I’m gonna be honest with you, folks: I love being Black. I love my dark skin, I love my melanin vibes, I love my genetic curviness, my Afro-pean traits and everything that my Cape Verdean heritage gave to me. I feel incredibly fortunate to be one of those little girls who grew up feeling good about herself on a physical standpoint. I didn’t mind being born a somewhat fat baby in the late 80’s, growing up a slender kid, having a stupendous growth spurt between age 10 and 12 and finally wearing a bra aged 17 because my brown titties decided it was time to make their grand entrance to the world. Puberty was special but not necessarily shocking, if anything, it was quintessentially me: weird but likeable. So, growing up Black in the Parisian banlieue got me to learn all about the codes of the “hood”, sticking with your fellow 1st, 2nd and sometimes 3rd generation immigrants from working class ghettoised sleepyish towns, outside Big City Lights and social up-scaling. I was cool with that. What I wasn’t cool with was every single Black men and boy I had to talk to for all those years. And you know why? Because everyone who fit that description within my acquaintances (with, maybe three exceptions at best) was a fucking arsehole.
Didn’t see that one coming, uh? Don’t worry, it gets worse from here…
The first Black man in my life was my father, a man I idolised until the age of 6 when he turned from a cheerful, curious bloke to an alcoholic, wife-cheating coward with a liking for creating conflicts for his own entertainment and beating people up for no other reason than “he felt like it”. Unfortunately, that man is still married to my mother and there’s nothing I can do about it. But back then, I thought, he’s just a bad apple. Not all Black men are horrible people. How naive was I, though. As much as it annoys me to admit it, I didn’t know any better because I was 6 and the 90’s were a different time with different mores.
Fast forward to the year 2000. I’m 11, I’m starting middle school (or collège, as we call it) and I see boys turning slightly into nasty spotty, hormone-filled nonsensical beings with the pride of a peacock and the logic of a pigeon. I’m not saying that every teenage boy is stupid, I’m simply implying that anyone who takes any life challenge for a pissing contest must be a little bit of a lost cause — precisely because, well, you can’t fix stupid. Good luck trying, though.
I saw many, many black girls trying to fix black boys into whatever fantasy they had for these boys and they ALL failed. Every single Black and mixed-raced teenage boy I met throughout the noughties treated black girls and women, especially the dark-skinned ones, like pure garbage. They dismissed every word they said, belittled every personality traits they had and humiliated the shit out of them, in public, if they dared having a crush on them. It was violent to witness it. The terms used for dark-skinned girls in France, back then… Erm, I don’t even know how I could translate them into plain English to be fair, despite being perfectly fluent, but I know my fellow French Black sisters will remember exactly which ones I am referring to. Their discourse was pretty much based on colourism, deep-rooted misogyny and harmful stereotypes. Light-skinned girls would be seen as hella cute, especially if they share Euro-centric features like green or hazel eyes. The darker your skin is, the uglier your “nicknames” become. It was as simple as that and this awful reality was accepted by many of my sisters. Like, how was it a thing to be hanging out with people who harboured toxic behaviours and all you were saying was “your word is my command! Thank you, please continue”? It made me so angry to see that it was normalised then and it still makes me angry that it is normalised again now.
I remember when I was 15 and ended up in a vocational high school, despite having the grades to go into a regular high school (which is another story for another time but if you want a short answer, I’ll just say “discrimination”). I was very very lanky, quite tomboy dudette and started to have issues with my vision and there was a guy that I found very attractive; he was your average nu-metal fan with mid-long hair, piercing blue eyes and a cute smile. I only talked to him twice during the year and a half I went to that school and he ended up dating a girl I used to be friends with. I got over him very quick. I wished I did the same with my other crushes. But when I was talking about this guy to my male friends who were in his class — a bit of an oxymoron, really, because my friends then were 90% guys — and I remember that all my mates were furious that I would fall for a white guy. I tried to figure out why it was so contentious to them and they all agreed that it wasn’t right, that it wasn’t fair and that because I am a Black girl, I should only date Black guys… None of them figured out I was actually bisexual but my sapphic wet dreams then were kept for Megan Fox’s eyes exclusively and I only came out a few months ago.
Their logic was really weird because they kept telling me that I should be with a Black guy, if possible a guy of Cape Verdean descent like me, that every homie would love to be with someone as funny, endearing and honest as me, that I am totally girlfriend-material. As skeptical as always, I confronted them and said “so… does it mean you would date me?”. Big mistake! Big, huge! They all laughed raucously in unison, thinking I was having a laugh, and went like “I can’t date you, you’re my buddy!” or “Ness, you’re like my little sister, I’m not gonna date my sister” or even “I’m with someone actually, you don’t know her, she goes to a different school”. Because I knew these guys, hung out with them at recess, eating kebabs with them at lunch and chatted on MSN or MySpace with them on evenings, I knew that what they really mean is “You’re nice for a dark-skinned girl, but I won’t date you because you’re not a light-skinned/white girl. You are too loud, too shrill, too opinionated, you remind me of my mother/auntie. Your body isn’t attractive. Your personality isn’t attractive. You are not attractive because you are dark-skinned but you can be my friend if you want… ”
Needless to say that I gave up on Black Love very shortly after that. It was one example of many passive microaggressions Black boys and men tend to give freely to dark-skinned girls. Because it wasn’t only girls in my school, it was girls in my estate, girls on the street, girls in public transportation, girls at different workplaces, girls I followed on social media, girls I read on blogs, girls I knew personally. Any testimony of misogynoir towards one of these girls and women resonated with one another. The echo, mate. THE. FUCKING. ECHO. Change a few words, add a different name and it’s like the mother of all Groundhog Days.
You don’t believe me? Fine, ask any cis-het or cis-passing dark-skinned girl if they had it easy with guys.
How about now?
Did you get the answer you wanted?
Told ya, suckers!
You would think that I might be overreacting because my dad is a Gold Star arsehole and my high school mates were arseholes but no, I’m not overreacting. I’m pretty chill about it, because I know I’m right and I follow enough news about race and gender issues to know that there are stories everywhere about Black men being trash.
R. Kelly picked up teenagers and forced them to have sex with him.
Chris Brown has beaten up almost all his girlfriends.
Tory Lanez shot his “friend” Megan Thee Stallion in the foot but somehow, she was the butt of the joke.
French rapper Niska forced his then-girlfriend French-Malian singer Aya Nakamura to have an abortion and also allegedly beat her up.
Black men on Twitter used the Breonna Taylor story as a comeback “joke”.
South Africa has the highest rates of domestic violence and femicide in the world.
Trans women of colour are killed at alarming rates.
The French authorities used shady tactics to sterilise Black women in their former colonies. Same in Australia with Aboriginal women.
Black women in America are going to university in record numbers but they are paid $0.66 for every dollar a White man makes (it is $0.80 for White women, $0.58 for Hispanic/Latinx women but $0.97 for Asian women — according to Business Insider). The list goes on and on and on…
So, yeah, I’m done pandering on the feelings of Black men because we share a history or a bloodline.
I’m done finding excuses for Black Men fragility because I have no time for this crap, just like I have no time for white feminists constantly dismissing the need for intersectionality in our struggle.
I am done hearing cousins and family friends justifying their cheating, their physical violence, their psychological violence, their ideas of what a Black or Brown women should look like, talk like, think like, dress like, act like, believe in, behave like, do what they want with their bodies, with their money, with their careers or lack thereof, their health, their talents, their hearts, dreams, interests, passions and their goddamn lives in general.
I am done fearing them when I walk in the street, go to the pub or do what I am paid for, five days a week.
I am sick and tired of hearing them whining about their own failures and say it is our fault, Black women’s fault, Afro-feminists’ faults for not sticking up with them. It’s not that I don’t want to, but frankly, I don’t have any reason to. I owe you jack shit, you hear me! Nothing. I see you do whatever the hell you are doing and I don’t see why I should defend you anymore.
You are men, right? Manly men. Macho, macho men. Neanderthals. You Tarzans, us Shaniquas. You keep spitting to our faces you don’t need us. Well, fair enough, you can be the bigger person here and do as you say instead of being arseholes. You say you have one word, that you are honest, that you won’t hurt us again before swearing to your poor mother’s head/grave. Your “word” means nothing to me, your promises are shallow, just like you.
You won’t protect me. You won’t take care of me. You will hurt me. One way or another, you will. Just like any other man who hates women. Because I am an educated, opinionated, Black woman, you will never see me as an equal or treat me as such. I’ll never be one of you. In your eyes, I am just another sister falling into the “sunken place” because of who I am and what choices I made since the day I was born. This sister says “well, fuck off then! Leave me alone and fuck off, then turn right, keep going straight until the roundabout, fuck off once more, turn right again and take the train to Fuckity-Fuck-Off-Upon-Thames for all I care!”.
From now on, I will dedicate my energy and love to those who respect me and treat me like the human being I actually am and until I see concrete proofs that YOU, Cis-het Black Men, care about us, Black womxn, girls and transgender women, I will keep having issues with you and your sincerity about our struggle.
It doesn’t mean I won’t be your friend, of course I will be your friend, but I won’t be your ally anymore. Because respect goes both ways and is something precious that needs to be earned, just like trust, and only then, I will trust you again.
Protect our sisters, mothers, cousins, girlfriends, wives, baby mommas, colleagues, neighbours, friends and strangers. Protect us. Respect us. Trust us. Let us live. Let us breathe. Let us be.
This is the only condition we have, that I have too, for our bond to be repaired.