IT’S SAD TO NOTE THAT DECADES after independence, countless innovations and educational advances, African women seem to be exactly where they started many years ago.
This is not in social, political or economic terms, but in terms of the way they view and feel about themselves as black women.
I am sure I’m not the only black woman who cringes every time a certain beauty product advert shows a black woman struggling to find a job but being unable to do so because her skin is too dark.
However, she soon discovers a product that lightens her skin in just a few weeks and voila! She lands her dream job and is immediately asked out on a date.
As insulting as I find this advert, the truth is that it reflects our own views — that if a black woman is not light-skinned enough, she is not attractive.
Over the years, as Hollywood and fashion magazines have continued to gain influence in our world, the standard of beauty for black women has expanded to include not only light skin, but a small nose, flat stomach, a slim body, big boobs, as well as cascading hair.
Of course, most of these things go against the nature of black women who are inherently characterised by chocolate skin, wider noses, voluptuous bodies, as well as afro-hair.
However, the views represented in this advert continue to be reiterated in black societies worldwide, as it is reflected in black movies, music videos, television shows and magazines.
It seems that no matter how successful we become as a people, we continue to be insecure about the way we look and subsequently unsure about our worth, which leaves me wondering: what is it that took place in our history to make us hate ourselves so much?
Can we blame entirely the influence of colonialism or have we as black men and women failed to instil a sense of cultural pride and racial health in our children?
EACH YEAR, BLACK WOMEN IN their thousands spend millions on hair weaves, relaxers, diet pills as well as skin lighteners. Not all of these things are harmful, although some cause serious health problems, and could even lead to death.
However, the manner in which we use these things reflects our insecurity as black people.
We strive to reach a standard of beauty that is as ‘‘white’’ as possible, simply because we have bought into the myth that we are not good enough as we are.
This hype has been generated by fashion magazines, movies, and even some carefully crafted scientific theories that claim the black race is genetically inferior to other races.
Most of the blame can also be apportioned to black people — not only for continuing to buy into lies about themselves, but also for forgetting their history.
Why is it that fewer and fewer black children, even adults, know about the black heroines and heroes of the world like Mekatilili wa Menza, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King? These were beautiful black women and men who shaped the world.
If it was up to me, every house with a young girl would have a poster of Prof Wangari Maathai, Alek Wek and other black successful women so that our children can look at these women with hair, noses and skins like theirs, who are beautiful, intelligent, successful and happy.
Let’s make a change, sisters, and learn to love ourselves as we are (nappy hair and all) and teach our children to see the beauty and brilliance that God placed outside and within us.
Ms Birya is an aspiring communication specialist