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!

Merry Christmas Everyone! (359/365)

Hello friends,

Merry Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not, it’s a time to spend with your family as most of us have the day off. My family don’t celebrate the day but we do spend a lot of time annoying one another, something came over me and I even decided to make them all pancakes as we don’t do Christmas dinner… and making a roast for a huge family seems like a lot of work.

We tend to have cooked food, Somali food and it’s usually made with a little extra love. Hope you’re all having an amazing day, I would write more words but there’s really no point as many of you will be celebrating the day!

Weird Ways Being the Oldest Girl in a Somali Household Effects You (331/365)

You might not have known but I’m the eldest daughter in my family and I’m also Somali and I’ve already written a lot about how this impacted my life. The oldest girl is somehow the second mother, the reliable one, the chef, the cleaner and basically everything in between. You don’t really get the luxury of having a care free childhood because you become the carer, and it’s usually to a lot of children as we all know by know, Somali families are huge.

I could dedicate this post to more tales of how the extreme emotional and physical labour of being the oldest girl effects you, but that’s been done and honestly I don’t think I have the mental capacity to write about it again, so instead we’re going to run through all the weird ways it effects you later in life.. well not all, I can’t speak for everyone, I can only speak for myself.

  1. You become an ace when it comes to cooking, cleaning and every form of domestic multi task available.
  2. You look at people, adults, seniors and realise you’ve changed more nappies than them.. and that’s a weird realisation as a lot of them are actual parents.
  3. You either really want children, or really don’t – there’s no in between.
  4. You look back on your younger days and realise that you did a lot and it’s actually worrying that you were allowed to have an extreme level of responsibility before you even went through puberty.
  5. (University specific) You laugh at anyone who can’t cook/clean.
  6. You realise that you can compartmentalise your issues so well and get shit done when under a lot of stress, and I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.
  7. You have a harshness about you, this can soften over time, but there’s an edge and it comes from not having a childhood.
  8. Outside of the house you’ll either throw away all responsibility, or bring your ‘mother’ mode out in the wilderness.
  9. Your twenties are your childhood #sorrynotsorry.
  10. In my case, I shut my empathy in a cave, and it’s only brought out for people who in my eyes matter – I know it’s a result of being the eldest daughter but I’m not sure why.
  11. You become someone that people open up to – in my case when I saw this was becoming a thing I took steps to shut it down, so for anyone reading this point who knows me now, trust me it was a thing.
  12. You pay more attention to peoples personality, quirks and what aggravates them etc.
  13. You collect peoples red flags and analyse them based on the severity of them.
  14. You’ll probably have a weird sense of humour and honestly it’s great.
  15. You’ll either be super affectionate or not – again there’s no in between for this one.
  16. All of the emotional labour you performed as a child/teen will leave you a little bit emotionally stunted and you might bottle shit up, as a result when you do explode, you’ll have a massive one – please make sure whoever is around for this is your homie. A homie can make your emotional explosion into a fun and meaningful tale.

That’s all I have for now, I could probably write some more when I spend more than 5 minutes thinking about them, but alas it’s a busy day and this is a daily blog so you get what you get. 🙂

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.

Should I Be Open About My Mental Health? (322/365)

I write a lot about mental health, self care and generally like to give advice and tips based on my own experience, but one thing I’ve never done is actually write about my own raw experiences. One of the reasons why is because I don’t like to be open about my own personal pain online, being that vulnerable around people I personally know make me want to hide in a corner for a century, so doing it online would be personally .. difficult.

But, here’s the thing, I know for a fact seeing others be open and honest has helped me personally and others I personally know. I know I don’t have a big following anywhere, but would me opening up actually help people? I do want to help, if I’m ever open about my mental health it will take a while, so I doubt it would be done during my daily blogging challenge, but as a post next year… it could be a possibility.

So back to the question – should I be more open about it all?

I know I’m from many intersections of society, I’m Black, I’m Muslim (not practicing but still a Muslim),and I’m a Woman and let’s be honest there’s not a lot of people from all three groups actually talking about issues that effect us like mental health.

We tend to see it as a ‘white people issue’ or if we do see it the problem we’re then battling it alone as our parents see the word ‘counselling’ as a dirty word and let’s be honest extended family can only help so much unless they live near you.

Some of the lucky ones have friends to talk to (I consider myself in this category), but I know there’s a lot of people who might not feel the same, so maybe my experiences could help a little bit as I used to be someone who kept everything bottled in from everyone..

This isn’t a coherent post, just a question and my little thoughts around it. If you have an answer please comment below, or slide in my DM’s I have an Instagram account @fatimaspeaks. 🙂

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-

What It Means To Be The Oldest Daughter in a Somali Household (292/365)

I’ve written about this before, but I feel like I need to expand on this topic because it’s really personal and truly aggravates me to my inner core. It’s also something I think about a lot especially as I watch my sisters receiving a similar amount of responsibilities that I had at their young ages and honestly we need to stop doing this to our women, we need to stop grooming them for maternal motherhood but a version of motherhood that paints us as the soul caretakers of everyone. We are raised to be the blankets that everyone uses for comfort, and then discards when they no longer need them.

So before I go on, here’s a cheeky disclaimer – yes I’m going to be generalising a lot here and honestly I’m going to refer to my own point of view as well, if this isn’t your POV, that’s fine, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m talking about how my own culture has impacted my life.

So what is the oldest daughter in a Somali household, well we become many things:

  • The second mother
  • The babysitter
  • The responsible one
  • The one who needs to give up everything to help everyone out
  • The one who exists to keep the house hold in check.

Our existence is mainly focused around looking after everyone, but who looks after us?

I remember when my first younger sibling was born, I was 6 and honestly excited to have a new sibling. Everything was fine, I was still treated like a child until he reached a few months old and I started changing his nappies and helping out with the baby sitting. I was also cleaning the kitchen at that point, and due to my young age I wasn’t really aware of how weird this was.

Parents have many children, and with each birth came more responsibility on my end. I was running the house and babysitting and for the most part this was completely normalised by everyone around me, including my extended family. If anything they praised me for it, so I ended up thinking it was a good thing and I was a great kid for doing it. The realisation of how much I took on didn’t really hit me until my adult lense looked at my youngest siblings, and being the selfish person I am, I would compare how much domestic chores I was doing at their young age.

Now I know how weird it was that at the age of 12 I was left with my younger siblings who were around 5 and 6 and I was expected to run the house. Sure I have a brother who was one year older than me, but all the responsibility around looking after them was put on me. I honestly tend to roll with whats going on around me, and because I was socialised from such a young age to take everything on, I just did. I’d ask a few questions and kick up a fuss, but ultimately I took on all the extra responsibility because I was expected to and now I see that it’s really fucked up.

It’s also why I’m basically living my missed childhood in my twenties.

We need to stop giving young girls adult responsibilities and really let them focus on their own life. Because we’re raised to take on the world, we end up letting everyone elses problems eclipse our own, we lose track of our own goals and our own future. Obviously I’m not saying that we can’t acheive anything, but we do suffer the consequences of this pure pressure, and it takes a massive toll on our mental health.

Making decisions that solely focus on your own goals and acheivments shouldn’t be seen as leaving your family to rot. You shouldn’t have to live with the pressure of keeping the whole household together, especially Somalis, OUR FAMILIES ARE TOO BIG. Everyone should be held to the same responsibility regardless of gender, but parents should also be the primary caretakers and not their children.

Because we have generations of kids raising kids, we’ve just ended up in a weird cycle and that cycle needs to break!

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.

Why is Divorce so Common in Somali Culture? (192/365)

I’m going to write this one on the fly so it’s purely opinion driven and honestly there’s not a lot written online about this issue. So if you’ve read the title you know this is exploring divorce in the Somali community and how ridiculously common it is. When I was younger, I went to mosque every weekend (I know this is surprising), and the mosque I went to was essentially all Somali – now here’s the thing, it was weirder to find people who had parents who were still together (first marriage), than it was for them to be divorced.

The western world states that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but I feel like in the case of Somali’s it’s a lot higher and it’s really weird now looking back at the conversations I had with family about it all. We were all children of divorce, and we didn’t really see the high levels as an issue – if anything we looked down on anyone who used divorce as a reason to be upset, which again is something we shouldn’t have done. It was really insensitive and in my case my parents split up when I was too young to give a shit, so I don’t really have a place to judge how others process their parent’s departure.

So, you might be able to guess, but because of this, we have a whole generation of children (now adults) who were raised in single parent households, or growing up with step parents and as a result the way a lot of us see relationships can become a little bit warped and generally just unhealthy.. well that’s a generalisation in the extreme but let me explain. I’ve met enough Somali boys to understand how this has impacted their relationship with women, especially the ones who didn’t grow up with a father figure. There’s a lot of weird hostility and sexism and it’s seen as normal behaviour, we do have the flip side where this hasn’t happened and in all honesty they’re the good ones.

I feel like as a whole, the post war generation had a lot to deal with. They were displaced from their homes and forced to live away from their parents from a very young age, and it makes sense that a lot of them chose to marry young, and marry the first person they were interested in. But without a parental figure, or an actual home to go to, it sort of effected how they behaved in those relationships. Me and one of my friends made a joke about how common divorce was, and how our parents generations essentially just broke up after the first fight, but when you really break it down, they didn’t really have anyone to tell them not to.

When you compare Somali’s to other Eastern cultures, our main differences come with our lack of stigma to issues life divorce, we don’t have that barrier of shame, and a lot of it is because our parent’s didn’t really have any elders telling them what to do. Of course, displacement plays a massive role in all of it and I am in no way reducing the high divorce rates to just a case of a lack of elders. But they were sort of thrown into different countries and given free reign to do whatever they wanted, alongside being the ‘only Somalis’ wherever they landed, so it’s interesting to consider how this impacted that.

Religion wasn’t really a massive driving force back then, because as much as we like to pretend we were always religious as a community – we weren’t. A lot of us who were born in the West have vivid childhood memories of our parents not practicing and in some cases we weren’t even taught it until a certain point, I remember it being around the beginning of the naughties, but everyone suddenly turned to religion. I was introduced to Islam and then also sent to an Islamic school for a year and a half – we all acknowledge that was a bad decision.. I’ll write a blog post surrounding that topic at some point… just not now.

So take a displaced generation, a lack of religion, a lack of elders and the fact that a lot of them were in their teens/twenties and you have a generation of people who didn’t really have any reason to commit to their marriages when they went through issues, because let’s face it everyone goes through their hardships.

Still not sure why we all have such big families, but I might actually have to research that topic since it’s probably just a cultural thing thats continued.

So, When Are You Getting Married? (186/365)

“So, when are you getting married?”

This question has quite possibly been the bane of my existence for most of my life, I’m speaking from purely a Somali perspective here but I know many women from other cultures will relate to this. As children we’re essentially spoon fed the idea that we’ll get married and have children, and it gets to the point that it becomes a milestone, something that we need to achieve to been seen as successful.

I have vivid memories of debating with adults about this concept, because I was always on side with the school of thought that we should only get married if we want to, but they way they discussed it was as if it wasn’t a choice. I was drilled with the idea that I would go to school, university then get married, and getting a job was always in the ‘maybe’ category. I even debated with an imam at mosque once who told us that Islamic we have to get married, and I shut him down, it’s sunnah, but it’s not obligatory. I almost got kicked out for that one.

Essentially we’re told that we should get married so much that when we eventually reach the age of doing it, it feels like we’ve failed if we haven’t done it – and that sucks. This isn’t a post judging married people in anyway shape or form, be happy, have partners, but let’s not raise children to be wives for their husbands. Let’s not fill them with so much pressure that they feel like they have to marry the first person that they believe their parents would accept.

Alongside being drilled with these thoughts we are also trained to become caretakers to our ‘future husbands’. We’re piled with loads of domestic responsibilities from a very young age, we’re made to cook, clean, babysit and honestly by the age of 16 a Somali girl has basically lived a 10 lives worth of running the house. We are honestly made to do too much, and the fact that I can say I’ve changed more nappies than both my parents is saying something.

I also spent a lot of my teenage years baby sitting, changing nappies, running the house whenever my parents went out. I even looked after the kids when my mum was giving birth, despite also being considered quite young. I was so used to the responsibility that I didn’t realise that this wasn’t the norm for a lot of people.

So once I finally graduated I was suddenly asked the fateful question again by one of my aunts, and I answered ‘not any time soon’, and that shocked people. Which is weird because my family are considered pretty chill compared to other Somali families, but the lingering pressure was still there. I did however preempt this and spend most of my teenage years preparing my parents for the fact that I probably wouldn’t get married any time soon, and the decreased likelihood of having children. They dealt with it well, I know deep down my mum does wish I didn’t feel like this, but one positive thing about having divorced parents is that they can’t reinforce the need to get married as heavily as some do.

I also know I’m quite lucky, I grew up with a lot of girls who were emotionally blackmailed by their parents when it came to marriage. Some cultures only see the girls role as one of marriage, and creating families, so some girls had to argue with their parents to even get further education. Some still receive the pressure to get married, and if they say no, it’s going against their families.

Free will is one of those things that I wish was offered to everyone regardless of gender, but that just isn’t the world we live in. My culture loves to let our boys run rampant, but we control our girls, keep them cooking, cleaning and occasionally they can fly the nest, but in a lot of cases it takes a lot of planning.

So let’s stop telling young girls they need to get married, let’s focus on getting them educated. If they want to get married and have children, that can be something they want to do, and not something they feel like they have to. If they want to be a house wife, let them do that too, but remember they need to have free will and be able to make choices about their future. 🙂