Dear African woman,
You’re a trend!! I mean, you’ve always been sort of one since however much they told us we were less beautiful, they always risked the chance of cancer to get closer to our skin tone. Oh, and it’s not really you who’s a trend but the black woman is and you’re black, congrats. They have finally classified us as black and not primitive. But no, now you’re actually a trend! They want you, you’re acceptable, you’re beautiful, your hair is versatile, your skin color is amazing, your body is perfect, your lips are to die for, your food is healthy and natural, your heritage is finally accepted as culture not ‘demon worship’, your life is somewhat important. How does it feel? Does it make it all worth it? Do you feel victorious now that we have clawed our way into the category of human beings? Do you enjoy being a show once more? Having your hair petted? Does it feel good? Is it all you ever dreamed of? Does it make the years of colonization, slavery, hatred, neo-colonialism, racism, abuse and denial worth it? Does it make you feel more beautiful now that they make make-up to your exact skin tone?
Is this what we wanted, to be turned into a show, a spectacle to be admired and aspired to but not really embraced?
The sad thing is, it wasn’t even because they learned we were human, to love us for our humanity, but because some white woman decided not to diet or another one didn’t straighten her hair in the morning, and one spent to much time in the tanning bed and they became ‘fashion-forward’, ‘trendy’, ‘free-thinking’. They took our culture; our clothes, designs and concepts, our food, our hair styles and coloring. All those years ago when they used our head gears for the run way, our ocher for hair dye, didn’t comb their hair and called them dreadlocks, our shukas, Maasai print and Nigerian print for their shoes and clothes and were apparently inspired by the African dessert and Savannah. There is nothing wrong with the world integrating and becoming one, with us appreciating each other. But no, it wasn’t appreciation, it was theft. They still turned around and said our hair was unprofessional and forced children to have their hair straightened, braided and plaited in cornrows for it to be acceptable in school and parents to believe it was OK to subject yourself to such pain. They made us diet, and pay thousands to keep up a hairstyle and wardrobe that neither suited us nor was comfortable just so that we can even think about competing for the same jobs and opportunities as the rest. They told us we were too dark, that our clothes were not made for the work place because work clothes have to be dull, boring and all the same.
Let’s not forget the body talk. Because it wasn’t until some certain celebrities enhanced their features that it became ‘OK’ to be curvy, rounder. In fact, it is called being plus-sized, as if there is the size we are all meant to be as normal people are then there is ours, which is ‘OK’ but not acceptable. They now have models who proudly parade as plus sized, as though they have been crowned king of the world when all it is saying is the world still wants to force us all to look the same. Now it’s cool to have thicker thighs, a bigger butt, bigger lips and all that. Remember just in 2012 when it was a crime to be anything bigger than a size 4? Remember not less than 10 years ago when big butts were the worst thing for a woman to have? When lips were suppose to look like a wound on your face; thin and red?
I’m not saying all these to stir up bitterness or resentment but to tell you that you’re not special just because they have somehow noticed you. It’s not because thick is in or black don’t crack or they’re going back to the motherland or somehow people are beginning to discover that we don’t live in trees, ride elephants, wear loin clothes and sit around the fire giving birth when we are not starving in a desert surrounded by carcasses, flies and disease. It’s not because you hair is finally appreciated and accepted for its versatility and strength or your skin for its durability and ability to withstand the elements. It’s not because men suddenly all want you and can’t get enough.
You are special and beautiful, always have been, because God loves you and He made you just the way you are. And it’s OK if you have cellulite on your thick thighs because that’s natural, or if you have stretch marks on your arms or if you don’t have a flat or near flat stomach to go with your curvy body because that is natural. It’s OK your curls are not bouncy but more like a ball of steel wool, it’s OK if you love to straighten your hair and braid it, it’s fine that you are bald. You’re not weird for being slender and tiny and not exactly having an ‘African body’ because you are black, you are African and that is how you were made. It is OK if you never have perfectly proportioned curves or never get thick or can’t have an Afro.
Don’t reduce your worth to a trend, a tweet or a post. Don’t feel like you have to defend yourself, your body or your hair because someone is shallow and narrow minded. Because the thing about trends is that they change, shift and move. Today you’re all the rage tomorrow you’re not. Don’t be proud because they have noticed you, or are now letting us walk with our natural hair or having models with ‘real’ bodies or even that you’re black or African. Take pride in the fact that you are loved by the Lord of the universe, that you are special because He made you with a different and specific Purpose.
Go on, keep absorbing the sun rays and swaying your hips. Keep educating yourself and building your future. Keep ensuring that your children love themselves and foreigners do not ever come back to take our land or our confidence. Let them realize that your life did not begin when they said you were acceptable, sexy or trendy. African is not a hash tag, black is not a trend. Let them see that you are human; a person, just like them and maybe we will be closer to making this world more accepting and loving by loving yourself and loving God. And remember your worth is not drawn from their acceptance of you.