Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why We Must FIRST LOVE OURSELVES As African-American Women

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at http://www.sojournerspassport.com/.

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

I recently received this email from a reader and she gave me permission to publish it (I deleted her name and the geographical location of her university) because it might help other young African-American women her age. I agree that it's helpful for others to hear her experiences. Here's her email:

Dear Muslim Bushido,

Hello! My name is _____________, and I'm a sophomore at a ___________ university. I read your latest post, and it really touched me. I feel the need to be honest about this (this is the first time that I'm even saying these things out loud). I'm just now--at 20 years old--learning to accept and love the fact that I'm black, or African-American.

I'm really embarrassed about this, butt here are SOOO many other girls in my position. I'm tired of all of the emotional and mental baggage that comes with not really being who I am. So one day, I just decided to breathe and LET IT GO. I got so sick of mentally tiring myself out with that crap. Reading your blog, along with Evia's and many others, really did awaken something in me. PLEASE believe me when I say that you women are a godsend--I've even told my mother about your blogs, and she STRONGLY ENCOURAGES me to continue reading.

You see, my strange relationship with all of the foolishness began at an early age--since before I can remember. My father's side of the family is so DEEPLY entrenched in colorism it's scary. My own paternal grandfather divorced my grandmother because his mother did not approve. My father has a disappointing relationship with his mom, to say the least.

My father's many family (without the presence of a male) grew up on welfare, and my father has never forgiven my Granny for that. Any woman that even resembles her on the street is a ' fat black widerbeast'. That's how bad it is. It even goes down to hair. My father was always soo happy that I had long hair, and that I wasn't too dark. His whole side of the family loves to sit around and talk about their mixed heritage--many of my family could pass for latino. I heard this day in and day out. My mother is a very kind woman, and she is my best friend. But she just puts up with so much foolishness it's ridiculous. I would never want to have the marriage she has with my father.

I have gone through a lot emotionally over the years. I had always wanted to fit in with other groups...I was a refugee. A beggar. I never quite understood why these people did not accept me until now. Through grade school, I even did people's homework and gave them lunch money to keep friends! How pathetic. I remember growing up actually feeling LUCKY that I didn't look all black. I'd witnessed other girls that did look traditional get teased, and I was glad I was never teased based upon my looks. But I still thought my life would be better if I was lighter with mixed-looking curly hair (I have relaxed hair). I was one of those quasi-mixed looking girls--i was in the middle. I wanted more attention, because I thought I wasn't as pretty as the biracial girls. This thinking is so prevalent it's crazy.

When I went to high school (I went to two), I wanted desperately to be popular. At my first school, the race du jour was Latino. Or if you were a black girl, you had to be mixed to even be considered. So, many black girls that could get away with it started lying about their heritage and saying that they were part this or that. I was one of those girls. I have Mexican family members on my father's side of my family (via marriage), so I started telling people my grandfather was Mexican. No one called my bluff, because I had really long hair and spoke excellent spanish. I was elevated among blacks, but NOT the latinos. They still did not accept me--I was a refugee beggar, and they used me, but still didn't befriend me in the end.

So then I moved to another area after my father retired from the military. The previous high school was in a wealthy county with a very diverse student body. This high school was in a poor county that was just developing (although I lived in a prominent neighborhood). This school was mostly comprised of poor blacks and whites. I was treated like royalty. I was treated better because I had money, and had long hair. It was also because I was still lying to people about my heritage, only now my grandfather was CUBAN instead of mexican (it worked better that way, because I could much more easily pass for that).

I even took that lie with me to college. This semester, I decided that I wouldn't tell people that anymore. In the end, nobody really cares what you're mixed with except ignorant blacks. I soon realized this first semester of my sophomore year. I just got tired--i got tired of the guilt, tired of the low self-esteem, and the hassle of covering up that lie with other lies about my heritage. I'm actually still scared to death that my friends parents with meet with mine, and that they'll start talking about Cuba or something!

I'm really ready to discover myself AS myself. If you want to post this, I don't mind (it will help others, ESPECIALLY girls my age). Just take my name out! Lol Thanks

This is what I said in a response email:

Hello there, _______________!

{excited waving}

Don't be embarrassed and don't blame yourself. AA self-disrespect is an airborne contagion. It surrounds most of us 24/7. All of this really should have been straightened out during the 1960s. And my generation (I'm in my 40s) didn't help the situation either---For the most part, we let the escalating colorism slide. Most AAs in my age group did and said nothing as the paper bag test escalated into a manila-folder-and-Whiter test.

I just praise God that you got through all of that and are coming to a healthier sense of self. And you're doing so early in life. There are so many of us who go to our graves being ashamed of our heritage. God is Good!

Thank you for your courage in talking HONESTLY about all of this. I will post this tonight (with your name deleted, of course).

Peace and blessings,


I've been thinking about this email tonight. I'm old enough to be this young lady's mother. It sickens me to know that this situation is the collective inheritance that African-American women in my age group left for her and others.

Sometimes younger women don't believe me when I tell them this, but the colorism was not this bad in the early 1980s. I've been speaking out about colorism since I was in high school in the 1980s. Over the years, very few other voices joined me. It has gotten WORSE since I was in high school. It has gotten a thousand times worse since the reign of Black Exploitation Television and hip-hop videos. And for the most part, women in my age group did and said nothing.

Unless we commit ourselves to cultivating and protecting our own racial/ethnic self-respect, this is the legacy that we will leave for any children we have.

*Reader's Note* If we get to 100 comments for the 1st Sojourner's Meeting post, then I'll transfer the conversation here. [I don't like having to scroll down miles of computer screen to read comments. LOL!] Until then, please post your comments to this in the section for the 1st Sojourner's Meeting post. Thank you.

No comments: