Being Too Black???
Posted: Friday, August 17, 2001
From: Tarikh Tehuti Bandele
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Ankh Udja Soneb.
There are many, many issues within this article, both from the writer as well as the mental condition many of us still suffer from.
As I read, thoughts were literally racing around in my third eye, amazed (but at the same time understanding) that many of us (as Afrikan people) continue to legitimize our malignant self-hatred. For example, the writer writes "...nobody will ever accept us like we must learn to accept ourselves". Should this be on our agenda as we walk trance-like into the 21st century??? Should we even be concerned with what other group of people 'accept' us??? Indeed, we must learn to embrace ourselves. But for some, as is evidenced all throughout this article, this is extremely difficult and challenging to do.
Next, this writer postulates the same assumption that "...we wouldn't be here in the first place without the cooperation of Africans selling off their brothers from other tribes (a french term that did not exist in Afrika before European occupation)." First, there were some Afrikans that PARTICIPATED in the selling of other Afrikans during our Maafa (e.g. Tippu Tib, an East Afrikan who saw himself more as an Arab than an Afrikan; he also assisted Henry Morton Stanley in his 'opening up' of Congo). But what this writer (as well as Brookings Institute member Henry Louis Gates) fail to mention is that 1) there was no rampant shipping of Afrikans to the New World BEFORE European conquistadors came into Afrika; 2) serious disadvantages existed between Afrikans and the encroaching Europeans; and 3) Europeans were able to exacerbate the differences and skirmishes that existed between different NATIONS (not 'tribes'). Interestingly, some individuals, for obvious reasons, always seem to overlook these and other factors (the extreme humanity that existed within Afrikan culture all over the continent; the sincere hospitality that was exercised and practiced by Afrikan people; and our propensity to embrace and 'believe' other people [we have been double and triple crossed several times, and by almost every group of people on the earth; just ask those Afrikans in Ayaiti that assisted Simon Bolivar]).
The article gets intense. The writer himself answers many of his questions right in his article. His cultural confusion is blatantly obvious at times, especially where he writes: "That's why I use the term Black, although I use Afrikan American to describe our original heritage". First, he uses a term (black) that was placed upon us to describe how we, as Afrikan people, look. Black, however, does not tell us anything else about us. The name that a people refer to themselves should connect them with land, history and culture. With all due respect to those who use the term, black only tells us what we look like, not where we come from.
Second, the statement "...although I use Afrikan American to describe our original heritage", is misleading and nowhere near factual. Why doesn't the term Afrikan American describe our original heritage??? Because our 'original heritage' does not begin in 1619. Contrary to popular opinion, we are a very old people. If the term Afrikan American describes our original heritage, then our beginnings only go back 382 years. Maybe this is all the writer is willing to acknowledge, as he writes throughout the article "...that thought is depressing", "But that's another painful story", and "To think otherwise is too painful". True, we have had very painful episodes in our COLLECTIVE history, but we should never let that pain dictate to us how we will deal with our past, present and future.
As far as the "hair and color problem", the writer never acknowledges the origins of this self-hatred. A good example of this tendency among the Henry Louis Gates types in our community (to overlook the origins of the extreme self hatred among many of us) is where the writer offers "A recent Jenny Jones show featured Black women who had been teased as young girls in school...Pearl, 23... had been teased by Anthony, 24". Jenny Jones, as well as the writer of this article, both make it appear that Anthony was the source of Pearl's self hatred as a child, when in fact, Anthony was just as much a victim as Pearl was. This self hatred has been passed down from generation to generation by those of us that feel (or felt) that we are not beautiful unless we resemble Europeans. This phenomenon did not begin with Pearl, Anthony, Jenny Jones or even the writer. This phenomenon began when the first European told an Afrikan that he/she was ugly because he/she did not resemble that European. It has been exacerbated by countless Afrikans that have been mentally rewired into believing that they are worthless without permed hair, thin lips, eagle-beak like noses and light skin. This is still among us today.
Also, the self-hatred that is evident in individuals like Anthony, Pearl and the writer ("I've had this hair and color problem since i was a kid"; "I wanted to be Black as Nat King Cole. Conked my hair like his once".) is allowed to exist, in part, because so many of our parents and elders have failed to instill in some of us self confidence and self worth. Many of them are too busy trying to 'look appealing" (i.e. other than themselves) to concern themselves with instilling self-confidence and self worth in younger Afrikan people. Thus, many of us have no firm sense of self, making it extremely easy for people and cultures outside of ours to dictate how we should look and what we should purchase to make us look a certain way.
Just like in Toni Morrison's brilliant opus, The Bluest Eye, many of our children are debilitated mentally because they are being inundated with the notion that everything that is beautiful is European.
The writer then writes: "Finally, in the 1960's came the voice of Malcolm X", implying that with the entrance of the message of Malcolm X, self-hatred began its decline. I beg to differ with this contention. Why??? I differ with this contention because there have been countless others BEFORE the 1960s that have attempted to instill in us a firm sense of self. Whether or not we listened to them and embraced THE MESSAGE is something totally different. As far back as the 1790s, people like Paul Cuffie, Prince Hall, et al. were trying to instill in us a love of self (otherwise, why would Prince Hall name his Masonic Lodge the Afrikan Lodge???). In the 1800s, several individuals came along to relay the same message (Henry Highland Garnet, Martin Delaney, David Walker, et al). Forty years before Malcolm burst onto the scene, the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey was teaching the same message of self-love and self worth. This is not an attempt to belittle the work and contribution that Malcolm X did and made.
Malcolm played a major role in quickening the tide that had always been there, in the quest to teach Afrikan people to love themselves as they are.
Lastly (but not least), I find it interesting that the writer postulates the notion that thick lips, broad noses and locked hair are, basically 'the rave' among Caucasian people. Indeed, there have been several (no, numerous) European people (women in particular) that have gotten their lips surgically enhanced, their hips surgically widened, and their behinds surgically enhanced. But, has this been because Afrikan people have, for the most part, embraced their Afrikanity??? Right now, Afrikan women are the biggest purchasers of hair relaxers and such items. Right now, bleaching creams (Ambi, Noxema, etc) are being sold in large numbers in several countries on the Afrikan continent. Right now, some communities spend more money on malt liquor than the same state (where these communities are) spends on education (for clarification, please read Blueprint for Black Power by Dr. Amos N. Wilson). As a whole, our spending power is more than 530 billion dollars, making us the 10th richest nation in the entire world (in terms of economic strength). However, of those 530 billion dollars, not a whole ten percent of the money comes back into the Afrikan community, into Afrikan hands and Afrikan businesses. So, when we see Jeep and Pepsi and Coke and American Airlines and hundreds of huge corporations lacing negro T.V. viewing time (i.e. when shows that are predominantly Afrikan casted are aired on television) with cool commercials that show Afrikan people driving cars and drinking Sprite and flying with Continental Airlines, it is not necessarily because we are loved or we have finally arrived or even because we have overcome. To the contrary, it is because 530 billion dollars is a lot of money.
Now Get Up.
Tarikh Tehuti Bandele'
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