race

Race, Beauty, and Hope

The predominant culture suggests normative black features are not attractive. Because of this in the dating realm, black women finish dead last. OKCupid has a study affirming this. While, it is not explicitly stated: “men find black women unattractive”. My assumption is that they don’t. Rounded noses and darker skin are not particularly “in”. Full lips are currently “in” but as a trend. Like thick brows are “in”.

In the past seven days, I have had two conversations with a friend about race and beauty and attraction. They are hard conversations. Not only for the content, but we are distinguishable by both race and gender. Which is not bad, but often you have to explain things that may be inherent to a person who was black and/or a female. Though difficult, I find the conversations refreshing. I process things through them. This blog is not so much about the feelings of unattractiveness or the conversations had with my friend. However, both serve as a black drop to something significant that took place on a warm Saturday afternoon.

I was sitting my Houston mom’s hair salon playing with my cousins. Which is a sight. I’m an African-American and my mom and cousins are white. She takes a break from doing hair. I sit in the chair and my 12-year-old cousin begins pampering me with a massage. It was legit. My 9-year-old cousin comes over and begins to look at my hair. She politely asks if she can touch it.

“Yes. Thank you for asking.”

She continually says how soft and fluffy it is. Fascinated, she gets some Morrocan oil and places it on my hair. Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I have my shoulders and arms massaged, my hair oiled and brushed, and my looks affirmed in a really special way.

What makes this interaction so distinguishable from others, is that my sweet cousins whose skin is so much lighter than mine, think I am beautiful. Not for a black person, but as a person who God created. While, they are old enough to know we look different, there was not this elitism in them. I sit on the couch and my 9-year-old cousin snuggles up with me. She looks at my lips and calls them pretty.

I wish my lips were bigger like yours.” She pouts trying to make them bigger.

“I think your lips are perfect for the face God gave you.” 

The rest of our time is spent snuggling on the couch catching naps at 2 in the afternoon. I don’t know how these sweet children learned to love diversity at such a young age, but it gives me hope.

There is a coming day where there will be no narrative of black women being unattractive. Because our biased expressions and representations of beauty will disappear. Humanity will understand that our racial diversity, our various nose shapes and hair textures, our crooked smiles and pearly whites, our physical differences scream of a divine Creator who loves and revels in variety and in diversity. Who loves the porcelain skin of Scandinavians, the almond eyes of Asians, the raven black tresses of Native-Americans, the warm skin of Latinos, and the rounded noses of African people. I felt that hope today.

I felt that hope today.

It was beautiful.

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Ticks in the Timeline

I was sixteen sitting in my high school psychology class. Our assignment was to create a timeline of our lives projecting ten years into the future. Bless our teacher, he must have thought us foolish. For he had the knowledge that adolescent plans rarely come to fruition.

I’m twenty-six in 10 days. Ten years from psych class and light years from my expectations of adulthood. I dreamt of meeting someone at 19 and marriage at 26. Now, I have succumbed to my singleness. One part blessing. One part burden. I have the whole world in my hands, but no hand to hold. I battle (albeit rarely) with the same tensions of adolescence. Am I pretty? Am I worthy? Is something wrong with me? Why will no one cast me a second first glance? Am I even good enough?

I believed, I would be sitting on this mountain of success as a psychologist. Counseling people into wellness, uncovering the depths of brokenness, being a conduit of healing. Now, I don’t even know if I agree with modern psychology, and it’s ability to “help” people. This is even more frustrating, because I am working on a Masters of Counseling and have invested too much to just walk away. The idea of meeting with someone one-on-one makes me anxious and bored. Now, concerning vocation, I am doing well. My work is my heart. The teens I work with make daily life enjoyable. They fill me with hope and light and excitement and laughter. I could not be more consumed with them than I am.

Then, there were my finances. Wealth knows few men, but poverty is popular. I’m floundering. I feel like a slave to my bank accounts. I don’t control money; money controls me. It is an abusive relationship. Where in the good times, we can enjoy each other. In the bad times, it places stringent limitations on everything. I am closer to my teens in that manner than they could imagine. I look to my next paycheck with dread. For a brief moment, there is hope. I awake to a text to see income has been deposited. By Saturday, bills have been paid and I have nothing. I greet fear as we will be acquainted with each other for another two weeks.

Nothing goes according to plans. I look on Facebook and Instagram. Everyone seems so happy. People are in love and getting married. People are getting their Masters and experiencing success. People are saving and buying homes. Is everyone this happy? How are you all doing it? Let me in on your secrets. Don’t leave me out please. I know we all have our different paths, but sometimes I just feel left behind. As, I tend personal injuries people pass me joyfully, effortlessly jogging, as I struggle just to walk. Comparison you are the bloody original thief.

Then there is God. Whom, I never wrote into my plans, not even on a subconscious level. He just interrupted everything. Whose to say, maybe if He hadn’t interrupted, I would have been a married psychologist sitting on wealth, posting pictures on Instagram with trite hashtags, but I am not. And even in this low with continual descent and lament, I know God well enough to know this is not the end of my timeline. It is just the beginning of a hard tick.

Christian + Black

There are identities that shape who we are: white, gay, Muslim, female, poor, disabled. No matter where you fall on the multiple axes of this spectrum, you identify with your ability, race/nationality, gender, religion or lack of religion, or sexual orientation. In adolescence, you are at war with what your primary identity will be. In adulthood, you shape your other identities to fall in line with your primary.

I didn’t grow up identifying as black. I was Nigerian. I ate Nigerian food. I went to Nigerian parties. I wore Nigerian outfits. My first recollection of engaging with black, non-Nigerians, was when I was seven. I vividly remember going to Girls Inc. over the summer and hating it because of the girls there. They were black. I remember thinking, I don’t like these black girls, as if I was not one of them.

Since childhood, my world has been overwhelmed with white people. My first crushes, my favorite shows, my music all pointed to a world absent of the cultural diversity that makes life as rich as a Godiva chocolate. It was not until college, I was bombarded with what I had missed: black people, an African-American culture, and a love for not only being Nigerian, but black. It was the emergence of a new and vibrant identity. Concurrently, my religious identity solidified.

Most times when you hear about two identities being at war with each other, it is sexual orientation and religion. However, my newfound blackness and Christianity were at odds with each other and still are. My last semester at Georgia State (2012), in Sanford, Florida a young African-American boy was shot by a neighborhood watchman. This boy was heard pleading for his life. He died. My heart sank as my blood boiled. As, recent history elapsed there have been many stories like this one with names whose legacy has been boiled down to a hashtag and a headline.

What do I do? I dunno. What I have done, is silently condemn the whiteness surrounding me. I make passive aggressive racist remarks and off-putting jokes that don’t address the heart of sin and evil in this world. I would be a moron to not believe that racism, prejudice, and discrimination are not simply societal issues, but spiritual issues as well. I am a fool to not address them as such. I am a coward to not ask, in humility, the hard questions and have the hard conversations.

Paul’s words challenge me: “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.” Do, I consider my blackness a loss? Now, if I have some white readers who are quick to consider their skin color as a loss, let me rephrase the question. Do you consider the privileges received from being white as a loss for the sake of knowing Christ? (And, if you think there are no privileges to being white, please call me and I will tell you about some of them.)

Sometimes, I don’t. Sometimes, I hold on to my black card so tightly. Scared that God is going to call me to forgive the injustices of white people against African-American people and me. Scared He is going to tell me to forgive the teachers who paid me no attention unless I made them laugh. Scared, He is going to tell me to forgive every person who’s told me, “You are pretty…for a black girl”. Scared, He is going to tell me to forgive other Christians who don’t care. Scared, He is going to tell me to forgive.

The problem is He already has. He even set the example for me. One that shows forgiveness is painful. Forgiveness costs.

My primary identity is in Christ. So, what do I do with my blackness? I remember, God made me black. God knows that if I fully submit myself to Him. If, I make him first. If I consider my skin as loss. He will ultimately be glorified in my blackness. My blackness gives me ease of access to certain audiences in which I would be impenetrable. My blackness brings relatability  to other people of color. My blackness brings about a diversity and variety in humanity that God revels in. My blackness is apart of the creation in which God said, “it was very good”. My blackness is a beauty in which God delights.

In fact, the deeper my identity is placed in Christ, the better it is for all other components of my life. God can be glorified in my early overwhelming of white people. God can be gloried in my love for being black. God can be glorified in the devastation my heart feels when race is a factor in murder. God can be glorified in my anger towards injustice within the American judicial system. God can be gloried in my desire for reconciliation. It begins when all I am is placed in Him. It happens when I am first a Christian, then I’m black.

Run

Ends are just as important as beginnings. The manner in which we finish a race is rarely determined by how we start. It is about the miles in between. Because the initial sound of the commencement shot and the tearing of the white winner’s tape is what we live for. However, this miles between the start and the finish are our lives, and so often we are all too focused on meeting checkpoints (college, dating, marriage, kids, career) as opposed to house the checkpoints alter the terrain. I am running a race that many have finished. I am running a race that many have dropped out of and stopped running. A race filled with deterrents and distractions. A race, pushing the runner to adventure and pain. A race that is run with many companions, but sometimes run alone. Yes, we are all in a race. I have reached a mere checkpoint. I am another year older, and as I continue running, I think it a brilliant time to reflect on the checkpoints, terrain, obstacles, and companions along the way.

Today, I do it before the Throne of Grace of my Father. Some day soon, I will do it online.

Happy Birthday to Me.

 

Bunnies, Racism, and All Things Cute and Cuddly

***This blog post while not vulgar may be offensive. Please know it was not written for offense, but for clarity and understanding. My intentions were not to harm, but to open up a discussion with a stating of my perspective*** (more…)