Last Monday I opened Twitter to see Nella Rose, Chunkz and Somalis trending. I didn’t think much of it because they’re quite popular influencers/YouTubers and at that point, were considered the people’s champions. However, I quickly realised that they were trending for the wrong reasons; as so often is the case on Twitter. Their Tweets along with those of other influencers like Only Bells, Aliyah Maria Bee and Yung Filly and rappers like Tion Wayne and Headie One, were being exposed all over the timeline.
These Tweets offended mainly dark-skinned women as well as the Somali community and included derogatory language. It was something that saddened me because they were comments from black people and reflected the self-hatred that some of us feel. However, I was more interested in getting women’s perspectives on the situation, since it is an issue that doesn’t affect men in the same way, as I don’t think there is the same pressure in terms of beauty standards.
Colourism, which is discrimination against people of a darker skin tone, is an issue within the African diaspora and is something that I think should be discussed in order to move forward. So, I spoke to my good friend, Tabitha, to get her take on the situation. And, this is what she said:
How did you feel when you saw the Tweets?
“I wasn’t really surprised by them, which is a bit sad but only because the bashing of black women online is not something that is completely unheard of.
[However], I was kind of shocked to see who the Tweets were coming from… because these are obviously like black, dark skinned women.
I was a bit annoyed because I feel like Nella Rose especially is a role model for a lot of black girls …she’s kind of got herself together [yet] …had been a part [of the bashing of black women]”.
I watched Nella Rose’s apology where she spoke about what motivated her Tweets. They seemed to come from a self-hatred. I was wondering if you had ever felt that way?
“I’ve never hated my skin tone or anything but sometimes you do think negative things about it because people say negative things.
I wouldn’t want to be called blick (an offensive term to suggest that someone is darker than black) for example, but that shouldn’t be a bad term, if you’re just saying someone’s dark. [It means that] you’ve grown to think that’s a bad thing”.
When it comes to men making their preference known, the fact that “you’re not even really acknowledged [could mean that you] feel a sort of way.
A lot of the time you might have to think, oh, am I someone’s type or is this person going to find me attractive?
Some black men say we’re here for our dark-skinned sisters but do you actually practise what you preach? I think that a lot of that love for dark-skinned women or black women in particular is a lot online.
For example, [if] you hear a small throwaway comment about someone being dark like that’s a negative [thing], would you pick up [on it] or would you just laugh and shrug the conversation off? What would you actually do in real life if you were faced with these problems?”
“As a woman you get compared and “me who has a light-skinned best friend – normally we’re compared. [And] you start attaching different features to your skin tone…[like] dark skinned women [being] aggressive. It leads to the fetishisation of lighter skinned women”.
What do you think about colourism and your experience as a whole?
“I think people always try and ignore the issue.
With racism for example, that’s a black versus white thing and people will see that as…an issue from someone outside our community. We can fight that.
But I feel like with something like colourism, or just issues with black women in general, people don’t want to talk about it because it makes people feel uncomfortable that some kind of injustice is happening within our community. I think whenever black women bring it up, we’re seen as trying to be victims or causing problems and all of that, when we just have an issue that [needs to be addressed].
And I feel like we also forget that two different things intersect, like being a woman and being a dark-skinned woman. [When these characteristics] come [together], it’s even worse”.
Will anything change?
I feel like it’s a generational thing and it’s just a cycle. It goes on and on.
I have a little sister…and she’s darker than me and sometimes she’s thought negative things about herself and not thought that she’s beautiful because she’s darker. And I think that those are the kind of issues that you have to confront from young, otherwise they kind of slowly become a part of your mindset, which is why they could turn out as self-internalised hate, like how it came out with Nella Rose’s Tweets
What do you think should happen to someone like Nella? Should these influencers be “cancelled”? What do you think that they should do?
[They should be accountable for what they said and realise] why it’s wrong. [Nella] made a whole video on why she thought those things about herself and why she made the Tweets and we all understood it a bit more. I’m not saying it’s right or anything but because you could see where she came from, you felt a bit more like, okay, I can understand why she said it.
She hated black women because she hated herself and I think that that was quite important [to say]. The effect that [colourism] can have on yourself is so big, in terms of your self-esteem [and] your self-image.
In the past, I was a cancel person if a person said a certain thing that I didn’t agree with [but]…you have to realise that people can change and don’t hold the same opinion so you can’t judge them for something that they’ve said ages ago”.
Food for thought. I had to do a lot of listening because this is her experience and a shared experience for many women. These are things that I might be unaware of or don’t even acknowledge because they don’t concern me. Nonetheless, it is important that it does concern me since I could be involved in the spreading of these views, which have been passed down. So, if I’m at least aware of it, I can take steps to be active in support and think about what I stand for. Here is what I had to say:
Another inspiration for this article was Alfreda, another young black woman, who recently set up an Instagram page called @rewritingthenarrative_. It made me think and question what I had seen and it’s encouraging to see someone turn the situation into something positive, which is what many people have done during these Corona virus times.