I have never considered myself to be a black woman and i’m almost 100% sure that most African women, who have the privilege to travel and live in foreign countries where those of our heritage are referred to as `black women’, usually face quite a challenge getting used to that reference. The issue is not in the name. I personally don’t have a problem with the term `black woman.’ Rather it is the fact that most of us who have been born and brought up in Africa have grown up with a majority of people of the same skin color. In my country for example, we use tribe to identify ourselves. Not very wise of us but from colonial times where the colonialist required African men to wear a Kipande (identification document) with a few basic personal details, including tribe where one belonged to, i guess Kenyans got used to identifying themselves by tribe. I’m Kenyan by the way, for those who are and have been wondering. And therefore it is not uncommon to hear a Kenyan woman proudly identifying herself by tribe so `black woman’ is kind of quite foreign to us.
Anyways, i usually get very fascinated in a positive way by interracial relationships. I particularly like the merging of two different cultures by two people who do not belong to the same race. And if there are bi-racial kids in the picture, it makes it even better. However, there is a kind of worrying trend that i have come to notice when a section of women in my country in particular, get into relationships with White men. It is almost as if this section of women literally forget themselves and the fact that they are actually African. It is rather comical because it’s usually very noticeable to all those around them who often shake their heads in wonder. Of course there are many Kenyan women who date and marry White men and hardly change. As a matter of fact, you can barely notice them on the streets. But there is still that small section which decides to either bleach their skin (with highly noticeable results), get very skinny, act in a certain `borrowed’ way or dress very skimpily all because they have managed to nab that European or American guy.
I’m reminded of a laughable incident in my church a couple of years back when a young Kenyan woman decided to attend service. Of course there is usually that moment when visitors are welcomed and asked to stand so automatically she had to stand. What caught our attention was the fact that she had on this really nice weave with a purple shade on one side. Now being in my hometown with quite a number of conservative people, already that purple shade on the weave was a cause for alarm but in church, everyone wants to seem hospitable so we didn’t show it. Anyways after service, my sister, cousin and i were naturally curious to see the rest of her outfit. Mind you we didn’t know yet that she was in an interracial relationship but we did soon enough cuz she had this cute little bi-racial daughter with her that day. And eventually she came walking out of the church gates in a really tiny purple dress (fit for a club), 6 inch heels and her daughter in tow. And you can imagine the scene she caused. Literally everybody’s eyes were on her including the churchy looking refined family men. They must have gotten into a lot of trouble with their obviously churchy wives that day for ogling. And we wondered how she had sat in that dress in church if it was that short when she was standing. I know, so judgmental and bitchy of us but we couldn’t help it.
Yet another almost similar incident happened in a market place in the town i grew up in before moving to my current. We were walking down the street toward a popular supermarket directly opposite the open air vegetable and fruit market and ahead of us was an interracial couple. Now for some reason, this White man decided to keep caressing the small of his girlfriend’s back as they walked which of course caused an uproar among the market men and women. They kept hurling insults at them for acting so scandalous on the street. Well, i couldn’t blame them cuz in African culture, PDAs are highly discouraged but as if in total defiance, the guy continued caressing and the chic seemed utterly oblivious of the commotion they had since caused. I guess they were pretty lucky that it didn’t turn ugly. A lot goes on in the market place at times.
It’s kind of sad for some African women to actually feel pressured enough to change when they get into interracial relationships. I guess we have this misplaced notion that being and acting African wouldn’t be so endearing to the man from another race that we are currently dating. We are actually ashamed to embrace ourselves and heritage. And you might be totally surprised that the man hasn’t voiced any opinion yet that he wants you to dress in a certain way or wear your hair in a certain way or act in a certain way. As a matter of fact, we are equally ignorant of how the White woman behaves other than what has been fed to us by the foreign shows we watch no wonder the scandalous dressing by some in these types of relationships. And we end up making total fools of ourselves because those of our culture can tell that we are trying really hard to be something we are not. We elicit tag names and branding which we could have otherwise avoided if we embraced our Africanness in this amazing new relationship we are in.
If you as an African woman in an interracial relationship do not bother to communicate with your man on what is acceptable in your culture and society and what is not, then he has no way of knowing. After all, he is a foreigner. And he will therefore act in ways with you in public that will be offensive to those around you. If you are not comfortable in your skin, then you have no business looking for validation in an interracial relationship cuz chances are you will hardly get it. You will bleach your skin, cake your face in make up, dress scandalously, get skinny and to top it all off, make a clown of yourself. Again your man won’t notice your clownish attempts because he is foreign and therefore without a knowledge of how things are conducted in your country. So to him, it won’t be a cause for embarrassment but to you, everyone else around you will be laughing at your flimsy attempts to match up to your man.
We are African women and should be proudly so. We are naturally curvaceous, it is no crime. We can be really dark, chocolate or of a much lighter shade. Our hair doesn’t grow to amazing lengths. It is kinky, of reasonable full length and many times unmanageable but we have come up with all these wonderful numerous ways to style it as a result of that. Our society dictates that we dress modestly if we are not in traditional regalia, that is. Of course there are foreign fashion trends that we have picked up but still, despite the fashion trends we know how to dress acceptably because a lot of us in our society are still very conservative, chauvinistic even. We don’t walk around kissing our men and caressing them passionately in public. It is simply not us. Then why forget all that the minute you meet a man not of your race? As a matter of fact, being an African woman you should flaunt whoever you are and whatever ideals you believe in. And i’m very sure that these foreign men we date would respect us more if we showed them that we are proud and appreciative of who we are whether they find it awkward or not. I guess it will be highly endearing to them than our attempts at being endearing. Men always love women who are sure of themselves and not desperately trying to be someone else. It is what keeps them around much longer than all our tactics combined. So if you are an African Woman, flaunt it!!!