Self Worth

African Time: Late To Recognizing Our Greatness

“Here’s the thing, nobody wants to face the fact that we focus on everything BUT what we need to focus on.  For a long time Africa has been seen through everybody else’s eyes but our own, such that now, we find ourselves at a point where those who tell our truth, and are of our Land, are either revered or shunned.   Case in point, Chimamanda Adichie.  As celebrated as she may be worldwide now due to the spotlight being shown on her after her feature on Beyonce, a lot of the people back home view her as a stubborn woman, a sell out, one who doesn’t know her place and basically, a problem.

We need to see ourselves as we are in order to start going where we should be.

Let’s be honest with ourselves.

Africa has a long history of feeling like the ugly step sister.  Whether due to our spirit of Ubuntu that saw us sharing ourselves with those who had unsavory intentions or the aftermath of aforementioned intentions being carried out being the root cause of it, we’ve come to believe we’re weak and insignificant. We seem to be worthless to only ourselves, however, with the entire Western and Eastern world clamoring to get SOMETHING out of us, you’d think by now, we’d realize our worth.

Africa is like the pretty girl with the abusive boyfriend she keeps around because she knows no better and he says she’s worthless.  She believes everything she’s told, and disregards what she herself sees; That she is worthy, capable and deserving.”

Something I wrote for AHHB.

Back to Black

Oppressor: Well I’m not harming you directly anymore, why are you still mad?

Oppressed: Because I want you to apologize.

Oppressor: But it’s done.

Oppressed: Not for me it isn’t, which is why I can’t move on.

Oppressor: I can’t do anything about how you are now. It’s your fault you’re still sad, let go. Look at you, you’re pathetic.

Oppressed: But….

And this is how it goes.  I never understand why as people we put so much weight on apologies, especially in today’s society where a person with a true conscience is hard to find.

In an ideal world, empathy would be normal, we wouldn’t need to remind people to sympathize.  Remorse would be a rare yet powerful thing to feel, as would shame.  We would not know the confusion that comes with being a victim, we wouldn’t know what it means to put yourself in another’s shoes just to try and figure out why they act a certain way.

In an ideal world, equality would not be something to fight for, freedom wouldn’t be an illusion, we would not be fighting our own thoughts everyday to remind ourselves that we are worthy of respect, or that respecting another human being is necessary, right.

I have never seen, and still don’t, the point in expecting oppressors to all of a sudden feel remorse because you can finally show the pain that they’ve caused you.  Do you not understand that the whole time they hurt you, they knew they were causing you pain? It was intentional. They chose to ignore their conscience,  their “humanity”, therefore there’s truly nothing to appeal to anymore.

As I thought about some Black people’s need to see some sort of genuine remorse, a sign of the accepted equality from those who have hurt them over the years, The Whites, The Boers, basically, the colonizers, I said to myself, Really, it’s kind of like a woman who was abused for years on end going back to her husband, scars still visible, confidence shattered and heart still bruised, and saying ” I don’t care what you think of me anymore, but I need you to say Sorry for what you did.” Does it make sense? How do you think he’ll react?

Can people accept that they may never get an apology for what has happened? That there may never be any real change between our relationship with them and, to quote Janelle Monae “… [they’ll] add us to equations but they’ll never make us equal”? Can we accept that they may not even think they were wrong?

I read once somewhere that the whole Black  community needs counselling. I was young at the time and remember immediately being offended. What did they mean? I understand if they mean Black Americans but we’re fine. Besides how dare they make it seem like we aren’t able to get up off the ground? Don’t they know that black don’t crack? We shall overcome, always. Fuck their counselling.

As I’ve grown I’ve picked up on the subtle and apparent things I missed out on growing up.

Firstly, media.  I remember in High School when Obama got elected for the first term.  People were walking around campus with “GO OBAMA!” signs and I remember thinking “Man, the hell? We’re in Botswana though.” It all seemed disconnected to me and yet I marveled at how the American media could get us all into a frenzy over what was seemingly none of our business. “He’s Black, he’ll help” was the general feeling and I agreed for a bit until I remembered that even back in Slave times, there was always a House Nigger. The one who stayed close to Massa and made sure things ran smoothly. There was always the villager who learned the White man’s tongue in order to easily communicate when and how the people  planned to fight back. What was stopping him from being one such? The fact that he has sat by and watched what’s happening to the image and life of Assata Shakur happen, has been a sure sign for me.

I was pleased at Black people’s excitement over another’s advancement, and yet saddened by their naivete and how years of wearing “The Mask” as Maya Angelou put it, had actually made them forget that there is a bigger picture.

I’ve learned that we are not unrelated. People of Colour in the diaspora, and us, we feel a certain way that others cannot.  We understand pain, the Blues, we understand another’s behaviour not on a scientific level, but through feelings. We watch a news clip where an exasperated Black man jumped of a building and we don’t try and figure out why through interviews and behavioural analysis, we know that sometimes, things just get heavy on the heart. We aren’t bewildered when a starving mother who lives in the slums murders herself and her kids, we are saddened because it happens, and we know.

A lot of people are unaware of the fact that the media plays a huge role in the lack of drive and peace People of Colour seem to be susceptible to.  We look at the surface of it, yes they show us as unintelligent, rowdy neanderthals. Pawns in schemes. Loose, talent-less individuals. Sheep. Nothing worth being respected and a lot of people think “Oh no, I’m unaffected by it.” But do you consider just how much you take in on the daily? Commercials, the internet, news, shows, cartoons, magazines, advertisements, almost all of them have a hidden agenda that they’re pushing and a lot of us take them in.

I flipped through a magazine the other day and was furious.  Why were the women portrayed as airhead chefs whose main mission in life is to ooze sex appeal? Teen magazines that teach young girls to get their degree, but always remember to look pretty while doing so because a guy may be watching.  Married women who’re being emotionally abused being told to pray about it because God doesn’t like divorce and I decided, the media isn’t here for your benefit. You, in the grand scheme of things, are just a customer and a guinea pig. A part of a system that one can never really escape, but one doesn’t really need to be an active part of either.

Young Batswana men wearing fake Trukfit and calling us bitches as we cross the streets.  12 year olds with barely noticeable breasts trying their hardest to walk with their asses out. Parents who are too busy making money and keeping up appearances to bother with their children. Who are unable to discipline their kids because Dr Phil said not to, and a generation, a people, who’s convinced that bettering yourself makes one pretentious, and we still think we’re unaffected because we’re in Africa and some of us have never really had any real political struggles.

Raised knowing Botho means that for a lot of us, being treated badly comes as a shock. We don’t know how to act and that could possibly explain why we wait around, attempting to appeal to others’ humanity, but to quote Assata ““Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them”.

You cannot go to your rapist and ask him to return your dignity/joy, it is something that you have to gather for yourself and force to thrive.

As people, we cannot continue to separate ourselves based on trivialities like we don’t have better things to do like repair our own Spirits and learn.   We’ve gotten comfortable with the abuse and the feeling of being Less Than and we don’t even know it.  We walk around with inflated egos based on the fact that one is lighter/ thinner than the other and raise kids who are willing to act mentally deficient by choice because that’s what we teach them and we’re shocked at the fact that we’re still treated like shit?

That we still get the “You speak so well, not like the others” mess. The way certain White people look at you like the owner of a proud puppy when you can use a smartphone and how the moment racial issues come up, they’re quick to play the victim too and attempt to relate.

Because a lot of us are still happy to be servants and lapdogs.

It’s true.

It’s the way ten Black people will squeeze on a bench to give the White foreign exchange student space for 3 people to sit comfortably.  How we can pronounce their names but they can’t pronounce ours because they’re “too hard” and we giggle it along with them and allow it. How we laugh at the “deep” ones of our race and our men are trying so damn hard to be “real niggas” and abandon as many kids as they can while drinking themselves into a stupor. How we as women try to hard to be Ass Out, Airhead Bad Bitches and we still think we’ve somehow earned Respect from the world at large? Do we respect ourselves?

Listen.

You can be a Real Nigga if you understand that the only reason that they came to get us, truly, was because we could do what they couldn’t. Niggers were strong, intelligent. That’s why even in the modern day they try to pin Aliens on the pyramids because they can’t wrap their heads around how years ago Coloured people were able to do what they did. Niggers were strong, intelligent and hardworking. If you could be that, then by all means, be a Real Nigga.

If by being a Bad Bitch you meant you focused on yourself, worked hard to better yourself by any means necessary and were strong, intelligent and assertive, I’d respect that.

But do you?

We fight so hard internally it seems for freedom and what have we done with the little we have?

A lot of us don’t even know how far we have to go, what we need, who we are.

A lot of us are earning the title of Modern Day Coons.

What are we doing?

Evidently we aren’t surviving anymore, it seems to me we’re rushing towards destruction willingly and trying to pretend to enjoy it.

You, as a person of Colour, whether male or female, what are you doing for your Life?

What do you know?

The meek will not inherit the Earth, they will die. They told your ancestors that because it’s one thing to enslave the body, and another to enslave the mind.

And so I ask you again, what are you doing and what do you know?

“‘Bend over. Touch your toes. Lift her titties. Examine his balls.’ It damn near sounds like a hip-hop song, but it’s slavery at its peak.. A circus for all the freaks,they’ll warn you “Caution when you speak, can’t afford the truth to leak”..”

Sunni Patterson, We Made It
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Becoming your Mother

We think intelligence shields us from emotion. Then Life proves us wrong.  As one prone to depression and mood swings I can tell you that when your mind sets upon an idea, no matter how harmful it may be to you, your intellect tends to contribute to your [emotional/internal] downfall. All mantras and affirmations are thrown out the window as phrases like “You are beautiful and you should love yourself” lose precedence to the more cynical “They lied. You know better than to trust in the words of people.”

 

I’m no stranger to body image issues. We can all relate to feelings of inadequacy and most of us have had and continue to have the 2 AM “I will change my Life in the morning” moments when everything seems attainable with a little effort and possibilities seem to lie in wait, to grow under the guidance of the soon to be rising Sun.  I however, have not paid attention to these issues for years.  The logical part of me took over and I decided, if I can walk, run when I need to [my smoker’s lungs don’t allow for random running] and fit into my clothes, I’m fine. 

Until recently. 

 

During one of my not so appealing bouts of Fuck My Life  someone said to me, “Why do you look such a mess? I mean I’d still fuck but, I don’t know you to be this way.” And as much as I laughed it off, it’s been on mind for probably over a month now.

Why? Maybe because he said it at a time when my mind was ready and willing to accept every unflattering thing one could say in order to justify it’s already despondent thoughts at the time.  Maybe because, being an emotional masochist, a part of me enjoys having something to add to the file marked “Reasons Why You Sometimes Really Ain’t Shit” in my mind. 

 

It’s a funny thing when you think about it. Really, when one’s going through a time when all they’d really like to do is die, why would they even bother with looking pretty for the outside world? I’m not worried about being hit on by you, I’m worried about how I’m going to be able to leave the house tomorrow, assuming I make it through tonight.  A “You don’t understand, things are rough” didn’t seem to quite make him understand why I was as I was and so I left it.

 

While discussing it with a certain Sir he said to me “I don’t even know why you’d pay attention to that, you’re so smart. Have you..Do you even see yourself though? Goddamn.” And he looked at me in a way I haven’t seen in a while. In awe. 

 

The whole experience made me realize, what you know doesn’t save you from making silly decisions, accepting less than you deserve and words of affirmation could be nothing more than pretty lies if you tell yourself so.

 

I know a  Lady, she’s beautiful, young, ambitious and tied down to a man who treats her like surplus meat.  Does she know she can do better? Yes.  Is she lacking options? No. So why is she staying?

 

I said yesterday that I realize we’re becoming Women. We’re growing and even though our private school education, feminism and all round privilege made us think we’d be far from the women our mothers became, at the end of the day, somehow, we end up there. 

 

We’ve grown to undermine our mothers’ experiences and really it seems, only age and our own parallel experiences will humble us. And I’m taking them as they come.  We’re taking them as they come. 

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“What,a man?”

“..So I figured out the key to success for a woman. I mean, do you know how hard it is to try and maintain a relationship while getting ahead in Life? One has to suffer man, I don’t know why. Shit’s stress man. Especially if you’re with someone who doesn’t care. You spend your time trying to work on things and slack on You. It doesn’t work, You slack on You still..”

“Yeah..and so..?”

“And so..to make it as a successful female in Life. You need a vibrator. It’s the only way..”

He laughed then. Like what I was telling him was a joke.

See, this is what’s been happening. I’ve been worrying about what I’ve decided, is nonsense. Why am I single? Is it me? Do I even want to be with someone though? Or am I just tired of fucking around? Could So and So be the one?For now anyway?

These questions are time consuming and tedious.

I’ve been single for 7 months now. This is the longest I’ve been alone since I started dating at 12. If anything I’d end a relationship and be in one a week later, at one point my best friend asked me why I seem to be afraid of being alone so when the time rolled around, when I lacked the energy to deal with anyone else, I took his advice and did Me.

However with the looming threat of a potential Love interest I realized, I cannot function this way. If my relationship isn’t going well, my productivity plummets. I worry, I put my whole life on hold til that one aspect of it is fine. And I know many women who’re that way.

I appreciate that in Life we would like to have a companion, some kind of support system that doesn’t need to be there but chooses to. It’s only normal to desire intimacy. It is also only normal to want to succeed in whatever your heart drives you to seek out. But let’s admit it Ladies, it’s hard.

We expect ourselves to be Superwoman, even if we know we don’t need to be that for anyone but ourselves. You want to be able to put out your best in every aspect of your life but sometimes you aren’t getting any help from the person that’s supposed to be your partner and you seem to have the world’s burdens on your shoulders.

When you succeed in the office and seem to “slack” at home you know you get the snide remarks. Nobody really takes a woman’s success seriously unless she’s linked to a man do they? Beyonce’s an amazing artist but when you ask most people why they think so it’s “Because  she does it all. She gets her own and takes care of her man.” If she didn’t have Sean would her success be such an extraordinary thing to them?

I wonder about these things man.

And I know when I mentioned the vibrator thing it may seem like I meant to objectify men,not at all. I’m saying maybe it’s best to be intimate with your own damn self and take care of yourself. If the people we’re letting in to try and build with only demolish, why keep them around? For company?

The women I know who’ve stayed with men who only let them go so far, or convinced them they only desire to go so far, are sad. Because you’re giving up who you could be for somebody else who isn’t even happy with who you are.

Is it sad that it’s looking like you actually can’t have your cake and eat it too? Quite so. But maybe that’s just how it is, or it isn’t the right time. Either way, that’s how it is. And I’m saying, sometimes you have to sacrifice. The question remains, “Would you give your all for you?” I’m trying.

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A Real Issue

“A real woman has curves”.
“A real woman never lets her man leave the house hungry or horny.”
“A real woman always puts others first.”
A “real woman” is something that I , as a woman, find hard to define, so who is attempting to? And failing dismally while at it.
TheFreeDictionary.Com has several definitions for the word “Woman”, some of which include:
wom·an (wmn)
n. pl. wom·en (wmn)
1. An adult female human.
2. An adult female human belonging to a specified occupation, group, nationality, or other category. Often used in combination: an Englishwoman; congresswoman; a saleswoman.
3. Feminine quality or aspect; womanliness.
4. A female servant or subordinate.
5. Informal
a. A wife.
b. A female lover or sweetheart.

I have to wonder, which definition are we attaching “real” to? The first one? The second?
To me,it seems the Fourth. A real female servant or subordinate because let’s face it, we live in a misogynistic, patriotic world. And from the quotes above, doesn’t it seem like we’re merely preparing these “real” women to be the ideal servants?

While writing this I had to ask,what makes a Woman? We could be biological and say XX Chromosomes. We could say “The acceptance, cultivation and use of overly feminine character traits/qualities”, but would that even begin to graze what it is that really makes a Woman? Can it be defined? I find myself stepping out of the regular mold  of puberty making every girl a woman, and wonder on the men who feel trapped in their bodies, the transgender community and realize  beginning to even attempt to say what a Woman is is firstly downright rude,and second, possibly impossible.

I tried none the less and what I could come up with was this: “Strength”. And as with anything or anyone that is considered ‘Real’,the strength to be as one REALLY is, as is in one’s nature to Be.

It is degrading to attempt to box in Femininity to such an extent as to define what is “Real” and what isn’t. As there have been women who’ve nurtured and taught, the Winnie Mandelas and Mother Theresas and Joy Phomaphis, there have been women who’ve conquered and blazed new frontiers  the Joan of Arcs and Ellen Johnson Sirleafs and Unity Dows. None has made a lesser contribution in their respective fields because of their body shape, or been seen as a failure because they were not there for every meal at the dinner table.

We must ask, is there anyone out there who is of the mind that “A real man is skinny”, or “a real man never lets his wife leave the house tired and horny” or “a real man sacrifices himself for those around him”?I think not, and in the event that they do exist, their number compared to those who believe in these “Real women” traits would be a mere fraction.

I find myself questioning whether Misandry is the only way to counter Misogyny. Understanding between the two sexes seems to be a far fetched pipe dream considering how things are at the current moment. Women are becoming more vocal and their disgust at how we’ve been treated and portrayed is evident. Women such as Kola Boof,Egyptian/Sudanese-American Bestselling novelist, poet, television writer and author of THE SEXY PART OF THE BIBLE are quite vocal about how they feel regarding how the Media portrays the female,more specifically,the Black woman and I find that women who speak out against such injustices are labelled loud, crass,unruly and bitches. The majority of men view Feminist views as silly, unnecessary, and the condescending ones find us standing up for our rights as “cute.”

Martin Luther King stated “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Now don’t you find that breaking down the internal make up of females and making them feel inadequate as they already are is really a diversion off other matters? Most men and their need to be Superior seems to be the issue here. Women must be pretty trophies and leading them to insecurity makes this easier. It could also be other women perpetuating this way of thought because it’s what they know and they too would like to feel like “better” females. Either way, neither is winning as far as I’m concerned.

It is senseless to try to say what a Real Woman does, looks like and believes. People have been around long enough for us know we cannot DEFINE,as much as we try. Unfortunately,as much as we’ve evolved physically, intellectually many are still stuck in the stone ages with their beliefs. No group of people is Less than any other. Not Blacks, not women, not homosexuals, not blondes, not the lady with an A cup bra size. We remain separate but equal. But few know this, and even fewer seem to believe it.

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