Throughout my life I heard “East-African’s are not really black” countless times which can confuse anyone growing up in an already confusing world.
During my early years (11 years old and under) I remember having the odd comment of “you have lovely curly hair”, “where are you from?” and “I thought you was mixed” here and there from people which never bothered me. I would just correct them by explaining that I was not mixed and both my parents were African and that was that.
Once I reached high school the questions and comments continued but this time the questions were more intense. “You’re African?….You don’t look African”, “you have different features and curly hair so you have to be mixed with something”. “East-African’s are not full black”, “why do East-Africans look different?”. I remember feeling pressured to say I was mixed when I wasn’t and learning terms such as ‘good hair’, ‘lighty’ and discovering the existence of weaves, relaxers and the desire for straight hair.
I remember going through experiences which brought to my attention that there was an issue, like having my friends ask me to go weave shopping with them but then being the only black girl asked to leave the room when it was being installed, so I didn’t see their real hair. I remember feeling left out and started to question this request only to be left baffled when they told me they didn’t feel comfortable to show me their hair. How I lucky and didn’t know what it was like to be have ‘real’ black girl problems. Or the first time I heard someone say they preferred ‘light skinned’ girls. I was so confused by such a statement and even more surprised it was coming from someone who themselves were not ‘light skinned’. I remember thinking it was the most stupid thing I had heard. Looking back I feel fortunate to have been raised by parents and in an environment which didn’t have or express such ridiculous views. Allowing me to see the foolishness in such a statement.
Having come from a proud African family and having always identified myself as a black female it really frustrated me when I felt like I was being asked to prove my ‘blackness’ . To non-blacks I was a black girl even though the word ‘different’ was mentioned at some point. What hurt and confused me more than anything else, was the very people who I identified myself with felt that I was different to them as well. I had no idea why East-Africans looked different and to be honest I didn’t really care. I felt like the odd girl that didn’t fit in the ‘black girl’ box because people said I didn’t match the criteria, didn’t fit in the ‘mixed race box’ because technically I wasn’t mixed so was given my own box, the ‘East-African girl’.
Overtime I learnt other people have been through the same or very similar experiences as I did which made me feel less excluded. How there was a division within the black community even though we are considered the same to everyone else. I began to understand it’s a natural negative condition of internal racism that’s being passed from one generation to another which needs to be put to a stop. Black people come from many different countries all over the world, they come in many different skin shades, with different features and hair textures which in no way denounces their blackness.
Let’s not hate but praise what makes us so unique and beautiful!
Peace & Bless,