On December 26 2016 I emerged from the shower and looked at my relaxed shoulder length hair and decided to cut it with the aid of my white boyfriend (let’s call him C). So I did, I cut it all down to the new growth and I was confronted with my Southern African features ,normally hidden away by Peruvian and Brazilian weaves and wigs, and I didn’t mind the way I looked. In fact I loved it.
About a month later after a really stressful exam period( I’m in my second year of a law degree) I decided I wanted to read for fun again so I went to the uni library with a specific author in mind; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’m unashamed to say that without her being featured in Beyoncé’s Flawless I wouldn’t know who she was. I chose to read her book titled Americanah first because as a Zimbabwean living in England the blurb piqued my interest.
The book grabbed my attention straight away. I loved how although Zimbabwe and Nigeria are so far apart the similarities in her characters Ifemelu and I were stark and plentiful. The description of the love story between Obinze and Ifemelu made me nostalgic for the boys in Zimbabwe that would make the effort to pull you from a group of friends so they can “talk” to you ( something I’ve noticed guys over here don’t do ?). I laughed out loud because of the memories and the real ness of the stories being told and how honestly Chimamanda described the immigration experience and the second classness of being black or brown and existing in a white majority country.
Shit got real when I read the chapter when Ifemelu broke up with her white boyfriend Curt. Chimamanda through Ifemelu talks about how in an interracial relationship race is rarely discussed and not because it’s not an issue but because we wish it wasn’t;
The only reason you say that race isn’t an issue is because you wish it wasn’t. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think myself as black and I only became black when i came to America…
We don’t tell our White partners the small things that piss us off and the the things we wish they understood better because we’re are worried they will say we’re overreacting, or we’re being sensitive..
Chimamanda goes on to basically describe what I’ve been feeling for the past 2.5 years that I’ve been seeing C. The only difference is that when presented with an opportunity to tell him about said things that piss me off as a black woman I seize the opportunity and tell him like it is whether he likes it or not.
What made me angry at this book and have to put my kindle down several times before I cried was that Chimamanda is right. Every time I’ve told C about something that bothers me I’m met with remarks that let me know that I’m overreacting. I’ll give you a few examples.
I was watching the best man holiday a movie with a predominately black cast and C turned to me and said why do black people like watching movies with only black people in them?
Then i explained how everything on tv is white washed and you see a black character once in a while and sometimes it’s just nice to see someone that looks like you on tv.
He quickly dismissed it because he could see that I was impassioned and even though I had more to say I held my tongue
The second time it was before my big chop. I took out my weave and I had my relaxed hair out. C casually remarked that “I need weave”.
Any black woman would want to throw hands upon hearing those words. Is the hair that goes out of my head not enough? We argued and he said something along the lines of “oh don’t overreact that’s not what I meant” and that famous quote by Louis C.K came to
“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t
And again I held my tongue
Another situation we were sat outside a restaurant drinking prosecco and we were talking about something in relation to race and I asked for his opinion and he said
“I don’t know it just sounds like you’re an angry black woman”
C knows how offensive that term is so it hurt me and still hurts me now that he thought it was okay to say that.
I’ve also had to fight tooth and nail while his best friend also white told me that saying white people cant say n****r is racist and let’s not forget the jokes about me being a monkey.
Chimamanda’s book has made me question my entire relationship and it has opened my eyes to my own falsehoods.
50% of the reason I got with C was because of the history of black friendships and relationships and his taste in music. His love for the products of my culture made me feel like he was aware of the race issues and I wouldn’t have to teach him.
Welll, ISSSA lie
But I love him and it’s my job to teach him about the race issues the privileged aren’t privy to.