‘ I hate that I am black and not lighter like them.’
‘This type of hair is not good hair. You need to straighten it to look better.’
‘You are very pretty for a black person.’
‘You are too dark for me. I only go out with lighter-skinned women.’
‘Did you comb your hair? Go back and make it presentable or put on a wig.’
‘I like the extensions better. Your hair is too African.’
‘Take this cream to remove the dark tint. It will make you more attractive to men. They like yellow-yellow women.’
‘How did you grow such long hair? Are you of mixed descent?’
‘African children need to be beaten. You are not like the whites who learn faster.’
‘Video vixens needed. Only light-skinned women allowed to audition.’
‘Black models are required to carry and do their own makeup. We do not have make-up artists for their skin tone.’
‘Yo mama soo black, her picture was tagged ‘scratch and win’.’
These are just a few examples of what you see and hear on the radio, tv, posters, schools, workplaces and in daily conversations here in Africa.
As I was growing up in my early teens, my primary school English teacher gave a reason why he whipped us every day for every mistake we made in essay writing, ” I punish you girls this much. You are not white children for their heads are not as thick as yours, they understand things faster than you.” The beatings, I remember, were so intense that per day on average I was whipped 50 times for each subject depending on how many questions I had failed. I was bad at maths. Out of 50, I used to score 20 my best was 25. Calculating the whips……..that is 30 or at least 25whips that day for every question I wronged. No wonder I hated maths and school.
Looking back at those days, I now know that was child abuse and pure racism. How many children in Africa undergo such kind of mental trauma not only from teachers but from the internet and media, and parents do not know about it?
The mixed descent Africans occupy an unspoken niche’ in African society. They are categorized highly and get better treatment and praises from people around them. They are seen as the prettiest, cutest, popular and likable. You see them on TVs as presenters and anchors, videos as vixens, with rich guys and women. Their faces grace hair products, billboards, and adverts on television. Close to that, hair companies produce synthetic hair that resembles the mixed hair (looser curls or straight).
Basically, mixed-race descendants have no fault in this at all. Most don’t know what really goes on. However, black Africans feel the sting of invisibility from the media and the beauty industry. Things are changing and more black Africans are accepting who they are by joining fashion and beauty events, creating v/blogs and other activities to make them known worldwide.
There was a case in Nairobi where high-end local restaurants were accused of racism. The hotel staff was all African, even the manager, and owner. African customers had complained about Caucasians and Asians foreigners being served first before any African, even if you came first. This is also seen in queues in immigration offices, banks, visas and schools. Another racism case was also in a Chinese restaurant in Kenya where Africans were not permitted to enter its premises. The government acted quickly to abate the situation after Twitter, Instagram and Facebook went berserk with videos, comments, and tweets from angry Kenyans.
Self-hate is also seen in the way many Africans view their hair. More than 80% of local African schools force girls to shave their hair under the reason that hair disrupts learning. The shaving is justified by principles under the statement, ‘ Girls will spend no time in the mirror making their hair, thus creating more time for books.’ This statement is wrong when viewed from all academic angles.
Caucasians and Asians attend school with heads full of hair and end up performing much better in academics. International African schools allow their female students to keep their hair and yet their academic prowess is flawless. The remaining local African schools, many which are provincial and national schools, allow females to grow long hair under one condition: it should be straightened. The hair is banned if worn in its kinky state as it is considered nappy and untidy. There are few exceptional schools that allow extensions and hair accessories to be worn but under strict regulations as to which place and time.
This backward thought about African hair is carried forward from the school environment to the workplaces. Many interviewees attend interviews with wigs or extensions to have a better chance to get a job unlike going to face your may-be employer with the cloudy kinks. Professionals standards of companies vary but many remain rigid in the hair policy it is either you keep it straight or covered, or kiss the polished floors goodbye. Thanks to the Black Movement that started in the USA, African businesses have begun to restructure their policies that touch on Africans welfare.
Black Africans are thoroughly criticized in relationships. Many black men admit they prefer yellow women so that their offsprings can be spared the black tint. Among the Kenyan youth, dating has geared up from searching for just ‘a beautiful girl whom you rhyme with’ to ‘a yellow-yellow girl who I can flaunt before my friends.’ Black girls are seen as wife ‘material’ but not as girlfriends. Thus, young men spend their youths playing bad boys with the lighter shades and when age starts kicking in, they settle with a black girl to give him children and wash his clothes, then as time goes by, they get a yellow mistress to show off to friends and fulfill his fantasies.
For many centuries, black Africans have faced countless tribulations of racism from the world and colorism within their borders. Despite the setbacks experienced for being darker than most races, the Black Movement is restoring courage of many black girls and boys bit by bit, the courage that moves their heart to accept what they are and who black Africans are.
What affects diaspora Africans, directly affects those in the African continent. There is still room for improvement as the world changes.