Posted in Blog, Mental Health

I’m a Pro-Black Rock Chick; Why Is That A Hard Concept to Grasp?

I grew up listening to rock and indie music, not because I grew up in a white centric environment, but because it was the music I grew up with and resonated with my own narrative. My father loved rock music and most of my favourite bands now are many of his own favourite bands. I even have some of his old LPs which I managed to salvage from the collection my mum threw out after he left.

 

When I suffered from bullying because of racism last year, I was extremely conflicted by my music choices. For the first time in my life, I began listening to hip hop music; for the first time in my life, I realised that white men like Thom Yorke and Robert Smith were not the same colour as me and probably didn’t care about me, perhaps didn’t even care about racism and what fans like me were going through as a young Black woman. As you’re reading this, if you’re white you’re probably saying/thinking

 

“what does race have to do with it?”

 

“why does it matter that I am a different colour to these bands? Or from a different culture?”

 

Well it does. Especially when you are constantly being abused for the colour of your skin and told that you don’t belong.

 

I say this time and time again and I will forever say it: Kendrick Lamar literally saved my life last year.

IMG_20180622_163026

One of my tattoos (The Blacker The Berry, by Kendrick Lamar)

 

I had always been a fan, but I had never really sat down and listened to his lyrics, until I went through what I went through last year; he spoke to me in a way a musician had NEVER spoken to me before; he allowed me to be unashamedly angry for the first time in my life. Another rapper I find similar to Kendrick so resonated with is Open Mike Eagle: he also speaks about violence against the black community and how his perceptions of blackness have developed from childhood to adulthood. I love him because he’s a great storyteller as well as visual artist. I never knew that hip hop could do this, probably because I’d never given it the chance; throughout my childhood, my mother had always told me that Tupac was just a thug, until last year I discovered he was a better poet than any of the classics I’d taught as an English teacher.

 

For many months, I stopped listening to rock music, and invested my time into hip hop, because these were people who looked like me and could see where I was coming from.  However, recently I’ve now found a good balance where I can still enjoy my rock and indie music, while also embracing hip hop (old and new), so essentially marrying the new me with the old me, and while my black comrades have finally fully embraced this, because they can still see that I’m a pro-black woman who just fucking loves music from different genres, many white people – including my girlfriend – find it difficult to wrap their heads around this concept. I’ve been accused by white people of giving them a free pass for racism because I listen to “white music”; that I’ve forgiven white people for the racial torture they frequently put me, and my brothers and sisters through, just because I’ve started listening to The Cure again and am currently obsessing over DIIV (both white rock bands). Listening to rock music, also doesn’t mean that I’m going to visit some white artist at the Tate (Jenny Holzer), just because she thinks her anti-patriarchal art is progressive, when she refuses to acknowledge intersectionality in her “progressive” feminist pieces.

 

WTF?

 

Listening to rock music doesn’t make me any less pro-black; it doesn’t change the fact that I think that all white people are born with racial biases and many are unwilling to accept that they are born with privilege. In fact, I find it beautifully ironic that every day as I walk through the streets of North West London, I am being judged for the colour of my skin and sometimes verbally and physically abused, whilst listening to Led Zepplin or Roxy Music on my phone through headphones. Which is why when white people say to me “colour doesn’t matter” well actually it does because white people perceive me as lower and “other” just because of the colour of my skin and furthermore, I AM FUCKING DIFFERENT TO YOU so have some respect for my skin colour and culture by recognising that. However, the irony of othering me while I’m listening to the bands you also may like, is that we still have things in common which most white people refuse to acknowledge.

 

I cannot change who I am, God knows I’ve tried. However, the point I’ve now come to is that I am no longer ashamed of who I am. I’ll always be a rock chick, but I’ll also always be pro-black.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Racism At Work – Competition with Other People of Colour (The Effects of White Supremacy)

Black women at work

(Image source)

Yesterday I went to my second Racism At Work session. The group is led by a Black Clinical Psychologist who specialises in racial trauma. I signed up because I was still suffering from the effects of the racial trauma I experienced with my previous employer, which had left me bedridden from epileptic seizures and mental health issues triggered by the racism. The effects of the racial trauma also left me with a phobia of going back to work.

Thankfully, I’m back in work part-time now, but it’s with an agency, not only because it allows flexibility whilst I finish my MSc, but also because it allows me the freedom I need as a Black disabled woman. While employed with the agency, I don’t have to be bound to a contract with one employer; If I go to one place and hate it, I can just call the agency to tell them so that they don’t send me back.

The best thing about this support group, is being amongst a group of British BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) people, who have suffered very similar experiences to me in the workplace; who have suffered such racial trauma at work, that they have been left psychologically scarred for life. Like myself. As difficult at the sessions are, I find it incredibly comforting to be in a group of people who are pretty much strangers, yet they get me, and what I’ve been through and what I am still going through.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I came to be at “Jule’s House of Pain” (my previous employer), posing questions to myself like,

 

why did I think that I could work in an almost all-white staffed school?

 

Other than one Black media teacher and one Black teaching assistant, I was the only employee of colour at this school. I was the only person of colour in the English department. Prior to this, I’d worked in a Secondary school in Hackney for two years, where I was one of many people of colour amongst the staff. My line manager was also a Black British Caribbean woman, who was older than me. At the beginning, our relationship was amazing; She was like a second mother to me, she knew all about the deterioration of my relationship with my own mother and was incredibly supportive. She even let me take on extra responsibilities regardless of my disability and I was the only teaching assistant in the school who was also teaching lessons solo. However, when I decided in the second year of my employment to apply for teacher training in another school, our relationship deteriorated. I’d applied to train in that school the previous year, but my application had been rejected by the mostly white senior leadership team. At first they said that they hadn’t received it (even though I’d had confirmation after submitting the application through UCAS), then after making me wait for so long, they finally rejected my application, claiming that it was because of my lower second-class degree (even though in their application guidelines, they’d said that they would accept and consider applicants with a 2.2). The Head of the English department said that she had fought for me, however the Head Teacher has refused to consider my application. My Line Manager didn’t say anything until the following year when I told her that I was applying again, but to different schools; she told me that I’d been rejected the previous year because of my epilepsy and soon began to divulge apparent murmurings amongst the Senior Leadership Team that I was a burden to the department because of my epilepsy and wasn’t fulfilling my job description… even though I was still working as an Unqualified Teacher at the point, while still only being paid at a Teaching Assistant rate.

The reason why I bring this up, is because in the group yesterday we were discussing toxic relationships at work with other women of colour, who appear to be threatened by the competition they perceive between us as two women of colour and become pawns in the “game” of white supremacy and institutionalised racism, by enacting the behaviour a white oppressor would usually display towards us.

My Line Manager didn’t have to tell me “everything that was apparently being said about me”. She only did it to bring me down, because I had become confident in my role – confident enough to spread my wings to another school even. She was acting like I was gunning for her role, but all I wanted to do was teach! And in a different department! In the grievance, I even put everything that my line manager had told me was being said about me – even by the Head Teacher – and was told that it was all categorically lies. But it’s difficult to know who to believe in a situation like that.

I began to realise that if it wasn’t for this manager, I would never have rushed to “Jule’s House of Pain” to do my teacher training. I was just so desperate to get away from her, that I took the first school that offered me a job. Most of the Senior Leadership Team were leaving during my second year, including the Head Teacher, and the teacher who was taking her place was always supportive of my work. With her and the Head of English looking at my teaching application, I may have had a second-chance. In fact, when I had to ask her to write my Teacher Training reference (she began her role during the last term of my employment), she was disappointed that I wasn’t staying with them to do it at her school. She asked me why I hadn’t applied to train there and by this point, it was almost the end of my employment at the school and I felt like I had nothing to lose by telling the truth, so I did:

 

I was told that my application last year was rejected because of my epilepsy, so I felt like I had no choice but to go to another school.

 

She responded:

 

We would’ve accepted your application now that I’m Head Teacher. We need teachers like you here.

 

By the end of my time at the school, I’d had to file a grievance against my line manager and was moved to the English Department until the end of the school year. But, even being in a different department was difficult because she was still in the school and still talking about me to staff.

 

The irony is that, my Line Manager handed in her resignation after I did. I wouldn’t have had to deal with her anymore. I could’ve stayed in a multi-culturally-staffed school, if it wasn’t for her. When this suddenly dawned on me last night, it broke me, because it brought back all of the trauma I had suffered during my teacher training year. Had it not been for that Line Manager in my previous school, I might have been saved from such trauma. Having to reconcile that although white supremacy played a big part in this game, a Black woman had played a huge part in the demise of my career as well as my mental health, is a difficult pill to swallow. But this is what competition will do, especially when we’re playing the game of the white man. Some of us are so desperate for approval and acceptance from white people, that we will trample over our own people to get it. It’s historical – As slaves, Black people were encouraged to compete for favour from their White slave owners; within families, women in particular fight for the attention and favour of their mothers –  and clearly some of us are unwilling to break the generation pattern. Psychologically, unless we make the decision to break that bondage we could all still fall prey to the orders of the white man. Even if they aren’t explicitly telling us to fight each other, we can still implicitly hear the orders because that’s how institutionalised racism works and the closer you are to your white colleagues or managers, the closer you believe yourself to be to the power that they hold, which of course isn’t true. 

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Saving Myself

I told my mum a few home truths on Monday over the phone and now I think that she is deliberately sabotaging a reunion between myself and my sister to spite me, or both of us. Not really sure.

I was going to call the house later that evening (because I don’t have my sister’s mobile number but she still lives at my mum’s house), and I asked my mum to let my sister pick up the phone, just so I could ask how she is. At first my mum didn’t want to help but I begged her so she finally agreed. Plus the reason why I was doing this is because she’d told me that my sister is hurting because she misses me so much. 

Then about half an hour before I was planning to call, my mum sent me a message saying that she had told my sister about our plan and my sister said that it wasn’t a good time to talk right now because she had too much on right now.

Giphy

My mum wasn’t supposed to tell my sister that I was going to call. And every single time that I try to reconnect with my sister, I’m told that it’s a bad time because she has too much to deal with right now.

So what? Do I not have shit going on in my life too? Yet I was willing to put all grudges aside, forgive and forget and try to re-establish a relationship with my sister because I miss her and still care about her.

But once again, my mother couldn’t be a parent, she had to be the child that she is and sabotage that. The woman is a joke. 

So let us reflect on what it was I was willing to forgive and forget about, just to muster up the courage to make that phone call on Monday evening: Three years ago, my sister told me that I was faking my seizures for attention, and that I was too much of a burden and she couldn’t deal with me. She also lied about the fact that she hadn’t been returning my calls or messages for weeks. But then after saying all of that, she then expected me to turn the other cheek, she acted like nothing had happened, that she hadn’t broken my heart.

But I wasn’t going to be a doormat anymore; I’d always let my sister get away with treating me like shit because I was not only petrified of losing my best friend. I also didn’t want us to end up like my mum and her sister who don’t talk and hate each other’s guts. So every single time we’d had a fight, I would force myself to be the bigger person and reconcile. However this time I wasn’t going to take her shit, nor my mum’s, so I told them that I needed a “time out” to think about things. I never told them this, but I wanted to re-evaluate my place within a family I’d never felt part of. So I returned back to my home in London and didn’t make contact with either of them for a couple of weeks (which wouldn’t have made any difference to my sister, because as I said before, she hadn’t been returning my calls or messages anyway).

Now, when they retell this story to family friends – particularly my Aunt (my surrogate mum), they tell the story without mentioning that I was bullied out of the family and therefore needed time away. Instead, they tell anybody who will listen that I was getting too big for my boots now that I was living in London and no longer wanted to associate myself with them.

On the phone on Monday, my mum screamed to me that I was the one who left them, when I went to University in 2004 and that I was responsible for going away all those years ago and breaking the family apart. How manipulative must you be to be a mother who holds a grudge against her own daughter for going away to University? And to hold that grudge for 14 years? 

Giphy

She also doesn’t tell people that although she was fine with my sister being in a long-term relationship for so many years, while I was still living with her and my sister and I began dating my ex (which was my first serious relationship), she told me that she was jealous of me and wished it was her instead.

She even said that it wasn’t fair, when would it be her time? 

While I was living at home she used to charge me more rent than my sister, even though my sister earned more money than me, which was the final straw for me when I realised that all those years I’d been living at home to help my mum out, she was actually just using me as a cash cow to stop me from growing up and leaving the nest.

She doesn’t tell people that she told me I was too damaged to be loved; and she denies (even to this day) that she blamed my Epilepsy on me and told me that my love for horror films had opened the door to demon possession.

When I told her that I had started to remember what my dad had done to me and had to confess that I’d lied when I told her that nothing had happened to me, she refused to listen and told me that nothing had happened to me – the devil was playing tricks with my mind. In fact, when I then went to try and talk to my sister, instead of her showing empathy, her response was:

Why did he do it to you and not me? 

I also think that my mum actually blames me for the abuse, because she cannot fathom that the man that she loved could do such a thing, so instead of acknowledging that man she once loved was truly a monster (he abused her too), she seems to feel more comfortable with seeing her child as the devil instead.

In regards to my relationship with my sister, my mum denies that she ever used to play my sister and I against each other  just like her mother used to do with her and her little sister – and whenever we fell out, she would be the one in the middle playing Devil’s Advocate and stirring the pot, instead of being a mother and helping us to sort out our differences. She also constantly used to tell me that my sister was jealous of me.

Giphy

They think that I look down on them, because I’m more educated than them, when in actual fact even though they were my oppressors, up until three/four years ago, I used to worship them and would’ve taken a bullet for either of them, especially my sister.

My mum and I were actually supposed to finally meet up for the first time in three years tomorrow, but I cancelled after what happened on Monday because I don’t want to see her and I told her to not bother to call me until she can be a mother instead of a petulant child. I haven’t heard from her since, but I’m sure I’ll get a voicemail in a couple of weeks where she begs for forgiveness. Again.

This week I’ve had  all of this to deal with, while keeping on top of my module deadlines and thankfully, regardless of crying myself to sleep two nights in a row and barely actually getting any sleep, not only have I managed to make all of my deadlines to finish the module on time (#win), I’ve also managed to ensure that my anger and heartbreak hasn’t triggered any seizures, which I am particularly thankful for. I have yoga and mindfulness to thank for this – even after everything that happened on Monday, I still went to my yoga class, which gave me an opportunity to focus my energies on myself as opposed to people who constantly hurt me. Yoga is also a great opportunity to be kind to yourself and to be thankful to yourself for taking that time out for self-care, which was desperately needed this week. 

I also have to thank my girlfriend, who let me sob on her on Monday evening and let me wallow in my silent moments of reflection yesterday evening, as I ponder what on earth I did in a past life to deserve such a family. 

I bet not once, did my sister and mother stop to think what impact this would have on my Epilepsy. Because they never do. And I share my story not only to vent about my family, but to also encourage other young women like me, who have struggled with psychologically abusive family members (especially mothers), to not be afraid of standing up for ourselves, and to protect what we have built for ourselves and not let toxic family members destroy our empires.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Eugenics

The US created Feeblemindedness – a medical diagnosis that meant mentally deficient, stupid or foolish (Laureate, 2016).

I’m going to say something extremely controversial here: but as much as I love my mother, I find her to be weak and incredibly feebleminded.

She’s not weak because she was in an abusive relationship, (big-up Kelis for saying this recently. I should’ve known Nas was a prick).

Giphy

Thanks to therapy, I also no longer think that my mother is weak for having not protected me as a child.

What I do see in her, is a lack of ability to think for herself. She’s incredibly naive and stupid, very easily misled too – particularly by Religion. If I think morbidly about it, had my parents had met during the 1920s in the US, or had we been governed by a totalitarian regime, my sister and I might never have been born, because both of my parents may have been deemed unfit to breed (my father was poorly educated also), and so would’ve been sterilised.

I’ve spoken before about how my mother’s opinions are often misinformed due to Religion – particularly when it comes to science and medicine. But now it gets worse: a couple of weeks ago I found out that she’s a Trump supporter, because her church are teaching that Trump has been sent from God to free Israel and restore it to its pride of place, fulfilling the prophecies of the book of Revelation. Thus as a leader appointed by God, Trump should be supported and tolerated.

Giphy

Thankfully, eugenics is illegal because clearly I prove that feeblemindedness isn’t a genetic trait, however I was shocked to hear that the person who created me could really be so stupid. In case you don’t know, Trump is also best pals with the Israeli Prime Minister, whose government ordered for Jewish Ethiopian immigrant women to be sterilised against their will (and consent). Trump is also a fascist, misogynistic prick who believes that white Americans are the ultimate superior race, and whose policies dehumanise every person of colour in his country.

I initially thought that I had misheard her when she said she liked Donald Trump and his “cheeky face” (yes she did say that about the President of the United States). Initially we had been bitching about Theresa May and discussing the latest on the Windrush scandal, when my mum said:

“and she’s supposed to be a Christian, shame on her”,

to which I snorted and replied: “well, so is Trump”. However, she very quickly defended him and wouldn’t hear a bad word said against him.

It was incredibly unsettling.

It’s still not sitting right in my stomach – in fact, I feel sick just thinking about the conversation again. And even though we’ve spoken about it since, she still won’t back down from the teachings from her Church, regardless of Trump’s actions as a Leader of “the Free World”.

I want to know what my sister thinks about this, because surely she cannot be as stupid?

My girlfriend said to me that I cannot judge my mother and cut ties with her, just because we have opposing political views, however this is way more than that.

So much more.

She also proves to be feebleminded when it comes to parenting. She’s never been capable of raising me, lacks initiative and drive, perceives having “stuck around for my sister and I while my dad was the one who abandoned us” as a fucking obligation as opposed to her job as a mother, and seeks constant approval (like a child) for having done such a poor job of raising me in particular, when I as the child (regardless of what age I am) am desperately seeking love and approval from a mother who is incapable to giving that – especially to me.
What irks me the most about this, is it’s the older generation (that includes you, Kanye – 300 years of slavery was a choice? Screw you) fucking up yet again, leaving us (the educated, younger generation) to clean up the fucking mess. Thankfully feeblemindedness isn’t genetic, and thus also thankfully eugenics is illegal, otherwise the race would’ve been euthanised and we wouldn’t have the fabulous, Black intelligent people of my generation and the next, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not mentally affected by the sins of our parents. 

 

References

University of Liverpool, Laureate Online Education. (2016). “Week 5: Abilities: Theories, Structure and Measurement of Intelligence” Lecture Notes, Personality, Individual Differences and Intelligence Module.

Retrieved from: https://elearning.uol.ohecampus.com/bbcswebdav/institution/UKL1/201840MAR/MS_LPSY/LPSY_316/readings/UKL1_LPSY_316_Week05_LectureNotes.pdf

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Exhausted

I am exhausted.

Being an introvert, although I do love to socialise, I find interaction with the outside world exhausting, which is a big part of the reason why I chose to do an MSc online as opposed to in a University with a building, where I would be forced to engage with people in real life. For me, there is nothing more indulgent than putting off my morning shower for as long as possible, so that I can sit in my PJs while I read a chapter for my latest assignment.

And I do love socialising, especially with the people I love, but it does drain me. Last night for instance, I went to Kent to visit my surrogate family – my Auntie (my mum’s best friend who is like a second mother to me), her husband, their daughter and nieces. I brought my girlfriend with me too and this was the first time they’d met her and it was also the first time I’d seen them all in almost a year. I love spending time with them – especially my Aunt. She and I have a very similar sense of humour and although she’s known me since I was 14, I think we’ve actually only really gotten to know each other properly over the last two or three years, when I moved to London and stopped talking to my mother and sister. Even though she was still my mum’s best friend and she loved my sister just as much as me, she never turned her back on me and I love her so much more for that. As a teenager she was also the only person who I could truly be myself with: withdrawn and broken, and it’s only recently that I found out that she’d been advocating on my behalf to my mother to renegotiate a proper relationship with me over the years, because she could see how burdened I was by the unhealthy and unbalanced relationship my mother and I had.

So seeing them wasn’t the exhausting part; It was the catching up, and filling in on the latest on my new relationship with my mother and the still broken relationship with my sister who still refuses to speak to me for so many unknown reasons, and trying to decipher why my mother is the way that she is… that was exhausting. I spoke to my mother just yesterday afternoon actually, because I was upset about something and needed my mum, but then I told her that I was going to see my Aunt in the evening and let slip that the last time I’d seen my Aunt was at her daughter’s birthday party last year, so I was really excited to catch up with her. Awkward silence, then my mum said:

Oh. You were there? 

I’d completely forgotten that my mother probably wasn’t invited because at the time we still weren’t talking and my Aunt wanted to see me so invited me over my mum. Plus we were meeting up without her again last night. Then I ended up leaving a conversation I’d initially started to make myself feel better by coming away feeling almost just as shitty, because my mum was clearly upset and I’d probably gotten my Aunt in the doghouse with her.

I told my Aunt about the conversation and she reassured me that it was fine, that it was just one of those things that my mum will have to get over. Plus my mum doesn’t hold claim over my Aunt. In fact, I probably have a closer relationship with her than I do with my mum, but I know my mum and I think she’ll hold this against me. In her mind, I forced her best friend to choose between her and me and and her best friend chose me.

My mum and I are meeting up next Thursday… it will be the first time we’ve seen each other in almost three years. It was a meeting I had to initiate because my mother lacks initiative even when it comes to her own children. This is what exhausts me the most and having to constantly explain this bizarre relationship that we have, where I’m now coaching my own mother on how to actually be a mother. When I asked her why she hadn’t yet suggested to meet up, considering we’ve been talking for a couple of months now, her response was:

Well I was waiting on you. 

I need my mum to prove herself to me, which she knows, but she’s sitting pretty waiting on ME to initiate our first meeting.

Thanks mum. Way to prove yourself there.

So my point of this story is that as an introvert, socialising is exhausting enough, without having to constantly drag around the baggage of my family.

My cousin and I now have a rule that when we call each other to catch up, we will no longer speak about our fucked up extended family and I think it’s brilliant, because we can focus on not only catching up but strengthening our sisterly relationship and getting to know each other deeper as well as having fun. I think this might have to be a rule that I bring in to other relationships too, because as much fin as I did have last night, where on the car ride home I was so happy I was singing at the top of my voice with my girlfriend sitting in the driver’s seat next to me (I never sing properly in front of people, I have intense stage fright), this morning I woke up feeling emotionally like I’d gone ten rounds in a boxing ring while having multiple seizures at the same time.

Sometimes it is good talk, but I’m now starting to realise that you don’t necessarily need to talk about all things, all of the time.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Getting Myself Into Twitter Trouble (again!)

So I got myself into a feud on Twitter earlier today, because I was defending a thread about abuse in Black households and the majority hated the tweeter and the thread because not only did they perceive it to be anti-Black; they didn’t believe that there are Black abusive households because they never experienced it.

To say such a thing is so stupid, that I likened it to white people saying that racism doesn’t exist because they don’t experience it. I fight with white people online every day, I don’t expect to be fighting with brothers and sisters too. But when it comes to speaking openly about childhood abuse (sexual, physical and psychological), I will fight to the death because of the impacts this has upon mental health.

Domestic abuse and sexual abuse happens in all homes, regardless of colour, but the issue with Black families is that we refuse to let victims/ survivers speak about it. Black women in DV relationships are called anti-Black and seen as betraying the culture if they go to the “White police” to report crimes against their partners; Black girls are also very often sexualised from very young ages and victim-blamed when they are abused. Many adult women – including myself – are forced to continue to suffer sexual abuse in silence, which has detrimental impacts upon our mental health and perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.

So when I see Black people denying my experiences, just because they (a) never experienced it themselves and (b) call people like me anti-Black for openly talking about my abusive childhood, it pisses me off.

So some people were not only trolling the girl who created the thread, they were also gloating about their unblemished childhoods to compare to ours in order to prove that our experiences never happened. Now I’m all for celebrating good parenting, especially within our community, however there is a time and a place for this… and this fucking wasn’t it. Plus the fact that she also made clear that this wasn’t relevant to all Black households, was completely ignored because apparently she added that part a day later. But so what? Any intelligent person reading the thread knew that it was implied.

There were a few supporters, however I confronted one person I follow, because she came across particularly as antagonist and antipathetic.

She then not only refused to see the issue from my perspective, she also tried to antagonise me, before eventually blocking me when she realised that I wasn’t going to rise to the bait.

As I said, instead of engaging in conversation, she tried to antagonise me. This woman is Mikki Kendall and I once followed her because she claims to be a Black feminist. But denying Black women the right to speak openly about the abuse they have suffered is anti-feminist as well as anti-Black. It is not anti-Black to say that our community is flawed, particularly when survivors like me are actually actively working to change those flaws by sharing our experiences and changing mindsets. And to block me just for disagreeing with your point of view is childish and ignorant:

I would imagine these are the same women who tell R Kelly’s victims to keep their mouths shut, because speaking badly about Black men in open spaces is anti-Black which is absolute bollocks.

Telling victims to shut up is also provoking further trauma to victims, which makes you just as bad as the perpetrators.

I can’t find the original thread now – unfortunately I forgot to retweet it while I was too busy defending the creator of the thread against the trolls, but to the girl who spoke up, WELL DONE, you’re a fucking legend and I stand by you 🖤 I hope you find healing as you continue on your journey and keep speaking up baby girl!

To the haters, keep your ignorant mouths shut until you educate yourself.

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

The “Aggressive” Black Woman Label (Essay)

 

When we focus our discussions on sexism and racism, targets of sexism tend to focus on white women, and targets of racism tend to focus on Black men, while women of colour get forgotten about.

 

As a Black woman having grown up around white-centric environments, growing up, I was always described as shy, soft-spoken, reserved and quiet but then in my late twenties, when I began to embrace my Black culture, I was subjected to negative stereotyping in many different areas of my life.

It wasn’t until my negative Teacher Training experience last year, that I was ever described by anybody as “aggressive” for the first time. This was also the first time that I was seen as a Black woman. I was shocked. My Black friends were bewildered because I was the quietest in the group. However, as only one of two Black teachers in the very white comprehensive school, this was not just about the colour of my skin. This was also about my actions: speaking up for myself and for my Black pupils who were being unfairly targeted. However, my employers thought otherwise and quickly labelled me as “aggressive” for speaking “out of turn”.

 

The second time I was called “aggressive” was shortly afterwards, in a mental health Facebook group, when somebody referred to the Grenfell fire as “just a fire”. The initial complaint came from one white woman who was asking for sympathy, because the media coverage a month after the tragedy was still too overwhelming. In response another white woman said: “remember it was just a fire”. As a Black woman from London, I was shocked that people from outside London could refer to such a tragedy in my hometown so carelessly and flippantly. While a community was (and still is) grieving and my city was raging you’re asking for sympathy, because you’re incapable of basic empathy? I remember my words explicitly: “I implore of you, please don’t refer to it as ‘just a fire’”, before I was ganged up against by the entire group and labelled as “aggressive” for daring to so insensitively call out the person who had made the comment.

I have Epilepsy and would talk openly about the negative side-effects of anti-epileptic drugs, as well as what it’s like to live life as a Black woman with Epilepsy. However, the more I’ve been reading into Epilepsy research, the more it has become apparent just how racist empirical research is — in fact, most of the medical studies do not contain any people of colour whatsoever. And now that I am making this racism known as part of my campaigning, other campaigners are labelling me as “aggressive”.

 

Wendy Ashley explains the stereotype of the “angry Black woman” as a characterisation of “ignorant without provocation” (Ashley, 2014, DOI: 10.1080/19371918.2011.619449). However, in all of my examples you can be assured that I was never ignorant, and I was definitely provoked. One thing my Teacher Training experience opened my eyes to was to explore the question: why are Black women never permitted the freedom to display anger as a valid expression of emotion? We are constantly forced to police our emotions, for fear of not slipping into that “angry Black woman stereotype”. Even Serena Williams throughout her career, has been consistently labelled as aggressive, even though she is retaliating (with class I must add) to constant racial macrogressions and aggressive provocations.

 

If you’ve been hurt, and somebody has caused you pain, you have every right to be angry! Just like any other woman of any other colour, girl!

 

So where does this stereotype even come from?

 

In light of not so recent events where Serena Williams was also labelled as aggressive by the media, Black women are suffering this every day where they are subjected to negative stereotyping, while juxtaposed with invisibility – particularly in the workplace.

Unfortunately, as Black women we struggle to be heard and struggle to be visible, due to being “intersectionally disabled” (Purdie-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008, DOI/10.1177/1368430216663017). Research also describes “angry Black women” typically being “aggressive, unfeminine, undesirable, overbearing, attitudinal, bitter, mean, and hell raising” (Malveaux, 1989; Morgan & Bennett, 2006, DOI/10.1080/19371918.2011.619449). This is of course in direct comparison to our white cis female counterparts, who are perceived socially as fair, more feminine, less-aggressive and therefore more desirable.

 

Having a strong sense of self is equally perceived as aggressive and threatening: So many women struggle with their self-image and self-constructs, that Black women who are perceived to have a handle on theirs (even when we don’t!) may be misunderstood by their peers to be aggressive. However, the concept of the confident Black woman is a phenomenon that has become more widespread — particularly in UK, mostly thanks to social media, which millenial Black women are wholeheartedly embracing: the Slumflower instigated the #saggyboobsmatter movement and is also empowering women to embrace their gut feelings. Unfortunately, people still perceive these drives towards positive mindsets as aggressive.

 

I have just finished reading Americanah (2014) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In it, Aunty Uju says: “These [white] people make you aggressive just to hold your dignity”, which is always my response when provoked. I feel like I’m being put onto a stage against my will and the audience are hurling abusive insults at me, just waiting for my reaction.

This relates to Personality Theory: there, behavioral tendency refers to the way an individual prefers to act, heavily influenced by the individual’s preferred thought process, the current situation, the current available resources, and the authority the person currently has. Using this, we are constantly proven not to be aggressive in many situations we are forced into:

Black women reported that, like me, they were forced to encounter negative race-based stereotypes in the workplace on a regular basis (Catalyst, 2004, DOI 10.1177/0894845308325645). Another study was able to make correlations between experiences of negative race-based stereotypes for Black women in employment and historical misogynoir:

Thus, Black women are forced to contend with many negative racial stereotypes, which can obstruct their professional lives and connections with others in the workplace. Historical stereotypical images—such as the caretaker Mammy, the loud-talking Sapphire, and the seductive Jezebel—in addition to emerging images, such as the unstable Crazy Black Bitch (CBB) and the constant overachieving Superwoman, may affect Black women’s professional goals, work relationships, and overall organizational experiences” (Reynolds-Dobbs et al, 2008, p.130-131, DOI, 10.1177/0894845308325645).

 

So, sometimes it simply doesn’t matter how much of a “workface” we put on, how much overtime we put in—due to the overpowering negative history of the “angry Black woman” stereotype, for us the glass ceiling is still significantly lower.

 

Social theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw reminds us that the law does not recognise intersectionality and therefore, as Black women we cannot look to the law as our saviour.

 

Unfortunately as a Black woman, you just have to be your own.

 

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

The Problem With Colourism (and Light-Skinned Women)

Once again Black women have been thrown under the bus, by lighter-skinned women as well as men.

DJ Maya Jama is mixed-race and at the age of 18, posted a tweet where she had repeated an offensive joke by comedian Kevin Hart. Why light-skinned women feel it is necessary to berate their darker peers is beyond me and reasons are constantly up for debate: they’re jealous of us and suffer from insecurity issues; they want to put us in our place which is at the bottom rung of society.

I don’t really care. I just want it stopped.

On my timeline, Stefflon Don was the first to open her mouth against dark skinned women:

“All you dark-skinned hating on light skin bitches like if God gave you a choice you wouldn’t change your colour lool…” 

This was said in a tweet. At first she denied even saying it, instead of having the balls to own up. She then deleted the tweet. Instead of admitting that (a) what she’d said was wrong and (b) that although it may have been something she thought before, as a Black woman now she definitely no longer thinks that way, she just tried to pretend that it didn’t happen. I remember Stefflon Don being on my list of gigs to go to on the “Song Kick” app, however after that comment and behaviour, she’s been cancelled for life.

So back to Maya Jama:

Screenshot_20180421-124746

The joke was originally told by Kevin Hart (who’s a dickhead anyway), however Maya thought it was so funny – especially being light-skinned herself – that she had to share it on Twitter. Her apology once the tweet was exposed was also a joke, in mine as well as many others’ opinion, because instead of apologising specifically to the women she had offended – dark-skinned women – she apologised for offending ALL women, because in her subconscious she wasn’t sorry at all. In fact, she still stands by the view that as a light-skinned woman, she is superior to her peers of a darker tone.

She later rewrote an apology:

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 17.21.04

 

This is clearly directed at the appropriate audience and appeared to demonstrate an understanding of not just the consequences of repeating such views, but also a hint of an understanding of the historical context (particularly colonialism). But by then, she had enraged so many of us, that the apology was too little too late.

What fucked me off the most, was the behaviour of Black men on social media, who attacked Black women for having an opinion, for being offended and for standing up for ourselves. I, myself was targeted by incredibly ignorant Black men, who clearly did not understand colourism. Black women of a darker complexion are perceived as the uglier, aggressive, non-feminine species of the community, while lighter-skinned women who can pass for white and therefore carry a privilege over their darker-skinned peers are perceived as more attractive and therefore, more feminine. This is a negative ideology which began in slavery and continued in colonialism. For years, darker-skinned women have been subjected to violence and cruelty, not only from outside of our community from white people, but also from Black men. This has had detrimental effects upon the mental health of Black women too, which for years has also gone unregarded.

And now we’re owning our dark skin, and embracing our beauty, Black men in particularly do NOT like it.

For years, as Black women, we have also been instructed to police our pain and emotions. When derogative comments like these are made and we come out fighting, (defending ourselves and showing valid emotions to racial provocation), we are accused of being trolls (again, not a pretty association!) Colourism is a sub-category of racism, and it is damaging and oppressive. Yet it continues because light-skinned women continue to repeat the negative narrative.

The lie that dark-skinned women are jealous of our lighter-skinned peers also needs to end. WE ARE NOT. You may have made us feel inferior when we were younger – so much so, that we did want to be like you so that boys would find us more attractive, so that we could gain the privileges you all got as children (and still do), you even made some of us want to kill ourselves, because you made us feel so ugly. However, the narrative has changed. We are who are and we fucking love it. So fuck off and leave us alone.

My final point on Maya Jama, is that although the original tweet was written when she was eighteen years old, she apparently has said things on Twitter where she has compared dark-skinned women to shadows, and although I haven’t seen these tweets, I believe they exist and I not going to go stalking through her timeline to find them. As I previously mentioned, the lack of remorse in her original apology, proved what was going on in her subconscious. How we truly feel and want to act resides within the unconscious, which then influences our behaviour; the thoughts that reside within the unconscious are inappropriate and illogical, and demand instant satisfaction and as we become age, we are supposed to learn to control these impulses. Acting out and then apologising afterwards isn’t good enough.

I didn’t really rate Jama before – all I knew previous to this, was that she was a DJ and dating Stormzy (who has remained uncharacteristically silent during all of this! Very disappointing). I didn’t rate her because to me she was a nobody who did nothing for the community, and so I have no issues with cancelling her.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

What Makes A Good Therapist?

I came to a bit of blows with my therapist this week, where during our session I felt that she accused me of being judgemental and bossy, which is not me at all.

We were talking about my mum; My mum and I are talking again. On Sunday she left me a heartfelt voicemail, apologising for having not been there for me when I was younger and for letting me down. So on Monday I called her and we had a heart-to-heart about our relationship. She’s asking me to forgive her, but my heart has been broken so many times by her that I’m reluctant to trust her. Plus she still has a lot of issues of her own to work through, which she will not care to admit to. In building a barrier for myself, I am protecting myself, because I’ve known my mother for almost 32 years now – I know what damage she can do to me. Also, we’ve always had a problem with communicating with each other, which causes me significant mental stress, and also triggers seizures, so I’ve decided to take charge, meaning that the relationship is on my terms. I believe in being honest and open, because it’s healthy.

This is all advice I also received from my tarot reader, Leona Nichole Black, who pretty much confirmed my gut instincts: before I’d seen her, I’d decided that if I was going to have a relationship with my mum, it wouldn’t be the same as it used to be, it would be on my terms and my tarot reading confirmed all of this for me, which you can read about here.

However, my therapist disagrees, and think that instead of judging my mother on her past mistakes, I should just learn to enjoy being in her presence and get to know her again.

But my stance is, why does there have to be an either or? Why can I not do both?

My therapist also accused me of being quite domineering, because of what I said about things being on my terms, so she asked me to role play, where she was my mum and I was me and we had a conversation about planning to meet up. However, during the role play, it became evident to her that when I say that I want things on my terms, what I mean is that I want open communication. Anybody who knows me in real life, knows that I’m not a controlling person!

So at the end of the session, I came away feeling shitty, because nobody likes to be called judgemental or controlling, least of all me. She did end the session by saying that she feels protective over me and doesn’t want to see me get hurt again, which is why I cannot understand why she cannot see that my approach is the best, if we’re both of the same opinion of protecting myself?

From what I’ve been learning in my MSc about therapists, I understood that a good therapist doesn’t give their opinion – particularly personal ones – about the patient, especially because the patient is the vulnerable one out of the two and will take it to heart…. This is regardless of the type of therapy it is that the therapist is practicing too. Even if the patient is causing harm to themselves, there are ways of conveying concern without expressing a personal opinion.  And this is not the first time that she’s done this either. I just sweep it under the carpet because she pays me so many compliments. This is also not the first therapist I’ve seen, who’s gotten a little too personal either (which you can read about here).

All of this are things I’m taking on board for my own personal learning, for when I eventually go into therapy myself.

Not insulting your patient is definitely a good starting point.

XOXO