Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?
This post was inspired by an exchange I had with a sistah on Twitter this morning. Now you see, Twitter is never short of provocative intellectual discussion that spark erudite dialogue. Ok. Who am I kidding. Twitter is usually full of gossip, ignorance, news about celebrities [including false deaths thereof]. Anyway, this morning, I happened to see some comments by a Black woman in response to a less than tactful comment by a Black man. The transcript:
#teamnatural, yall need a perm.
When will black men appreciate black women for being BLACK women [and ALL of our features] instead of tanner versions of white women? …
… And stop perpetuating the self hatred that has been ingrained in our community since the days when we were considered 3/5 of a person?
These kinds of questions have plagued the Black community since the time of emancipation. A brief history of Black folk:
The white man takes us from our homes and brings us to a country we have never seen. He subjugates us, beats us, forces us to do his bidding. He steals our language, our culture, our entire history and identity as a people. We suffer for a few hundred years. He makes it easier for himself to treat us badly [because his Christian God teaches him to love all others] by convincing himself we are not even human. Hard to feel empathy for something you think is little more than livestock, right? Then he frees us. Though we are free, we are still without identity. What does the white man do next: Well of course he convinces us that our genetically-given phenotypes are the epitome of ugliness. He tells us that white is beautiful. We Blacks begin to bleach our skin and straighten our hair. We see the supposed success and affluence the white man has and we think that if we could only look like him, everything would be better. We know now how flawed this reasoning was. But that’s not the end of the story.
We go through a period where we reject looking like the white man. Women cease straightening their hair. Black people as a whole embrace the afro. Black power is the name of the game. We are proud of our people. See below:
But then, about 25-30 years later, something happened. We went backwards. The same people who shouted “Black is Beautiful!” began to reify in our popular media the same skewed sense of beauty that we had valued for hundreds of years. See Below:
What the Hell Happened?
Without saying Gucci Mane le Flare is the voice of a generation, this is indicative of the kind of images that are now perpetuated. It is often suggested by Black women [see above] that the values of lighter skin and straighter hair are being forced upon women by Black Men. Lest we forget our story, it was the European who first taught us to hate ourselves and what made us better at living in the tropical and sub-saharan climate from which he stole us. Our dark skin protects us from the sun. The Sickle Cell trait that most African Americans possess actually makes us more resistant to Malaria. The malaria that is transmitted by mosquitoes in Africa. See the connection? Great.
The physical features Black folk presumably value were imposed on us centuries ago. We are culpable now in the sense that we still fall for the brainwashing. Both men and women. Black men straightened their hair for decades as well. Malcolm X even did it. Until we stop falling prey to this, and until we stop pointing the finger at each other, we will never get beyond these traps. As a Black woman, if you straighten your hair under the guise of “manageability” or because at your place of work, you think it is seen as more “professional,” question whether you want to work at a place the compels you to do this. Style, length, and straightness; or lack thereof, of a woman’s hair in no way represents her value. Black men know this. But when we overhear women lamenting the fact that they haven’t had a perm in X number of months, how are we supposed to respond? We know that when you feel beautiful, you are generally happy. Most black men know that when the Black woman is happy, we are happy.
Feel beautiful and rock the hair God gave you Black women. Encourage your friends and daughters to do the same.