Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Much “Blacker” Can I Be?

I recently put in an entry for a contest for Black Women’s Fiction because I thought I was a black woman, writing for women, including black women like me.

Lo and behold, when I got the score sheet back, one of the judges felt I was confusing Multicultural Women’s Fiction with Black Women’s Fiction. Now, I totally indentify with multicultural, but I also identify with Black Women’s Fiction because I am 100% black, at the risk of sounding condescending, though no harm is intended. I am not mixed with anything. I am just about as black as they come.

I feel like Obama now. Do I have to bring my Birth Certificate to show who my parents are? Though born in the UK, it does list my Nigerian parents, which makes me fully Nigerian. Or do I have to do a DNA to prove my origin or just how black I am? Do I have to go to my local government in Nigeria to prove I’m on some kind of list?

Now, if they really meant African American Women’s Fiction, why didn’t they just say so? Then we African women would know to step to the side. But I take offense with being told I do not belong in Black Women’s Fiction but rather in Multicultural Women's Fiction. So, I go better with Asians and Indians (which I totally have no problem with) than I do with those sisters that have my skin tone? Why can’t I belong in both genres?

Once again, I feel this distancing by African Americans from Africans. This is the exact reason why I am now part of an organization that is spreading the word about unity among African Americans and Africans. It is called Bridging the African Divide (BTAD), a non-profit. Our board consists of the most amazing group of African Americans and Africans I have seen in one place in a long time.

I am already aware that African American readers do not read much of books by Africans, generally speaking. Not the rule, of course. This was actually explained to me by a Nigerian book store owner who caters to the African American crowd but hardly stocks books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because the few copies he has have gotten old in his store. That has been his experience and I agree with him because generally, I have not seen enough support from the African American community either.

Is that warped or what? Is it just me, or is something wrong with that picture? Is this just another manifestation of the Black people nontogetherness? Like the Tyler Perry syndrome! And yes, I just made up that word because I can.

Will we ever be one?

Blessings.

Aggrieved,

Folake. :(

8 comments:

  1. I would really love to hear an African-American sistah point of view.

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  2. My African American facebook friends (sistahs) did make comments on that forum. I'll see if I can find it! Thanks. :)

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  3. Facebook comments:

    AVM said: O my. Not the old 'You aint Black enough'. My People My People.

    DMR said: Wow! That's terrible news!

    I said: That's what I said. And while I do identify with Multicultural Women's Fiction because my writing does cut across the Nigerian and American cultures, I didn't imagine in my wildest dreams I would be excluded from Black Women's Fiction. But oh yes, it did happen to me! Lol. (Sigh)

    DMR said: I'm very unhappy to read this!

    JTB said: Lol.dr.t

    PS: AVM and DMR are sistahs!!! Lol.

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  4. Lol this is really interesting (love the post title). i once had a discussion with a group of African American women. the issue at hand was whether the term "Black" more accurately described the African American race. I was of the opinion that I would much rather not be referred to as Black. Simply because black tends to be associated with bad or cheap things. Black magic, black out, black market, black Friday, and on and on and on.

    Others did not want to be referred to as African-American. The main reason was that they didn't know much about the African culture and didn't see a reason to be associated with it.

    It was a really interesting discussion. I'm assuming that the organizers of this conference were using the term "Black" to refer to African-American women.

    PS: I'm ordering your book today. I'm Nigerian too and can't wait to read it :)

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  5. Wow! This is actually pretty depressing! I too am ordering your book now-should have done so a looong time ago!
    Best wishes,
    T
    xx

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  6. What's depressing is how jealous, mean, hateful and rude African women behave toward Americans who are multi-racial and of African descent (e.g., via the African-American slave trade). This is done openly by African females in the Washington, DC area all day everyday. So either you ladies are from somewhere else or you are pretending not to know how envious African women are of "black" American women.

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    1. Wow, Taryn. I'm glad it crossed your mind that just maybe I actually don't fit that stereotype that you have of African women. I can't speak for all African women, but I can speak for me and tons of Nigerian and West African women just like me. I specify because first of all, talking about Africans generally is a whole continent with tons of countries I've never been to, don't have much in common with and we are just about as diverse as it gets. But I can speak for myself and those close to me. What's sad is how you would easily lump us all together, the same way you would accuse Caucasians of lumping AA women together. Jealous? I personally don't have anything to be jealous of with any demographics of women. AA or otherwise. And while this is a true experience that I had, I do not expect to be treated this way by every AA woman I come across, nor do I preempt this behavior. Don't know what to say to you except to open up your mind and treat each person as an individual.
      Let me clarify this. What I have for my AA sisters is love, and generally, a sense of guilt associated with slavery and a need to help fix any of the residues of that awful act in the AA society. That is why I do what I do, encouraging people, sharing, being really loud on FB about social issues and such, and hey, writing a book about it. At least, I can hold on to the fact that just a very tiny piece of you realizes I am NOT what you expect an African woman to be. May that little bit of you expand. Perhaps, that which you interpret to be jealousy is actually manifestation of a lack of mutual understanding, a lack of conversations such as this maybe, and the fact that we are different in many ways, though also similar in many. We don't have the same mixture of cultures and the local influences of geography. It makes a difference. Why don't we focus on the way in which we're alike, rather than the ways in which we are different?

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    2. One more thing, when I finally brought up this issue with the organizer of that contest, she was very upset and distraught about it, that I was treated that way. She said to make sure I tell her next time so she can handle it. It was not meant to be so. True story.

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