Books and Writings

I don’t want to be white, I just want to be treated as if I were

I don’t want to be white; I just want to be treated as if I were.

To exist in a world where the pigment of my skin is not a prison, a ball and chain, a ‘something that could be despised’.

Where my burnished hue is celebrated and not frowned upon or wished away or treated chemically or digitally via photoshop till it looks much lighter just to suit a certain narrative.

I too don’t want to have experienced hot stretching comb burns or chemical burns whilst straightening my hair with chemicals and extreme heat for fear of being seen as unkempt, because the standard of good hair is hair that is ‘white’. My hair, my afro, my cornrows they are not a statement. My curly hair grows out of my scalp that way and no I didn’t do anything to it to make it shrink like that or ‘stick out’ like that, and no your hands can’t touch, even if I can touch yours.

I too don’t want to be subjected to a body search or bag search or be followed around as I shop because somehow if I’m darker your wares will find their way into my bag. Last I checked my mahogany tones were not magnetic to your merchandise.

No, I don’t want to be singled out, called cheese girl, musalad, coconut or Oreo when I use a ‘private school accent’, nor hear you say ‘Oh, you are so articulate and a credit to your race’, tsk as if whites have the monopoly on intelligence…

Nor does that mean I want to be ridiculed and seen as uneducated when I do use an African accent or mispronounce a word because guess what I learnt it from a book. I’ve learned your  Français, your English, your Español and yet monolingual you who doesn’t even try with my language thinks bilingual/ multilingual me is the one who needs more education? Why can you judge me uneducated when I prefer to speak my mother’s tongue? What did you say, Oh, it’s because you can’t understand me? Since when was there a prerequisite that you understand all I say? This is the language of my people that you want to erase, a language that houses our culture and thoughts from time in memorial that you want to vanish because you have placed more importance on yours, because in your mind mine is primitive.

I too don’t want to change my name for it to be easier for you to pronounce, if I can figure out James, Jean, Bjorn, Tchaikovsky, Alejandro and Etienne, then Tsitsi, Mxolisi, Uchenna and Ncumisa should be run of the mill too, no it’s not Tsi or MX, or N Cumisaa because my name has meaning and nuance that you want to bastardise.

I don’t want that when I go to the airport, in order to not be seen as a threat, I implore my brother, “a hoody and our skin tone profiles danger, so pack away your hoodie and let’s dress up when flying in order to be perceived as if we belong → no, no sir, we are no threat for your security.

I don’t want to stand in line for service and be ignored, until I pointedly chat with my white friends, so you change your demeanour and serve me with the same care and fawning.

I don’t want to try harder, jump higher, shout louder before you see my accomplishments, because in your mind it’s impossible for me to have made it thus far without affirmative action. Oh, I’m not the help or kitchen staff? So how did I get my job? The most qualified person should get the job? Wait, what? I had not realised my skin colour precludes me from being qualified?

I don’t want to be asked if I’m lost or need help because I’m the only darkie in the suburb, those hallowed green lawns and gleaming abodes other black people can only dream of. And I too want to have the luxury of avoiding the hood, the township, the high densities, that you deem dangerous and dens of criminality, but alas this is where I and my family live. I guess danger takes a look at my skin and runs away.

I don’t want to travel far and wide just to find products that suit my skin and biology, or struggle to find doctors who are well versed in the difference’s melanin can give to symptoms because for some reason everything is white centred even on African soil. I too want my skin to have the power of normal to be able to match my tone and skin colour in clothing, Band-Aids, underwear, products for my hair, just as you expect your needs to be met. Alas I have to conform to your standards for my needs to be met.

And no, I don’t want to pretend you’ve given me a compliment when you say, “I am pretty for a black girl” your standards of beauty are miles away from mine.

I don’t want to pretend not to be offended when you say the races shouldn’t mix, and you would never date a black girl, for in your mind, my actual personality, values or quirks don’t matter, I have been judged and found wanting on skin colour sight alone.

I too don’t want to bite my tongue when I’m upset just so you don’t label me angry, scary, black woman. Or be forever asked, ‘Why are we so loud?’, and yet that screaming, swearing white manager is never asked to tone it down. No, I too don’t want to have to always be apologetic when I stand up for someone or my beliefs, just so you don’t call me a bully.

I too want the luxury of saying ‘I don’t see colour’. Telling me you don’t see my colour is saying I have to be ‘not black’ in order for you to respect me, it’s you using colour-blindness to force me to assimilate, I want to be seen as the individual I am. I don’t want to be lumped in with everyone and seen as ‘you people’ especially before you want to offend.

But until that happens, I want you to see my black skin and the disadvantages it gives me, and thus see why I fight for the advantages your skin has given you, because in my reality there isn’t only one race. There is white and the rest, as if we are leftover food.

Another child should not have to grow up confused and  questioning what they did wrong, only to find out it’s nothing but the melanin they are graced with; to wonder why they were born with darker skin and wish it away and have to be taught how to value themselves beyond their skin.

I know some of your actions are ignorance on your part, don’t worry I was once there too, giving undeserved deference. But the struggle for identity made it real for me and mine, how could I hate who I intrinsically am due to archaic norms started by colonialists? How can we wish to wash away the brown, something we have no control over, something that is not a sin, and yet my parents, myself, my sisters and brothers to this day are punished for.

So, I wear this deep brown skin now with pride, African melanin queen that I am, and let the sun kiss those bronze sepia hues and darken them to obsidian as I embrace who I was made to be. So, while my articulate accent, my ‘white hobbies’, experiences, education and opportunities make me blend well in the western world, I’m not trying to be white, I am no longer filled with confusion nor self-hate. I am proud of the struggles I and those like me have overcome and continue to face; but it is this unnecessary suffering I want to obliterate.

No, I don’t want to be white; I just want to be treated as if I were.

Hope you enjoyed my spoken word piece; you can listen to it on the Saving Graces podcast or on youtube.

Why this piece?

Someone asked me once if I had self-hate because I was black, or if I wanted to be white because of my activities that I did that are seen as ‘white’? This seemed like a good response.

Secondly, the past few weeks, with atrocities that black lives face being highlighted, have brought so much heaviness to the fore, yet it’s also tinged with that eternal hope. As black people we face challenges every day, but we learn to be resilient and ignore most of them, so sometimes things that should bother us just don’t anymore. Until something like an unjust death brings it all to the fore. And then we wonder is there something I can do? How I can make the world better? And with renewed vigour you learn about who you are, your identity and try educating at least that one other person by highlighting your experiences.

Don’t police my tone as you read

I nearly did not write anything because I kept asking myself constantly is it safe to do so? “How do I respond honestly and true to myself, and yet not upset or rile people?” And that there is the main issue. We live in a society that polices our tone “Speak to me in good non-negative, non-emotional, not angry speech about your negative experience, then we can have a dialogue.” But I am angry, I feel negative emotion and yet I have to police my tone to be heard… So, I have rewritten the stuff below a lot of times in the hopes that it comes across as I intend.

A lot of ‘not feeling safe to share experience’ is perception, but some of it systematic and not necessarily by design or overt. It can also be ingrained learned behaviour on our part from previous experiences or the experiences of others. Some of it may even be cultural, unfortunately a culture shaped by race relations. For instance when any other issue arises in other spheres I speak out because I know that if some people don’t agree it’s ok, we will agree to disagree, but when it comes to race matters… no, we don’t speak out because I don’t want to “agree to disagree” when it comes to discrimination. If I ‘agree to disagree’ all it means is that you are not willing to change and I should deal with it, so I may as well get on with the dealing with it part, no need to even get into the discussion.

When topics of discrimination come up, I’m afraid of being seen as a person who just will bring up race stuff to cover their incompetence so I will run to other black colleagues, family friends who I’m not even as close to because they’ll get what I mean without me having to explain anything. And it’s exhausting to have to couch my terms and educate first before I am heard. We then ask each other; was that racial or just ignorance? We end up at ignorance and then leave it or end up at racism and leave it.

Another case in point when we talk about race issues, other areas are brought up to limit the power of my emotion and anger at what has happened, because well, “all lives matter, all discrimination is wrong”. Such a blanket universal statement silences me and others like me. It’s because it is true that we are trying to highlight an area where it is seemingly not being put in effect as much as others, so when you say that, it feels like a platitude; “It’s ok to feel the way you do but don’t feel it too much, there’s a limit, think of the other peoples emotions first as well, and the world is not perfect so don’t expect too much change because there are other problems others’ face you are not the only one, what about A, B and C after all discrimination is ‘equal’”. My emotion on that has to be balanced with other people’s emotions so it then negates my experience. I have had colleagues have negative experiences, but because it can be interpreted differently or because they think this will limit their potential going forward, they would never speak up. This inevitably affects me too when it comes to speaking up.  

We don’t need new names

I’m going to give a silly example with which you can extrapolate. My name is easy enough Tsitsi, and yet many people will hyphenate, camel case or add a space to it, why? There are infinitely other more difficult Western names but people take the time to write those correctly, but I’ll make a judgement call and say to myself, it doesn’t really matter, they don’t know better, brush it off, sign my name TD to make it easier for them. But what is the underlying reason for being so accommodating; it’s because I don’t want to be seen as difficult, other, or angry black woman. So I tone police myself, watch what I say more than I would in black company. And then I see my Chinese colleagues going above and beyond to always provide a Western name to make others more comfortable? Why? If everyone just practiced, they would be able to say all names passably well, but we have given out a ‘free pass’, they don’t have to try to say your name right, it’s all difficult anyway. My name has meaning and importance and identifies me as me, and my background and culture, yet you want to turn in white…

Thoughts to ponder

My working all over the place has indeed highlighted my blackness more, such that I now identify as ‘blacker’ than ever before and don’t want people to not see my colour. When we were younger, we were ‘socialised’ to see white as better. Not overtly, but it’s when you are in OK supermarket and the tellers treated a white person better, when we laughed at each other’s mis-pronunciation, when we praised ‘good ‘ accents, when our parents changed their demeanour and actions when dealing with white counterparts, when media showed white happy American/ British families, and black gangsters and it seeped into our beings, and at school when we were taught to curtsy and greet our elders with a very British ‘Good morning Sir/ Ma’am.’ When I was 15 a classmate accused me of being an anglophile in a condescending way, and I could not decide if I should be insulted (as it had been intended) or proud because… my experiences said that meant I was getting it right…

Leaving home though woke me to the reality that we ‘centre white’ everything. And began a time of un-educating myself of the misconceptions that I too perpetuated.

So yeah, I want to be black/ brown, I just don’t want that blackness to determine how you treat me or be all that you see, I am way more. I feel it even more so now where I am the only black person in a sea of white. I want to be seen as me, as I am, not as a separate entity from the ‘other blacks’ which is what I find now tends to happen, from both sides of the colour fence; I go from being coconut, munose, oreo, musalad, cheese girl to being ‘educated’, different, articulate, not like other blacks – just because I was privileged to have experiences and opportunities others did not and could only dream of.

I feel a responsibility for that privilege, that I can never repay, so I think it’s my responsibility to therefore help my fellow black brothers and sisters attain the same privileges. I find myself embracing being Black, Zimbabwean, African more and more because I don’t want to be erased and don’t want the experiences of those who suffer for the colour of their skin to be minimised. I introduce myself as Tsitsi now not Diana.  I wear colourful Afro-fusion inspired clothing, African batik and Chitenge, clothing that before I associated with the elderly women, and Nigerians. I keep my hair natural, promote African foods and language, educate myself and slowly get rid of my biases against all things African and accents.

I understand the sentiment of someone saying they don’t see colour, they only see me, but ultimately, I think it’s demeaning, because this colour shaped me and those like me. We are not colour blind so to say so is to try and silence me when I speak of my experiences, it ignores my reality, because well if in your head that reality does not exist then you don’t have to do anything about it. It means only when I separate myself from my blackness do I then get value. I want you to see my race and colour and see what it does for me and you, because only then can we redress imbalances.

The system needs to change

I’m saying a system was put in place ages ago to disenfranchise people with brown and black skin. That system is kept going when we do not change the cogs that were put in place to sustain it. When you tell a person to work harder to get where you are and yet you fail to recognise the extra hand society gives you and yet denies him. when you say you are pro equality but are against of policies that could make it more possible, such as reparations, affirmative action or law enforcement reform, all you do is lip service. So yes, I will be in your spaces, disturbing your peace by my presence, acting white at times to get in then revealing my Africaness to you. Call me coconut, Oreo, musalad, matters not. I will risk some of the privileges I have gained through luck, mentors, and sheer will in order to bring the same to everyone.

It’s not the case for everyone depending one’s own past experiences, little slights like this over time, can be a million mini razor cuts that bleed. So yes we are shocked if after a while you are surprised that we have lost so much blood and are bleeding to death, just because you deem the one cut you gave was not all that deep.

One day we will be treated the same, it’s not yet today. But I pray that day comes and I do my part to make that a reality. But there is hope, all this open dialogue is bearing fruit, which is exactly what we all need. And hopefully policies and systems will be put in place to redress imbalances and inequalities and discrimination.

I’ll wait for you…

There is this very talented artist by the name of Janette-Ikz ok I’m not sure if that’s her name because there are a lot of alliterations of her name “Mysterious Genetics = MissTerious Janette-Ikz” and her poem “I will wait for you” is phenomenal… I am going to learn it to use for our TOB rallies, talks and retreats because it is so powerful… all credit to Janette-Ikz of course  and the good Lord for blessing her with such awesome talent (words below ht)

I WILL WAIT FOR YOU” BY JANETTE IKZ

So it seemed that it was cool, for everyone to be in a relationship but me.
So I took matters into my own hands, and ended up with him.
Him who displayed the characteristics of a cheater, a liar, an abuser, & a thief. So why was I surprised when he broke into my heart?
I called 911, but I was cardiac arrested for aiding and abetting,
Cause it was me who let him in…
Claiming we were “just friends”.
It was already decided for me by the first date, that even if he wasn’t!
I was gonna make him ‘The One’
You know, I was tired of being alone.
And I simply made up in my mind, that it was about that time,
So I decided to drag him along for the ride,
Cause I was always the bridesmaid & never the bride.
A virgin in the physical, but mentally just a grown woman on the corner in heat!
Who was tired of the wait!
So I was gonna make him ‘The One’.
He had a… form of Godliness… but not much.
But hey, hey I can change him! So (honey) I’ll TAKE him, I mean he’s close… enough.
Ready to sell my aorta for a quarter, not knowing the value of its use to me.
Arties so clogged with my will, it blocked His will from flowing through me.
So, I thank Christ that His blood pressure gave this heart an attack,
That flatlined my obscured vision, put me flat on my back
Through my ignorance He sawed,
Through my sternum He sawed & cracked open my chest
To transplant Psalm 51:10
A new heart & a renewed right spirit within!
So now I fully understand,
Better yet I thoroughly comprehend,
How much I need to wait… for You.
See, the bad thing is that I knew he wasn’t you from the beginning..
Cause in the beginning was the Word
And he didn’t even sound or shine like Your Son
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,
And all he could whisper was sweet, empty nothings –
Which meant NOTHING.
He couldn’t even pray when I needed him to,
Asking him to fast would be absurd!
So forget about being cleansed & washed with water through the Word…
But I know You..
You were already praying for me.
Even never having met me,
Let me assure you, I will wait for you.
I will no longer date, socialize or communicate with carbon copies of you
To appease my boredom or to quench my thirstiness I have for attention
And short-lived compliments from ‘sorta kindas’.
You know….
He ‘sort kinda’ right, but ‘sorta kinda’ wrong?
His first name LUKE,
His last name WARM.
I, I won’t settle for false companionship
I won’t lay in the embrace of his arms,
Attempting to find some closeness,
But never feeling so far apart cause, I just wanna be held
Cause ”all I gotta do is Say” No!
No more ‘almost sessions’ of ‘almost coming close’
Passing winks & buying drinks,
I’ma, I’ma, I’ma flirt!
Who flirts with the ideology of,
‘Can you just tell me how much I can get away with & still be saved?’
NO more.
I’ll stay in my bed alone, and write poems, about how I will wait for you.
He won’t even come close,
Our fingers won’t even interlock
We won’t even exchange breath
Cause I have thoughts that I’ve ‘saved as’ in a file that God has only equipped you to open.
I will no longer get weighted down,
From so-called friends & family talks,
About the concern for my biological clock
When I serve the Author of Time.
Who is NOT subject to time,
But I’M subject to Him,
He has the ability to STOP, FAST FORWARD, PAUSE, or REWIND at any given time…
So if we could role play,
You would be Abraham & I would be Sara
Or you can be Isaac & I can be Rebecca – a servant’s answered prayer
I am bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh,
Made up of your rib Adam!
And once we meet, like electrons
I will be bound to your nucleus, completely indivisible atom.
We even speak the same math: 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, which really equals 1 if you add Him.
We were all created in His image,
But you have the ability to reflect, project & even detect the Son.
If I were to explain what you looked like,
You would have to look like a star,
A son of the Son..
I would gain energy simply from the light on me.
I would need you , in order to complete my photosynthesis
I await your revelation, but once again from the genesis, I will wait for you.
And I will know you… because when you speak I will be reminded of Solomon’s wisdom,
Your ability to lead will remind me of Moses,
Your faith will remind me of Abraham,
Your confidence in God’s Word will remind me of Daniel,
Your inspiration will remind me of Paul,
Your heart for God will remind me of David,
Your attention to detail will remind me of Noah,
Your integrity will remind me of Joseph,
And your ability to abandon your own will, will remind me of the disciples,
But your ability to love selflessly & unconditionally will remind me of Christ.
But I won’t need to identify you by any special Matthews or any special Marks,
Cause His word will be tatted all over your heart.
And you will know me, and you will find me,
Where… the boldness of Esther meets the warm closeness of Ruth.
Where the hospitality of Lydia is aligned with the submission of Mary,
Which is engulfed in the tears of a praying Hanna.
I will be the one, drenched in Proverbs 31… waiting for you.
But to my Father, my Father who has known me before I was birthed into this earth
Only if you should see fit…
I desire Your will above mine,
So even if you call me to a life of singleness,
My heart is content with YOU – the One who was sent.
YOU are the greatest love story ever told,
The greatest story ever known
You are forever my judge & I’m forever Your witness
And I pray that I’m always found on a mission about my Father’s business
Oh, I will always be Yours!
And I will always wait for You Lord, more than the watchmen wait for the morning
More than the watchmen wait for the morning…
I will wait.

TOB Tuesday: Meaning of Original Solitude

image_thumb9_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb Been a while ha? What with Easter Monday being a holiday and last Monday as well because of Workers day it’s been a while. And I had missed the one before that because of vigil dance practice, the things I do… sigh. Anyway, today was a good session and we discussed original solitude. Yes ‘tis still Monday but this will only get published tomorrow so ‘tis still TOB Tuesday post.

We are now in Chapter 5 of Man and Woman He Created Them which is all about the Meaning of Original Solitude. MA highlighted that we need to delve into and understand that there was solitude before there was unity… and why this is important. The unity part we kinda understand, so where does the solitude come from? “Moses allowed you to divorce … but in the beginning, it was not so…  we are still in the beginning. And in the beginning man and woman were not together… or were they? MA explained something I’m still finding a bit difficult to comprehend; that as told in the creation story “man” as in mankind was created, and man imaged God, but man was not male nor female… man was… man. Man was mankind and as such embodied both male and female sexuality not one or the other. So when ‘Adam’ is put to ‘sleep’ only after he awakens is he male and there too is now Eve, female. Note the quotes ‘Adam’ in quotes is generally ‘mankind’. Let’s explain.

So everyone put in quite a lot of info so this again is précis of all that was said. For the intention of a relationship, there needs to be two entities, we need at least another for a relationship to be possible. God is relational in that He is 3 persons. He created us in His image but we are not 3 persons in one. So how and when do we reflect God’s image? Always but more so and more perfectly when we are in unity, then we mirror the communion of three persons – a true reflection of God. “Let us create man in our own image” i.e “Let us create a communion of persons that reflects us” thus making man always relational. Thus ‘Adam’ was not just man but mankind. Through carrying out God’s commands to till the earth and name the animals ‘Adam’ reaches self-actualisation and realises that he is different from the animals and he longs for a deep communion with someone like himself (or should I say itself mmm).

In that solitude, Adam realises that he needed God. This is true for all mankind. In solitude we get closer to God, we ‘find’ God and begin to know ourselves better, we self-actualise. We realise that we are called to communion and relationship. So after the ‘sleep’, Adam is reawakened, in a sense ‘reborn’ as two, Isha and Ish, (Adam and Eve in the English translation). This name change is significant for only after the ‘split’ the creation of woman from the rib is there male and female. The maleness and femaleness of ‘man’ is only evident after the creation of Ish. As man we only complete each other through the definition of our sexuality, that is mankind has sexuality and one cannot be without the other, both are needed for there to be mankind. Then we began wondering so was ‘Adam’ not a perfect creation, if he was humanity why did he need to split into male and female, and did God not know this as he created Adam, or He did and …

And what about free will is it truly free if God knows what is going to happen and it’s a plan He has set in motion… how’s a plan free will and…? yeah we digressed… but we did come to some important points. Like the bible shows us the reasons such as it is not good for man to be alone we need communion with each other. It does not show us the ‘thought processes’ of God as such.  Free will is not about God laying His plan and we having to conform, for we sure can go astray. It’s about us making a choice for the good, a choice to love. A choice. And this ‘splitting’ of Adam (mmm beginning to sound a bit schizoid) is the introduction of choice. The beginning of free will for then man began to choose to love, to choose to complete a perfect union of giving and receiving thus truly reflecting God.  Truly reflecting and sharing in love…for love ain’t love till ‘tis chosen freely right?

MA explained that the call to evangelise is the call to reflect God in our lives so that people can say gee-whiz because we will be reflecting ultimate love. MdK gave a simple analogy I loved. See God as a teacher and ourselves as little kids and His pupils. As a teacher, He knows what we need to do in order to pass, i.e. to study, to concentrate, to attend lessons, but He cant do it for us. As a diligent teacher, He will give you all the help you need, the tutorials, the prompting, use techniques to make you see and understand why it is better for you to work towards passing. But the work still has to be done by me. Just because He can see that you are going to fail does not mean He will pass you regardless. It will hurt when He sees you wasting time and throwing away your books but He will continually keep showing you the right way.

So it is in life, the Lord puts all sorts of cues for us to be reminded of our path and of His will. And that path leads to ultimate joy when we align our ‘free will’ with His ‘divine will’. MA then gave this titbit from Christopher West, that when we think of Adam and Eve, think of their perfect relationship with God before the fall which mirrors the perfect love of God. ‘Adam’ was created for a perfect relationship. That is mankind was FIRST created for relationship THEN for conjugal union. God created relationships as a communion of persons before ‘male and female’ were in being. Therefore when people talk of sex before marriage being a non-issue or being for pleasure alone, remember this: we were created for relationship and communion before sex, so let our relationships follow the same path, great relationship and friendship before conjugal relations.

Adios… for now