Why are my fellow brown skinned people touchy about being called kafir or nigger and yet are so quick to persecute me when I refuse to be identified as black and would rather be called a brown skinned woman. People don’t seem to want to bother with finding out the origins and meanings of these words. The words “nigger” & “black” mean more or less the same thing, just in different languages. Kafir means “infidel” in Arabic, where the word finds its origins. Honestly, I am more a kafir than I am a black person. Why? Because I am not Muslim nor am I Christian or Jewish, the other two Abrahamic religions, so that would make me some what an infidel. The colour of my skin is brown, not black. The colour of my eyes is brown not black. My hair is very black but seeing as I have more skin than I do hair I refuse for you to call me by my hair colour. Besides, you are likely to find a lot more people who have different skin colours, complexions and tones from mine with black if not blacker hair and yet their race is identified by their skin not their hair.
Some of you might be quick to jump to the argument that there are historically negative connotations to the words “kafir” and “nigger” and you would be right but let me ask you this, have you ever stopped to think that there are negative connotations to the word black as per its use to identify us? Have you asked yourself why when we are so obviously brown, those that came from the outside decided to identify us as black and why they decided to call themselves white? Across various cultures and faiths, the symbolism of those two colours varies with a lot of the much older or prehistoric/ ancient being positive but in those of the “explorers”, “traders” and “missionaries” who gave our ancestors this identity that is not the case. Given that the Caucasians aren’t really white neither are the aboriginal peoples of the African continent really black, one can’t help but feel that these colours were also chosen because the colour white, in their culture, signified something pure, good and divine and the colour black signifies sin, darkness, the underworld. In other words white people are pure and good and black people are soiled and bad.
This can be seen in our societies today and particularly within brown skinned communities. Be it in Africa or America or the UK. Brown skinned women spend a lot of time, money and energy in an effort to look “beautiful” and when you really scrutinize how this beauty is defined you will see that beauty to brown skinned women is as was defined during colonial times and slavery i.e. long locks of straight hair, fair complexions and smaller and straighter noses. If one takes the time out to watch the documentary Dark Girls they will see that in the African American and “black” American community, the darker you are, the less attractive you are. Here in Africa, fairer skinned Africans consider themselves better looking than the darker skinned Africans. As if that is not bad enough, we have brown skinned men who believe that a beautiful brown skinned woman is one who looks like African barbie. The point is, the people who claim to have more pride and a firmer grasp on their identity than I do simply because I reject the word black as my identifier seem to have more of an identity crisis than I do.
What does all this mean? Simple, I am not black so don’t call me black. Call me African. Call me Zimbabwean. Call me brown but call me black and you and I will have a serious problem. You dare to question my loyalty to my roots and heritage simply because you identify yourself and subsequently me based on misinformation and indoctrination and I will do more than poke your eye out with a sharp stick.
I am not ashamed of the colour of my skin. The true colour of my skin. I am not ashamed of the diversity in the African culture and spirituality that I descend from. I am not ashamed of my curly-kinky head of hair. The way I speak or my refusal to be called black are neither an endorsement of your ignorance nor are they a renunciation of the brown skinned, curved, curly haired African Goddess that I am.
© Doreen Victoria Gaura/ Colouredraysofgrey, 2012