Black History Month – #blackonblack

In #blackonblack, Features, HOME, LIFE by Sam Prance

#blackonblack is a feature in which black people discuss black culture/black experiences/black everything.

Black history is something I resonate with. It goes beyond being black myself. You would have to be really hard hearted to hear the stories, read up on the history of Africans and slavery and not empathise with the struggle they faced, the fear that was inflicted upon them and the basic human rights they were denied.

Not just a film.

Black people have had a turbulent existence since the Portuguese discovered the shores of Africa and had the idea to capitalise on this discovery. Some people are ignorant about the strife of blacks while others will feign ignorance and act as though the anger demonstrated by black people is unjustified.

If you truly knew of and understood what black people were subjected to in the past, I wonder how individuals, despite being aware that blacks are continually oppressed, still struggle to expel our privileges and undermine us. I guess that makes them part of the oppressors. It has to be understood that the passing of ten more centuries will still not be enough to erode memories of the torture and angst experienced by our ancestors. There will forever be existing remnants of the slavery era, reminders of the time when people came and stole not just our land but our people. Not just our people but our happiness.

They turned our ancestors into abominations. Made them inferior objects. What little joy they had left was continuously snatched from them in the form of beatings, death, deprivation of food, water, clothing and family life. The list goes on.

Cotton_planter_and_pickers1908A post-slavery photo of cotton workers, West Point, Mississippi.

It is because of the horrific reality of our past that I am in bed at 3am, writing this for Black History Month. To help others understand what it means to be black. Hopefully this will enlighten those who usually appear to be nonchalant on topics of this nature.

I sometimes wonder how white people would react if they experienced the same level of hate and unfair scrutiny that we as black people face because for the most part, the only racially charged encounters the white people face are usually limited to interracial dating.

Black women become enraged when a black man dates or marries “a white woman”. White parents do not want their precious daughters dating black men. It is ludicrous that in this day and age people are still identified by colour and yet here we are. In the 21st century with an endless sea of people who still do not understand why they should socialise with us, be kind to us, treat us with respect and not act as if all black people are uneducated hooligans deserving of chokeholds and bullets without provocation.

So many truths in this film.

Some of you might not have heard of it but I’ll be honest and say that when I read the book Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, I found it quite refreshing. My spirit breathed a sigh of relief because finally, something existed that showed blacks to be superior and whites as inferior. We were never considered superior, in fact, a dystopian alternate reality had to be conjured up to ensure that we got there.

It wasn’t that I was overly jovial over the ghastly treatment of Caucasians in the book. It was simply that I enjoyed the twist. A story, which could potentially open the minds of white people worldwide and help them understand that colour should not define you nor should it define your abilities. Alas! Despite the fact that it was a great book, Noughts and Crosses never made it to the big screen. It is mere speculation on my part but I wonder if the reason behind this is because it’ll be too uncomfortable for white people.

First Lady of Teen Fiction.

Black people, I’ve realised can also be adverse to their fellow coloured brothers and sisters, particularly in my home country, Nigeria. There are those so ashamed of their skin colour that anything remotely ‘black’ or ‘African’ about them is discarded the moment they’re opportune to move or travel abroad. These blacks then ensure all their friends are white, their African or black accent is castoff and they snub black people and only speak to them when the gods are being cruel and necessitate the need for black on black conversation. I have first-hand experience as a cousin of mine fell victim to the ‘I hate black people syndrome.’

We also have blacks who practically worship white people. A significant number of Nigerians are culprits in this regard. They are always so quick to rush and help a white person out but are beastly to and are snail paced when it is time to help fellow Nigerians.

I don’t know what brought about the mentality that causes them to believe that white people are better than us but perhaps the pre-eminence the white people displayed over us still lingers in the minds of these individuals and they are so fascinated by what they perceive is the right or correct form of outer beauty, that they forget to embrace the fact that all humans are the same.

XhVewlpuvhgV26_3qdyKa4XXXL4j3HpexhjNOf_P3YmryPKwJ94QGRtDb3Sbc6KYWe are all human.

Nigerians also, for the most part, pay their foreign, white employees more money than they pay their fellow nationals. I will agree that in some instances, the white people are more qualified. Sometimes having received better education and better work experience but other times, the whites are blatantly just here for the money, clearly do not do much work and aren’t as qualified as you’d expect them to be.

However, simply because they are white, the companies they work for are quite happy to have them stay on for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes because they feel that white people representing the company speaks volumes for them and sadly it does. Many Nigerians are always more interested in exploring different avenues when a white person has done it first or is currently doing it.

Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to broach the light-skinned girls phenomenon -aka #TeamLightskin. A vast number of Nigerian men find light-skinned girls more attractive than darker skinned ones. I’ve never understood it but it is a ‘thing’ over here. Boys will proudly state that they only “date light-skinned babes”, while others will state that “light-skinned girls are so much hotter”. Why is this? Is it because the closer to white you appear the more beautiful you are considered to be? Mixed race girls get a lot of love in this country; they have better opportunities than dark-skinned girls and its all about skin tone.

Pictures6Even in the Western world, dark-skinned models and celebrities, like Alek Wek, are few and far between.

My six-year-old sister was at the Italian School (in Nigeria) for a year. Everyday she would come home with different questions or demands for me. She would ask me things like “why am I so dark?” and once she said to me, “is it true we are made from sand?” to which I responded “yes.” Her next statement was “so it means I’m made from black sand and you’re made from lighter sand but not white.” I thought it was cute at the time but later on I thought, I’m not certain she should be thinking of it in that manner. She would also say things like “I wish I had long straight hair like [insert white name]” or “I wish I was lighter.”

On another occasion, a black girl and white boy made out on the Cartoon Network show, Total Drama, which resulted in a loud “yuck! How can a black girl kiss a white boy?” Of course she received a lecture from me. She’s six but I don’t believe anyone is too young to be taught about diversity. Certainly age six, she shouldn’t be swamped with depressing information about slavery but I felt she should know that it is ok for people of different colours to interact, develop a relationship, get married or just be friends. My little sister changed schools recently and when I asked her if she’d like to go back to the Italian school she responded, “I want to go to a Nigerian school.” People are never too young to feel like they have been singled out or are being picked on so the crash course on diversity should be given while kids are young and still malleable.

I myself have had my own fair share of racially tinted experiences. From walking down the street and having Hakuna Matata yelled at me and a friend from the opposite side of the road, to obscenity filled yells directed at me from a drunken Scotsman of “fucking nigga with the bushy hair” referring to my naturally ‘nappy’ hair. His tirade was somewhat lengthy and as he got closer to me, I am proud to say that I increased my pace like a little bitch. Don’t laugh, it’s genuinely possible that I narrowly avoided being the victim of a hate crime.

10999017_10153055655766665_119121094_oMy sister and I.

Even the person, who let out my fourth year flat to a friend and I, was racist. He blatantly called us “Fucking Africans” and told us to return to our country after we’d made a complaint (his name is Grant, he works for the Stewart Property Letting Agency in Edinburgh. Beware). He was a nightmare. Furthermore, the constant underhanded compliments like “oh my! You speak so well for an African” or “did you grow up in the UK your diction is perfect” became really annoying after a while. I mean, you learn to smile through these things but my parents are educated and so were their parents so why shouldn’t I speak well?

Generalisations serve no purpose and it is time we stopped using them. Everyone is different and that is acceptable, what is not acceptable is the fact that people are punished for those differences.

Happy Black History Month!

Sekemi Braithwaite

Sekemi is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and the Nigerian Law School. She is freakishly obsessed with Harry Potter and even more so with clean hands. She writes, reads and watches TV shows in her spare time. She also spends her working hours daydreaming about her first love – FOOD.

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(Images sourced from: here, here, here)