How We Police Our Culture And We Need To Stop This Shit (361/365)

If I had a pound for every time my Black or Somali card got revoked I would be a multi-millionnaire.. ok maybe that’s an overreaction but it gets revoked on the daily. I gave up trying to practice my personality in a way that was complicit with the Black and Somali people around me years ago, but I know for a fact that this issue still plagues many of us and honestly we need to stop this. As Black people we’re already policing ourselves everytime we leave the house, we can’t seem too aggressive, wear hoodys without scaring old white people. We get followed, policed and generally treated different to our white counterparts – so why do we spend all of our extra energy also policing ourselves?

We fight against negative stereotypes but then hate on those around us who don’t act Black enough and honestly I’m tired. Actually, I was tired 13 years ago, when I noticed how different I was to the other girls in my mosque and had my first instance of not being Somali enough, which then translated into not being Black enough. Well my eloquent words towards this is – fuck it. Fuck it all.

So what if we haven’t seen every stoner film? – They’re fucking boring and some of us don’t live for weed.

So what if we haven’t listened to every rapper? Some of us like other kinds of music more!

So what if we are dating boys or girls who aren’t the same culture as us? It’s none of your damn business.

Stop trying to fit me into this tiny mold of what you think a Black or Somali girl should behave like! I remember when watching anime and reading manga was seen as unconventional for me.. It’s a major part of Black mens lives but for some reason women did not receive the same kind of love for watching it.

I already know I’ll never be Black enough for anyone around me, and honestly I hope anyone reading this who has been in the same boat finally gives out their last fuck about this situation – life gets a lot easier.

Life is hard enough without us also annoying each other about shit that does not matter. The colonisers already divided and conquered our fricken countries and continents, let’s not let them divide and conquer our lives!

Weird Racial Stereotypes We Have To Battle on a Day to Day Basis (326/365)

Stereotypes and race have been the theme of this week and I thought I’d expand on a few more of the things I’ve mentioned as like I’ve mentioned, I’ve been inspired by a drive to be as petty as possible. In case you didn’t know a post I wrote about workplace racism circulated around the place and the racist line manager got to read it, and from what I’ve heard his behaviour has been excused as an awkward personality trait – the world we live in protects racists instead of educating them.

Hence my petty posts, that have education as a theme. In all honesty this event helped inspire me to write again as I’ve had a pretty public problem with writers block. So let’s break down some of the awful stereotypes that we have to deal with on a day to day basis, I’ll try to keep this with what I’ve personally experienced as I can only guess about everyone else.

Aggression

The darker you are, the more aggressive you appear regardless of race. It’s a weird one and some fight this horrible stereotype by being overly nice and palatable, which in itself is really fucked up. Why should we appear to be extremely nice, when others won’t return the favour. Why should we be fighting against this stereotype when we should really be calling out anyone who believes it to be true. Aggression has nothing to do with melanin, and the sooner people realise this, the quicker we can dismantle this nonsense.

A lovely little side stereotype from this is the social justice angry POC person. It’s one that see’s anyone from any POC background who calls out issues of racism, sexism or anything as something to be avoided, someone who can’t chill out because they’re too angry about issues. They’re the type that threaten people as well but not through direct threats, through the conversations they have that threaten their status quo of dismissing racism.

The problem with this negative stereotype is that they’ve made any conversations around race a negative, because it’s a threat to white spaces (which is every space).

Our accents

Anyone with an accent that is slightly different is attacked, in my case I’ve been told I ‘sound like a white person’ which is fucked up, because the way I speak, which is considered posh to some, can’t be associated with my heritage, which is Black. Meaning your assumption is that black people have a certain way of speaking, and that is with slang and ‘not proper’ English. This then leads to a lot of connotations about the way we speak, our intelligence and whether we’re actually from the country we’re living in. It’s all a mess and it all leads to othering and a lot of negative connotations about us and our language.

Obedient

You might not know this about me but I used to wear the hijab, I know – gasp, shock, horror, now let’s move on from that revelation. So there’s this horrible stereotype that women who wear the hijab are obedient, submissive, timid, quiet and generally just lacking in any substance or personality which is 100% false and whoever made this shit up deserves to be heckled for all of eternity. Not only does this stereotype mean that people look at hijabi’s weird but it also means that before they even get to know them they have these assumptions about them that make them look down on hijabis in general.

It’s awful – just stop this behaviour.

Our intelligence

I’m not saying that people assume that I’m not intelligent because I’m black but.. oh wait that’s exactly what I’m saying. This doesn’t happen very often but when it does it grinds my gears, it’s like I have to work harder to prove that I know what I’m doing to certain people. This can be seen through dismissive behaviour and people asking for second, third or even fourth opinions despite all of those opinions saying everything I just stated.

Those are all of the weird stereotypes I can think of for now, some I’ve mentioned before, others I haven’t. Do you have some that I might have missed?

What It’s Like To Be Labelled As An Angry Black Girl (325/365)

Spoiler alert = it’s not fun.

So, let’s talk about a tale, a tale of being labelled as an angry black girl, which is basically my whole life. I think it doesn’t help that I’m a naturally confrontation person who is willing to stand their ground, alongside being blunt – but these personality traits were developed before I knew that negative black stereotypes would plague my entire existence. I also don’t want to become someone who is the opposite of myself as a result of societies need for POC to be submissive, so it’s a weird catch 22 situation there.

In case you haven’t heard there is a horrible stereotype associated with black girls and it’s becoming the ‘angry’, ‘sassy’ black girl. The one who appears in movie and television as aggressive, crazy and lacks a lot of self control. The one who kisses their teeth whilst also snapping their fingers in a ‘Z’ formation, and they’re generally feared but never respected – that girl is a girl that people think is actually real, and they associated any black woman who isn’t ridiculously submissive as this girl.

The angry black girl isn’t someone people want to be around, they fear her, look down on her and don’t respect her thoughts or opinions. They also assume she lacks intelligence, but I feel like that comes from a different and more inherently disgusting place of racism. This stereotype is honestly one of those things that I didn’t realise was a major issue until I entered the work force.

Weirdly enough the stereotype helped me avoid bullying in secondary school – people assumed I was stronger than I actually am because of it, back to adult life racism.

I feel like this didn’t hit me until my adult life because for most of my childhood and teenage years I was surrounded by people of colour, specifically South Asians, so I wasn’t even aware of how we’re supposed to act around white people until it was too late. A lot of POC tend to assimilate and make them selves more palatable to white people as a basic survival tactic, which is effective, but in doing so you’re essentially allowing an environment where we put in all of the work to be accepted, but the other side does nothing to balance the playing field.

So, remember how I mentioned I’m a naturally confrontational, blunt human, well that didn’t go well. I didn’t really realise it until I saw the weird looks, the lack of eye contact and some people generally showing signs of fear or possibly intimidation towards me. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself an intimidating person, but I’ve been told I am, and I know part of it is because I will shut people down for fun, but a big part of it is also because of the stereotype linking black people to aggressive and dangerous.

Being seen as the angry black girl isn’t fun, even when you spend time away from the people who project it. It’s not fun knowing that despite your skills and intelligence you’ll have to work 10x harder to be seen as a respected individual and your hard work will be overlooked unless you have a manager who isn’t effected by racial prejudice (i.e isn’t a racist).

You also end up in weird situations where even your colleagues will make jokes about you being the ‘aggressive, crazy friend’ or the one who could stir up some drama, when in reality I don’t want to be that person. I will always happily defend a friend, or defend myself, but confrontation for the main point of just playing a role is just horrible and it kind of made me feel like a zoo animal, an other and ultimately an outsider.

You lose a sense of belonging to anyone unless your blessed with having other ethnic minorities around you – very few white people actually understand it and I’ve lost the time and effort to explain it to people, which is why it’s ironic that I’m even writing down this blog post. I guess pettiness gives me energy I didn’t realise I had.

Being a Somali In Pro-Black Spaces (302/365)

I’m going to try to not offend anyone but honestly I can’t make any promises because this is personal and based on my actual experiences. It’s also something I don’t feel the most comfortable writing about, but sometimes the truth needs to be spilled and this is something that everyone kind of forgets about.

So sometimes I actually make the effort and socialise or interact and go to events and a lot of the times it’s wonderful, insightful and I learn a lot. I’ve been to a lot of events surrounding Black activism, feminism, South Asian excellence and I enjoy these spaces a lot. Even as an outsider I do genuinely feel like everyone can benefit from learning and watching other cultures celebrate their amazingness. This post is going to focus on my experience around pro-Black spaces because honey it’s a lot.

So incase you didn’t know I’m Somali, which means I’m east African and therefore Black – the thing is a lot of people won’t really see me as Black as there’s this weird exclusion of Somalis when it comes to the notion of Blackness.

I’ve written a post about this but I grew up hearing this phrase a lot:

“You’re not Black, you’re Somali”

Now this is something that still gets thrown around and honestly it’s ridiculous in every single way, but the thing is people still feel it and therefore Other us a lot. I’m not even sure why, I can make a few guesses though since Black identity as a whole tends to refer a lot to West Africans, Afro Caribbean and anyone who looks the part, whereas Somali’s tend to look different, our culture is different and our religion is ultimately different, which leads to a lot of exclusion in these spaces.

I’m sure there’s more to it than this, but as someone who feels excluded I can’t really answer it. I’m also genuinely too afraid to ask the question as the response could lead to a level of ignorance that would make me either angry, uncomfortable, sad or all of the above.

I’m not even sure if people intentionally are aware of the exclusion or if it’s all subconscious bias taking place. People’s ideas of Blackness still have a long way to go, even in activist spaces as there needs to be a general expansion of thought considering that Africa is huge and not every culture looks the same. You can’t sprout pro African ideals and then only cater to a specific section of the continent.

I’m still open to going to these activist spaces purely because I do enjoy them and learn a lot, but do I feel at ‘one with everyone’? – fuck no. I’m aware of my distance from it all and honestly I could try to break through and do more but this requires a level of effort that I’m not always comfortable bringing.

-Obviously I’m aware a lot of the Othering isn’t intentional, just wanted to quickly make that clarification-

Weird Ways We White Ourselves Up In Order To Assimilate (299/365)

If you haven’t heard the term ‘white yourself up’, or whiteness being used as a seperate behaviour for POC, then you’re either white, or don’t know enough POC (or live in a country where this isn’t a thing). For the rest of us living in a white mans world we kind of have to ‘white ourselves up’ as a basic survival mechanism and that is called assimilation. We don’t get the benefit of really being our true selves because in order to do that we risk being ‘othered’ or ostracised or even just never having a chance to make money and navigate our capitalist world.

So what is ‘whiteing yourself up’?

It honestly ranges from little to big things like:

  1. Shortening your ethnic name or allowing yourself to have a ‘fun’ nickname because your name is difficult to pronounce.
  2. Preteding to understand white banter (I refuse to believe people actually get it)
  3. Skipping on talking about your race, your culture and your heritage because colonisation fucked it up and you can’t speak about these things without being condemned.
  4. Not talking about racism, discrimination.
  5. Looking down at groups of people within your own race or other races.
  6. Saying ‘I’m not like <insert race> people’ .
  7. Not using slang terms.
  8. Not speaking in your language.
  9. Fighting the urge to be pro-Black or pro-Asian in terms of language, clothing and your general aesthetic.
  10. Not wearing symbols of your race, culture or religion.

The list goes on and writing it is annoying me so I’ll just state some of the extremes. We have people of colour in government condemnig immigrants because they truly in their heart have whitened themselves up to the point of forgetting how their parents/grandparents got them to the country they live in. We also have POC people who are pro-Brexit – which is ridiculous as the second that drops we’re all fucked – yes even you, with your good job, and your white friends, it doesn’t matter, at the end of the day when you walk into a room all they see is your skin colour.

When your a person of colour living in the Western world it’s kind of difficult to navigate it without having to fall on these methods, because on some level we do need to assimilate in order to function. Some people use the word integrate, but that suggests a manner of choice and to be perfectly honest we don’t.

Anyone who says otherwise is either painfully ignorant or probably someone who’s neglecting their own truth (yes those two options are the same, but one sounds nicer right?).

It’s weird how we kind of have to do this, because some of us even have a ‘white people’ tone when it comes to answering phones or presenting ourselves in job interviews and when you really break it down we’re just putting in an extensive amount of effort to appear palatable and non threatening to the world which is intrinsically fucked up.

Due to our physical features like our skin tone, our hair, our clothes and anything that isn’t ‘white’ we’re automatically in the red when it comes to how threatening we are. It’s why anyone who dares to say anything is automatically assumed to be aggressive and sassy, and anyone who is excessively timid is just normal when in reality we’re just trying our best to not get killed, attacked or even fired because we dared to behave like our white counterparts.

The way we navigate our white world isn’t healthy and honestly I feel like the fact that we have to overthink everything fucks us up. I’ve even made the mistake of being myself, and let me tell you that shit gets you fucked over in the wonderful world of employment.

This post started off weird and got very political, it wasn’t planned and honestly I’m going to end it here as I’m about to go out of my house.

Why Dont People See Somalis As Black? (272/365)

“You’re not black, you’re Somali” – Raise your hands if you’re Somali and you’ve heard this sentence before? Keep them raised if you still don’t know how to react to this because it doesn’t make sense to you.

I wish this was a blog post with answers about this weird conundrum, but I’m 26 and this still confuses. I remember the first time someone said this to me and my only response was “well what am I then?”. People tend to be split into specific races (and within them theres more), but for the most part you’re Black, White or Asian, and yes this is reductionist but in these three I never really know where people who say this horrible sentence think Somalis fit.

I know there’s loads of people who think Somalia is in Asia, and it’s not. We reside in the horn of Africa, so as Africans wouldn’t we be considered black? Well not to many people out there because they see us as an ‘other’ as a whole which is just even more confusing. I feel like everyones conception of blackness might be a big part of this issue, as many identify blackness as people who are ethnically from the West of Africa with very specific features that most Somalis don’t have. We look different, our culture is different, our food is different and thats because Africa is a huge continent and across it everyone is unique.

Maybe it’s because of media and music – both tend to ignore every black person who doesn’t fit a specific mold of blackness. However, it’s 2019, we have an internet connection – open up your eyes and take into account that within every race there’s so many different cultures and beliefs. Look as Asian identity, there’s so many different countries and cultures you can’t just use the term Asian to define something as that just wouldn’t make sense – Black is the exact same. We’re not all West African or Jamaican, and we don’t all look the same.

Open your eyes, widen your scope and stop telling us we’re not Black – it’s getting ridiculous.

Black Will Crack If You Let It! (250/365)

This is just a short post and a friendly reminder to all of my black people that black can crack. I know, it’s hard to believe since we’re surrounded by elders who look 20 years younger than they actually are – plus the fact that everyone and their mothers will let you know we age gracefully. The thing is, what we don’t see is that the same people who look amazing are also moisturising all of the time.

Yes, genetics play a massive role and honestly some people are more prone to ageing and can’t afford to ever have an off day when it comes to skin care, but at the same time if you have bad practices like not using moisturiser or skipping on sun protection then you will age. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white or asian, nature will find a way to remind you that you’re at risk.

The only reason I’m even writing this is because I used the phrase ‘Black will crack if you let it’ during a conversation after work and honestly I can’t stop saying it. I’m quite fortunate in the fact that my genetics will protect me from ageing and I also have a 8 step skin care routine which keeps my breakouts at bay, but sometimes I think the ‘black don’t crack’ mentality makes people think we all just do nothing.

From a very young age we’re slathered in mositurisers, oils, cocoa butters and that also plays a massive role in our ageing process. We fear the ashyness and judgement that comes with going outside and looking grey – so we take extra steps to prevent that and those steps help a lot.

I’ll round this off here in a sudden end because this wasn’t a planned post and honestly I have to leave my house soon so this is just another stream of consciousness post.

Please moisturise everyone, even if you don’t see the ash, IT’S THERE.

“You’re Not Black, You’re Somali” (142/365)

I always love being told what my race is by other people who aren’t of the same race (hint hint, this is sarcasm).

I feel like this is an experience shared by every Somali diaspora across the globe, but I can only speak from the UK perspective – it’s ridiculous and it happens a lot. I don’t get it, it makes no sense, but people always love to tell me what my ethnicity is. It happens usually when a reference to race is made, or if I make a joke that links to being black – those five words are usually met with confusion, hostility and a need to whack someone.

“You’re not black, you’re Somali”

What is the response that we’re supposed to give, do we renounce our ethnic identity and just isolate ourselves as a whole. Yes, there are loads of Somali’s who claim other identities (look into how many claim to be Arab, it it is a confusing and wild ride). But, we’re black at the end of the day and when people try to say otherwise it’s really fucking annoying.

The people who say this are also never Somali, they’re always a different ethnicity. I’ve heard it the most from South Asians, but that might be skewed by the fact that I’ve lived in South Asian communities for most of my life.

When I was younger I was weirdly passive about being told this kind of stuff, I would stay silent or just make a very confused face. Younger Fatima was also desperate to keep her friends as well, so she also allowed a lot of other fuckery like casual racism and all of that lovely stuff. Now, I’m more likely to have a confrontation because reaching adulthood has meant that I’ve given out my last shit about keeping the peace, when that peace means erasing my identity.

At the end of the day, we’re ethnically black. Somalia and Somaliland are in the horn of Africa – so stop saying these stupid things. It’s annoying, ignorant and down right confusing.

Weird Racist Things That No One Talks About (93/365)

This might offend some of you, so if you’re not open to hearing about underlying racist things – this is your warning.

I’ve faced a lot of racism in my life, it’s gotten to the point that you kind of get used to it. I remember sitting in a sociology seminar and the professor/PHD student leading it asked us ‘Do you think racism is still an issue?’ and I burst out laughing. Mind you, this class did have some diversity, but people were shook by my response.

Maybe it was the laughing, maybe it was my monologue of how I’ve had every racist phrase used against me, even ones for other races (like if you’re going to be racist, at least use the right slur), and instead of portraying the strong angry black girl. I was just laughing at the idea of having this question be presented – of course racism is still a thing.

We all love to discuss the slurs though, the active, hurtful, fucked up acts, but as a whole everyone ignores the small things. Like how, when I walk into a room/meeting at work people often are surprised when I actually know what I’m talking about. Or how they tend to ask the white guy a question, before asking me, even if we’ve been in the same role for the same amount of time.

There’s also the uncomfortable stuff like touching my fucking hair (I will keep mentioning this until it stops happening). They don’t even ask, they just dig their hands into it. This has happened a lot in my office work, but the time it freaked me out was when I did door to door sales. An older woman I pitched said ‘ooh I love your hair’ and then proceeded to touch it/stroke it as she said this. Without asking permission, just pet me like I was an animal.

Assumed hostility is also hella racist, and very alive. I don’t know if it’s because of the stereotype of black people being angry, but every move I make is always assumed as more angry than it actually is. I won’t deny being someone who is quite angry, but try to judge the situation without the lens of race please.

I don’t know why this happens, but I’ve never understood people who proudly say ‘I really like black girls’ and don’t see the fetishisation of that phrase. I’ve heard it, felt it, and honestly it creeps me out. How does someone not understand that they’ve turned you into fetish, an ideal, an other. You’re happy to be attracted to whoever you want, but when you say shit like this, it’s not coming from a good place.

Can you also stop referring to our skin colour as food items? As much as you want to believe that calling someone chocolate is a compliment – in most cases it’s not. You’d never really call white skin something like cream or meringue, so why are darker skin tones seen as food? The answer is simple – it’s another way to dehumanise us. Yes, I went there. Think about it, when you refer to someone as food, you’re calling them an object, a snack, something that exists to nourish the human eating it. So when you take that to the extreme, you’re essentially saying that we exist for your consumption. I know it’s a wild tangent, but take a moment to ponder, think about how dark skin is viewed, and let your mind be blown.

The last one I want to get off my chest is something that was probably more relevant 10 years ago, but the idea of the ethnic geek girl being rare is so lowkey racist I could write an essay on it. Firstly it categorises everyone into stereotypes, like we can’t be into different things. Or have interests outside of our stereotypes. As a result of this, it leads to a lot of creepy men fetishising us. If you’re nerdy, a woman and ethnic – own it. Don’t feel like you’re the only one, there’s many of us. (We might need to create our own safe space though, because the manic pixie dream girl thing makes it hard for us.)

Dear White people.. (87/365)

A post inspired by the film and TV series Dear White people.

Dear White People,

Stop trying to touch my hair, it make me feel like an exotic animal and honestly it comes from a place of fetishism. I never mind when people ask to touch it, but unsolicited touching is a no no.

Dear White people, I know you want to believe that racism is gone, but it’s not, it’s still alive. When you use ‘the past was worse’ as an example, not only do you look ignorant, but you’re also erasing what we’re experiencing today.

Dear White people, black face is never ok. Stop doing it.

Dear White people, can you stop wearing our culture’s like a costume please? It’s one thing to wear our clothes out of respect, but when you wear it as a Halloween costume or as an accessory to look urban or cultured, you’re making us out to be less than you, and it’s disrespectful.

Dear White people, your privilege is real, accept it and stop drying to drown me in your white guilt.

Dear White people, just because you weren’t called out for making an offensive joke, doesn’t mean no one in the room was offended. They either were afraid to call you out or didn’t have the energy to do it.

Thank you for reading my Ted Talk, it was written whilst waiting for a train.