society and also the shocking lack of care the black man who impregnated these women took in being certain that the mother of their children was going to adequately equip their child to manoeuvre through society.

Many white people are socialised to be racist. They don’t choose to be, they are socialised into it, and many of them have prejudices and stereotypes that cannot simply be erased by having a mixed race child or dating a black person. It takes a significant amount for someone to change thought pattens that have been reinforced from a young age they don’t just disappear because you fancy Tinie Tempah.

4) Mixed race people are being used in popular media to perpetuate erasure of dark skinned black wowen n particular.

It’s quite obvious that presently there is a move for ‘black’ representation to be confined to ‘mixed race’ representation. Most adverts or television shows will have  a mixed race person, or a black person who looks mixed as opposed to a non-mixed looking black person. ( I say looking because phenotype doesn’t have a direct correlation with genotype, and there are any people who identify as black who look ‘mixed’/ or who are technically mixed and vice versa). It is a more palatable and attractive version of black to the general population and to black people. Mixed race black people are a way for companies, magazines, and governments to fulfil a quota of black people whist stating clearly that only a specific type of black is good. The type of black that is mixed with white.  The result is a marginalisation of non-mixed black people, especially women, which is only fuelling a divide between these two groups. I want to clarify, this is not the fault of mixed race people, or of people who marry interracially per se. This is the fault of a system of pigmentocracy that has been present in our community for hundreds of years. What the high levels of interracial marriage does do, is send a direct message to society at large as to how we perceive ourselves, how the relationship between black men and black women is fractured, and perpetuates the hierarchy that has already been created.Ultimately, advertisers, music video directors etc, present what they think will be attractive to the demographic they are targeting. Naturally, if a particular demographic has made it clear about their preferences in terms of attractiveness, they’ll cater to that. If the high levels interracial marriage were occurring outside the context of the historical colorism in the black community and the legacy of slavery, it wouldn’t be at all an issue it would be progress, but because it’s not, it IS an issue. These are cold, hard, unpopular truths.

What I’m not saying:

1)That no one should date or marry interracially.

2)That I will never marry or date interracially. (Although I openly admit that I’m wary, for the reasons I stated above)

3) That mixed race people’s ‘issues’ are any more than other people’s.

4) That mixed race children don’t have the right to self define.

What I am saying:

1) The high levels of interracial marriage are indicative of a deeper community problem.

3)Mixed race identity IS complex and IS something that needs to be discussed more.

4) We cannot love other people positively when we don’t love ourselves.

I hope I’ve generated more light than heat, and I also want to end this piece by saying that in an ideal word, interracial dating would not be a big deal. But in an ideal word there wouldn’t be a system of white, male supremacy. I can’t talk about this issue idealistically because that is not the world we live in.

Peace guys x