White Enough To Feed Your Self Hatred; Black Enough Not To Piss Off Your Family!

Jessica made a profound statement!  She was talking about men, and the difficult, awkward, sometimes insulting ways they she’s been approached. When she said that after particularly insensitive comments from some men, she confronts them on their poor choice of words with ”So, I’m White enough to feed your self-hatred, but Black enough not to piss off your family?”

I was floored!  After that, I asked her to really dig in and unpack her thoughts.  This is what she came back with.


     Self-hatred comes in several forms, from subtle to overt. It can be expressed as “woe is me” self-loathing, or it can be projected on to others in order to deflect attention. For generations, it has been common for Black Americans to practice self-hatred.  It’s a common practice; a tradition rooted in slavery and passed down from parent to child.

     I am not one to automatically categorize interracial dating as a sign of self-hatred. While it is true that exclusively dating out of one’s race can be a manifestation of self-hatred (or Mommy/Daddy issues), it is not a conclusion I jump to.

     My parents met in 1968. At the time, my father was very much a militant Black man from Cumberland County, VA who held strongly to the beliefs of the Black Liberation movement of the 60’s and 70s. My mother was a White hippie and recent college grad from Waterville, ME. I’ve always known what they endured to be together. Being of mixed race and identifying as a Black woman, I don’t assume that every Black man I see with a White woman hates himself or his people, as many Black women in America do.

     A personal pet peeve of mine: being approached by Black men who think it will flatter me to tell me that they don’t like Black women, but are very attracted to me. It’s almost a way of telling me that they’re into me because I’m not “too black”. Moreover, this is a conversation I’ve been forced to have several times in my adulthood.  In these conversations, the men then go on to justify their dislike for Black women with things like “Black women are just too much drama”, “…have too much attitude” and “…don’t know how to treat a man right”. Upon meeting me with this, my immediate reaction is usually “Well how do you know those things don’t apply to me as well?” At this point in the conversation, it is palpable that I am not at all amused by what he thought would flatter me.  Men begin to back pedal frantically for other things to say. It often goes on to hearing statements like “Black women just aren’t all that cute” or that they “wear too much fake shit”.

     I could retort with “But I’m black.” but there is no need for that. Because clearly what he meant was that darker women “aren’t all that cute” and wear too much fake hair, nails, eye lashes and make up, or what they refer to as “fake shit”.

     I have issues with this on several levels. My first being that as an American, I identify as being Black, and I identify as being a woman.  I am not at all uplifted by putting down darker skinned women as it insults my core sense of much-needed sisterhood. Aside from them being clearly unaware that perhaps the dark-skinned women these men know are wearing all of that “fake shit” because men like them have taught them that they “just aren’t that cute”, I am also now wondering how these men see themselves, and the Black women who raised them.

     Many times when it becomes clear in conversations that this form of flirtation is not winning me over, these men can’t understand why. Fortunately, I find times where my explanations are received with thought and acceptance. Still, over the years I’ve learned what to look for in determining which men will only become defensive and more disrespectful by hearing it. With them, I feel no need in explaining things they aren’t ready to hear. 

     My greatest issue in this scenario is the likely outcome of entertaining a man like this. I plan to one day have a family. So, say I do get involved with a man who believes women darker skinned than me to be in some way inferior, and he and I produce a daughter…. (do you see where this is going?) That daughter will most likely darker than me and this sort of subconscious self-hatred is easily passed down to her, effecting how she feels about herself. The last thing I will allow a man to teach our daughter is that she and girls like her are not beautiful, worthy or desirable. This works the same with sons, as I don’t plan to continue this line of thinking with any male offspring either. The greatest indicator of who our children will become and how they engage in the world is who they see we are and how we engage in the world.

     This brings me to my childhood.  Though my father was married to a White woman, and had biracial children I never once heard him speak poorly of Black women. He had reasons for never falling into that trap. Aside from him being extremely close with his mother, his first marriage was to a Black woman and his older children were not biracial. I’m most reminded of how my father understood that despite our lighter complexion and White mother, in our society my sister and I were seen as Black girls who would grow to be thought of a Black women. He was aware of how the color complex issues in the Black community effect how children in that community see themselves. In turn, how we see ourselves is how we engage in the world. I choose to engage in the world from a place of worthiness.

     Often when we carry the things taught to and handed down to us from birth anything that challenges what we are taught, or calls it something ugly, it poses a threat to our entire foundation and sense of stability. It takes a great amount of courage to examine ourselves in the light of day. That which is loathsome, corrupt and repulsive is also an inescapable part of human nature. It is basic psychology that the things we don’t like about ourselves become the very things we attack in others. How we see ourselves, is how we will see each other.

     This form of self-hatred is a very long and cultivated system of thought and behavior for Black Americans. It’s been carefully taught and engrained into the culture throughout hundreds of years to benefit the socio-economic White power structure that had built this country. It is what is known as The Willie Lynch Syndrome. 

 “I shall assure you that DISTRUST IS STRONGER THAN TRUST AND ENVY STRONGER THAN ADULATION, RESPECT OR ADMIRATION. The Black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for HUNDREDS of years, maybe THOUSANDS. Don’t forget, you must pitch the OLD black male vs. the YOUNG black male, and the YOUNG black male against the OLD black male. You must use the DARK skin slaves vs. the LIGHT skin slaves, and the LIGHT skin slaves vs. the DARK skin slaves. You must use the FEMALE vs. the MALE, and the MALE vs. the FEMALE. You must also have white servants and overseers [who] distrust all Blacks. But it is NECESSARY THAT YOUR SLAVES TRUST AND DEPEND ON US. THEY MUST LOVE, RESPECT AND TRUST ONLY US”

The Willie Lynch Letter

(The William Lynch speech is an address purportedly delivered by a certain William Lynch to an audience on the bank of the James River in Virginia in 1712 regarding control of slaves within the colony.)

10423941_10152124904740755_2138246702177077064_nJessica is an outspoken World Traveller, Activist, Poet, Musician, and Youth Advocate.  Please be sure to leave any questions, or comments for her below.

~Watt, YusefWateef (AT) Gmail.com

 

 

 

 

10 comments

  1. Larry Tyler

    Over the recent years, I’ve noticed a change in my view on numerous things. More recently, I’ve noticed my changes are accelerating. It’s gotten to the point to where I don’t even try to figure out why it’s happening, or where it’s going. I’m just going with it because I believe it’s necessary, for me at least. This is another topic that has given me a different perspective. Is there anything else that Jessica has written?

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    • YusefWateef

      Jessica has a quite a few things that she wants to share. It’s just a matter f my coaxing it out of her! I’m working on it. What are some of the changes you’re coming through?

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      • Larry Tyler

        This is the first time I’m attempting to put this into words, so some of this may be a little vague. I guess the biggest change that has happened is that I’ve pretty much stopped assuming everything. I’ve stopped prejudging, including things I’ve believed most of my life. I try to look at everything with fresh eyes, and when it has to do with myself, I step outside and look at me in third person. As I’m writing this, I’ve realized the acceleration in the change happened shortly after I quit drinking almost 9 months ago. There’s a good example. I’m almost 44 and I’ve drank since I was 16. 9 months ago, my manager nudged me to make a change in my life and, almost without thinking, I gave up alcohol. I haven’t missed it, and I have no desire to drink again. After about 4 months, I realized how much time my drinking took up. Then, about 2 months ago, it hit how much drinking controlled my life. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Even now, I get emotional thinking about how much of my life I’ve “wasted” because I wanted to drink. And I imagine that’ll always be there. So, I guess I’m reinventing myself. I’ve felt this urge to write for about six months, even though I’ve never had any desire/interest to write anytime previous to that. I was talking about this to a friend of mine, who’s a writer recently, explaining that I don’t understand where this is coming from. She said that I’m finding my voice. That excites and scares the crap out of me at the same time. I think about it everyday, yet I haven’t started. Well, this wasn’t intended to be this long. Here’s another change. I started reading blogs a couple years ago, and I’ve never left a comment on one post, until now.

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  2. Lioness

    Very good and interesting article. Sad that race is still such a divisive issue, not just with other people, but with ourselves (Black people in general & between Black men & women in particular). I remember growing up as a child, wishing I was lighter skin, with “good” hair.” I thought it was the key to the good, trouble-free life. As I grew into adulthood, I realized light-skinned & bi-racial/multi-ethnic people have problems as well, it’s just a different kind.

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    • Jess

      Thank you. This is a conversation I have found myself in several times since highschool with Black men. Enough times to really make me think. What you just said encompasses so much. In any marginalized community that have a variety of kinds (Like Black Americans) we get into pissing competitions about who is discriminated against more. As if the claiming of pain is some prize. Lighter skinned blacks get it from both sides really. And with that said many lighter skinned blacks minimize what’s its like to have darker skin, often because darker skinned blacks treat them as if their light skin has somehow gained them white privilege. (I hope that made sense) I’ve found that among lighter skinned blacks, too many of us feel we have so much to prove in having our pain recognized. I feel that if we can agree that darker skin has been treated like a sin in this country’s history then we should also be able to agree that our lighter skin has afforded us things the darker skin didn’t get. That reality is often ignored because we feel we have to prove our blackness and prove that our pain is also real. (I hope I’m making the point I think I am. I still haven’t been able to word it the way I want to.) If we can agree that white privilege exists, then we have to also agree that “light privilege” has also existed. I believe not acknowledging that disrespects the humanity of those who may gotten an even rougher deal for being darker complected in the same way that my mother taught me that when whites deny their privilege in America it disrespects the humanity of anyone who doesn’t look like them….I’ll figure out a way to word it better. This is the Willie Lynch Syndrome at its finest. Fighter over who is more marginalized and in more pain. On its face it seems utterly ridiculous. But even aside from race, from a dating prospective… men always complain that women are too catty and cannot work together….but I often find those same men are the ones who win over points with one woman by putting down others, feeding right into it. So I drew a line in the sand and decided to not fall for that. Thanks for reading.

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  3. yukiko n

    I’m glad Jessica told me about this writing. I do not get skin color reference being in the us however I used to get similar comments while living in southeast Asia. Now my experience is, borrowing ur words, either exotic enough to feed ur self ego but “western” enough to able to deal with daily lives or femme enough to show around without suspicion but queer enough to take me to lgbt rally. Marginalization within marginalized community just make us not to b stand against true problem but to compete for a piece of pie. Why cant we together demand whole another pie instead?

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  4. Bill

    I’m going to weigh in here because from my perspective, Black Man of 53 years of age, I grew up in a different time – yet the same sort of stigma existed. an old saying relating to skin color that was related to me when I was a kid was: “If your Black, stay back; if your brown hang around and if your light your alright”. To me what Jessica is talking about in her discourse is exactly what that saying addresses. We live in a culture that is dominated by a white culture while our culture has been stripped from us. I would not label this condition as self-hatred; I would label this as a conditioned response. If all you see around you is a environment dominated by a single group wouldn’t you want to be part of that group? And for me there in lies the heart of the issue that Jessica is speaking too from a woman’s perspective as it relates to dating. The roots however are far deeper than just dating. Very good topic unfortunately the pattern still exists.

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    • Jess

      My father would have been 76 tomorrow. Believe me, I’ve heard that saying plenty of times. lol But I do believe it is a form of self hatred. It’s a form of conditioned self hatred when brown skinned men with brown skinned mamas are so often telling me that they like me because I’m “light, bright and damn near white” (heard that one a lot too! My dad was a country bumpkin! lol) It goes back so far that they don’t even realize that they have been taught to think this way even still today. And as the saying goes “you can’t fix something you refuse to recognize.”

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      • Bill

        Unfortunately, a conditioned behavior is difficult to see with in yourself since the effects are subtle and reinforced by conditioned responses of peers. Under those circumstances I don’t believe that it is something you refuse to recognize but a destructive pattern of behavior that as already consumed you. I believe enlightenment is a process that begins with what you surround yourself with and deliberately open yourself too but even with that immersion it still takes a village to raise a child or in this case change a conditioned behavior. When I look behind me I see obstacles that at one time were the size of Jupiter and when I turn forward have been eroded to the size of Saturn. A huge change in a very short period of time so maybe someday soon, it will be the size of Mercury.

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