Not long ago, I shared a Keke Napep (Rickshaw/ Tuk Tuk/ My main source of transportation and inspiration) with two of the most unpleasant human beings I have ever encountered.
I was on my way to a wedding on the outskirts of town. Baffling as it was, it didn’t occur to these two people that since the area is remote, we just may be going to the same venue; which we were. And so they went on with one demeaning word after another about the couple, whose wedding they travelled from another State to attend, and for whom they bought a humongous gift. I was shocked and thought I had heard the worst till the guy said:
“And after acting all polished and classy in school, see the kind of extremely black man she is marrying.”
At that point my jaw dropped and my head pivoted of its own accord to have a proper look at the guy. My intent was obviously clear to him because the next thing he said was:
“I know I am dark skinned but I am not that black.”
#Speechless but not really.
Many times, I have said and proven that the most disparaging remarks about dark skinned men with characteristic African features, have come from dark skinned men with characteristic African features.
Every time I stumble on conversations where black men are being mocked for the darkness of their skin, their “wide” nose and “full lips”, it is usually done by the darkest skinned man in the room. This is the same guy that you would find posting a picture of a very dark skinned guy on Facebook marrying a white woman or lighter skinned girl with the caption, “HOW???” or something worse that strips all the layers of humanity off the skin of the man in the picture. Don’t believe me, take your own survey and listen to the data speak.
Do I blame dark skinned men that do this? Do we even want to retrace the origins back to slavery when darker skinned men were assumed to be the strongest and then chained to ships to be slowly dehumanised based on the quality of skin that got them selected in the first place? Do we even want to go the way of the visuals that focused more on making black men more disgusting and comical to look at and infusing that into the collective conciousness of the whole world? Or even worst, the visual representation that made dark skinned African men irrelevant and obscure characters in stories so they were therefore forgettable?
Do I blame them? No, because even in my own life, I have been accused of dating only light skinned guys. Meanwhile the truth is I have also dated really dark skinned guys and those coincidentally have been my longest relationships. Let that sink in for a minute… Remember what I said about dark skinned men and the word forgettable… Yeah…
These accusations have been from close relatives; and it is done in a way that I am forced to defend myself by mentioning the names of the dark skinned Ex’s. And then I get:
“Oh I forgot you dated him, and you were so happy then fa!”
But do I blame them???
Yes, because I believe as human beings we are meant to think hard, challenge ideas and status quos. We are also not meant to forget the golden rule, ‘do unto others what you want to be done to you’.
It seems in this reaction by black people against black people, we forget it is a continued perpetuation of crimes against ourselves and a constant alienation of people that look just like us.
However, hope has arrived in the package of a delirious gorgeous dark black skinned super hero; Marvel’s Luke Cage.
How do I know that this new development will change anything? Because I know how much I was affected by the possibility of being a beautiful princess from watching Pocahontas as opposed to watching Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.
In Pocahontas, I saw myself: a thinking intellectual princess questioning what was assumed to be the natural course of her life, questioning John Smith and the outsiders right to take her land and regard her as a savage just because she does not look like them. It had its hiccups as a story but it was like freshwater to my young drying soul.
So this is me being confident that the more dark skinned men see themselves in this super hero roles especially like Luke Cage who does not have a sordid past, or even seeing more varied representations like I believe will happen with The Black Panther movie; the more they would be okay with their existence in this world.
This is the hope I have.
Images via Flickr, Netflix and Disney