Like many I have had my fair share of torment where beauty is concerned, but the penultimate was exacerbated by a gorgeous white girl at junior school. Zara, blonde hair and brown-eyed. Deity to all the boys in the seventh grade and angel to all our fifth-grade class teachers. Everybody loved Zara and most girls wanted to be Zara. I liked her and she enjoyed my company. But my mother ruined our platonic interaction by buying me a miniature Zara for my birthday, her name was Barbie. Barbie, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, every young girl’s idea of beauty. With Barbie, Zara was no longer a girl left on the school playground at recess. I went home and there she was, with a positively sinister glare plastered to her face. Patiently awaiting my return from school, fixed with the facade of a smile, as though she knew that in her R85.99 plastic DNA my day-dreams of perfection came to life. My mother had unknowingly made Zara my muse and aspiration.
In varsity there were many versions of Zara. But in varsity white girls became the insatiable pursuit of black men that had apparently grown weary of tormented black females and their perpetual battles with self-affirmation. This was a generation of black men that carried with them a defiant sense of youth. Minds concerned with reclaiming identities previously stolen from their fathers. Men who lived their lives as though their lives belonged to them alone. Black men who wore no stains of the past, who were eager to separate themselves from it. These men reclaimed public spaces built for their very exclusion. The reclamation of these gentrified spaces however was not limited to the city centre; it included the most valued esteem of white men. A deity that had for years been forbidden to black men, a deity that exemplified the epitome of grace, the quintessential of delicate femininity. This was a delicacy that black men were sworn to never know, the immorality act made very sure of that.
Where I was likened to routine sermons at corner churches on Sunday afternoons, white women had become Meccas of higher spiritual awakenings. As soon as she arrived the status of my natural hair was transformed from proud to unkempt, so I, eager to please my man, went and got my hair relaxed. But it didn’t grow long enough so I went and got a weave installed. But this still wasn’t good enough because brothers couldn’t run their fingers through my scalp the way they did with white girls without complaining about the tracks. Even my model C grasp of English was discarded, when all along black sisters from the townships were ridiculed for their vernacular-accented Bantu English, this didn’t seem to warrant the same reaction when the English language was spoken in a barely audible European accent, I guess vernacular just doesn’t get dicks quite as hard.
Sure enough as soon as black men were made aware of their freedom, they pursued white women. I had been replaced as the opening act and headliner, my fiery independence was no longer revered and was instead put aside to make room for a woman that I was told didn’t bitch half as much as I do. These women appeared to glorify black men’s struggles with masculinity, while I apparently was a constant reminder of it. I echoed the melancholy of mothers angry at the world and the men that had left them in it with only squalor and charred paraffin lamps as company. As soon as these men learned to dream beyond wooden shacks and rat-infested street drains, white women became the embodiment of triumph and victory. The whole thing is that redundant.
Agreed, freedom of choice is composite of a free society, but somehow I doubt this is what Martin Luther King Jr meant when he said he had a dream, or when Thabo Mbeki told the world he was an African.
I don’t know much about white women, but I know plenty about black. Black women still gotta fight to love themselves, still gotta fight to own the sound of their own voices not only in the boardroom but in the bedroom too. Since being black and having a vagina was made synonymous with bitch or a nag, bitter or pregnant at fourteen, some of us still scratch at our own skins to get the stains of our own blackness out.
It just seems like being black and being woman is reason enough for all of the world’s woes to come resting at your bedside. I’ve aborted fatherless babies that I couldn’t bring into this world, they required too much love, love I had to dig up in rot and filth for my own damn self. Yet still I wear the stench as though it were a second skin. I have worn many skins over the years recreating myself to be whichever version of woman black men wanted of me. I have been the care-giver, cook, cleaner — ironing creases out of worn shirts so immaculately as though his very masculinity were stitched in between the weary cotton threads of faded blue. And when he wanted a freak, a freak is who I was, sucking dicks behind public urinals as though my very affirmation relied on the way he said my name when he came. I have been the educated chasing after a degree and a title because smart is what he liked and because my validation always depended on what he liked.
I have straightened my hair, worn make-up, lost weight, bleached my skin. I guess I’ve been getting “how to be a white girl” lessons since I was a child.
Our homes need bricks and concrete, our daughters need to know that strength lives in a man even when it is not punched onto their faces or forced into their wombs. Our sons need to be taught that fathers can exist in homes without broken doors or hearts. And our women, we need these men to remind us of our beauty when we have forgotten it, as we often do. We need our men to rebuild the homes that so many of them have left broken.
But we can only hope, because like Tracee Ellis Ross said, “once he get on, he gon’ leave yo’ ass fo’ a white girl”.
Image – AFP