Monday, April 27, 2009

You aren’t black enough!


Who goes around making such sweeping statement?” you may ask. Sadly, the answer to that is, “Many, many people. Too many in fact

Just last week at work, I had gone in sporting my version of a black and white winter androgynous look I’d seen from some designer on Elle.com.

Anywho, 3 hrs into the working day I’m sitting at my desk, attempting to look productive when my black male co-worker, sitting to my right, pipes up that my outfit looks, and I quote, “Ummm, interesting.” Naively, I mistake his use of the word “interesting” as something positive and start gushing on about how much I like so-and-so’s collection and tried to re-create the look.

That’s when the co-worker declares with his head at in a questioning slant, “You really don’t dress like a black girl Vimbai. Why don’t you dress like the other black women in the department?””

Argggggggggggggggggggggh!

Seriously?!! Did he SERIOUSLY just say something that stupid, ignorant, narrow-minded?!

That’s when I tartly enquire, “How exactly do the “other” black women in the office dress?”. Clearly brotha man hadn’t seen the steam jetting out of my ears at that point, ‘cause if he had, he certainly would have stopped talking by this point. However, this particular specimen clearly had a death wish, hameno.

He looked around the office, spotted and pointed out Exhibit A standing by the printers as a great example, in his opinion, of how black women in the office should clothe themselves.

Interestingly enough, he picked out one of the office 1st year's who has still to make the distinction between “clothes that are work appropriate” and “clothes that are usually worn after 8pm…under minimal lighting…whilst moon-lighting as a cage dancer.”

My co-worker then believes that this is a good enough time as any to highlight my other non-black tendencies that have lead him to the conclusion that I’m just not black enough. As he isn’t the first, and I daresay the last to declare such idiotic statements to me, I thought I would share a few I’ve been hit with in the past:

1. “Why don’t you wear higher heels to work?” (Bra, I am already 5’ 9’ in flats! Futi/also, what do you think this is, ladies-wear-clear-stripper-heels-to-work-Tuesday?”);

2. “Why are you so light in complexion? Are you coloured/mixed race?” (This question has been the bane of my existence. One of my earliest memories is my mother sending me off to my first day of school in Zim and telling me that no matter what anyone says at school, I should tell them I am black and not coloured/mixed race.

It doesn’t seem to matter to people that I can trace both sides of my families bloodlines back a good 200 odd-years and yes, I may have the odd great grandmother who is a bit of an anomaly –but who doesn’t have one of those right? Sadly, it appears the world would rather take you at face-value…beauty and everything else appearsto be merely skin-deep these days);

3. “Why’s your English so good?” (This question crops up more in my surrogate country of South Africa, than it did (or ever) back home in Zimbabwe.

Call it what you may; a colonial hangover from the days of Rhodesian, attending mostly white private school, living in the ‘burbs etc. Either way, the reactions to the way I speak are unsettlingly and very annoying at best. Some Black people look at you like you’ve “sold-out” somehow and some White people look at you like you aren’t as daft as they were expecting you to be or sound, urgggh); and,

4. “You write a blog? Don’t only white people do that?” (Blogging is supposedly quite the un-black thing to do, according to some individual's living under rocks who haven’t taken a trip to the world wide web and seen what and who’s out there, writing away. Clearly they must be schooled!)

When is anything “enough” is my question?

Who’s out there regulating the world to ensure that Black people remain black enough? That Asian/White/Native American India people meet the ambiguous expectations set by their respective races.

In this day and age of globalisation, cultural fusion and heightened awareness of the world in which we live in, there are those who would prefer that people remain within their comfort zones and stick with the status quo.

These are people I have never had anytime for and will continue not to have time for.

One should never forget where they came from that made them who they are today. However, in the same breath; one should never be defined by the limits, opinions and criticisms of others.

Life is too short to be told who and what you are or should be.


------------------------------------------------



This lovely Monday I am not at work (hence, why it is being referred to as a “lovely Monday”).

Today marks Freedom/Independence Day for all South Africans from a regime that tried to convince all people of colour within their lands that they were “not enough” as a race. Apartheid may have only been abolished 15 years ago (honestly, what took them so long) but at least the people were heard in the end!

Pamberi neFreedom of Expression and Self!

Have an amazing start to the working week chickens :-)

Love,

V x

29 comments:

K said...

Vimbai, I do believe you are too eclectic for Africa... androgynous work look for Africa sha? I have a friend who wore a tie to work...maiweee (she was forever typecast as a lesbian)

Things that are considered white things:
reading- apparently black people and literacy dont mix

alternative/eclectic musical tastes- you mean to say you listen to other styles besides rap, hip hop??

being articulate/wide vocab- i used acquiesce in a sentence, my fav word in the whole wide world and followed that with juxtaposition and towards the end there might have been the word duality in there...the person looked at me like they didnt realise the plantation had schools.

going to museums/libraries or poetry evenings- the club/movies/eating are acceptable black past times the others and your really going above your station in life...

I could go on dude but I tire of the ignorance on both sides of the fence...

Super star! said...

It seems you define or are defined by what you are not. maybe you would like to take time and tell us how you would define yourself, maybe we might get to understand you.

i had similar experiences as a kid, i am very light and apparently that’s not what a typical zimbo should look like. Then i am blessed with killer looks- and apparently zimbo are not supposed to be good looking. Then when i start talking about my travels i am labelled a show off. Then when they meet me they expect me to be dumb- when I tell them I was top of class right through business school- yes I went to business school. Then when I invite them over to my apartment overlooking the river Thames with amble accommodation listening to my BOSS sound sytem automatically I am into credit card fraud. And when I say I am a Super Star- I am somehow compensating for something…..
But you see people are used to ordinary people, if you are not ordinary, then refuse to be ordinary you are a SUPER STAR!

K said...

*dead*....

Super star! said...

sorry that was supposed to read BOSE.

@K, but your stereotype none black, is a sterotype of a musalad.

ShonaVixen said...

I agree with Kooks my girl yup my own friend once said I'm more than musalad and basis of this was because I read and I get a buzz from going to the bookstore!! *blank stare!*...actually m going to call her and remind of the most ignorant thing she ever said to me!!!

nhai Vimbai where are you kani nhai coz m wondering why Kooks just went *dead*...*whispering* no prize for guessing!!..lol...

ShonaVixen said...

@Super - did you go and Google the correct spelling??..LOL!!!!!

Vimbai said...

K, girl i didn't mean to leave you hanging sha! Like i said, today is a public holiday and i've been known to take "sleeping in" to a whole new level, lol.

"acquiesce" huh, inga you are flowing with chirungu/English mate!

As for your friend with the tie, tell her i feel her pain! I wore one a while back and got the strangest looks. Africa clearly aint ready for me, but too bad, coz i ain't going nowhere.

Super: Ah, someone sympathetic to the cause...okay, i may not have an apartment overlooking the Thames (at this point i am trying not to roll my eyes in hateration, but i will behave). But for real, people love jumping to all sorts of conclusions in their head.

Maybe we should start a SUPER STAR club. Membership criteria being; those you refuse to follow the status quo and get hated on now and again :-)

Shona: We are soul mates when it comes to book you and I, am actually bout to head out and see if any malls are open so i can get something to read (please note, i still have 4 other books to get through already).

Shona, you are a problem! WHy are you teasing Super kani nhai, lol.

K said...

iwe Shona leave me be I went dead because I clearly am not in Super's league...I am only slightly good looking...jox super jox...ahem super yes I am musalad are you judging?

Vimbai said...

Jox, super jox? K, you are killing me! My sister and I always say "Jokes and Jokonya are friends" when we hear something funny...don't even ask, it doesn't make sense.

Super sha, you've all now made us feel insecure and inadequate, hehehe.

My fantastic looks can only take me so far...let me start researching them business schools, hahahaha.

Super star! said...

Sorry if I made you all insecure, but my looks have been described as ravishing/entrancing by countless number of people, I will not dispute this. But you will find I am a very humble guy with an acute sense of humour that most miss :-)

My shona is par-excellent, punctuated with madimikira and nyaudzosingwi and I am very comfortable in Gutu – chisheche as I am in Toulon. Somehow I doubt your salad selves can string an idiom or two in the mother tongue, in the right context. If so, try writing/ blogging for one instalment in your mother tongue, providing a translation in English- I dare you? Upon successfully doing this then indeed we are in the same league of Super Stars.

@Shona, pot shots will get you in my good books. I like, I like….

K said...

"I doubt your salad selves can string an idiom or two in the mother tongue, in the right context."

but why go there Super, why?

@ Shona you may have a suitor before this day is over....

LMAO @ Vimbai...there is CLEARLY no need to be modest about your looks here my dear... or anything else for that matter...lol

ShonaVixen said...

@K - who's the suitor nhai???U know some-one????..lol...


Somehow Mr Ravishing reminded me of a South Park episode wiv Kanye West..*whispering to self* I wonder why???

@Vimbai - I agree wiv Kooks modesty doesnt seem applicable here..hell I'm FABULOUS,in my FABULOUS council flat, overlooking the busy streets of London, at my FABULOUS desk, with my FABULOUS clothes!!! and just for K, with my SWAGGERLICIOUS self!!I'm Shona FIERCE!!!!..LOL!!!

K said...

ah iwe, you are denying him before he has even put his cap fully in the ring? lol

LMAO @ the fabulous assets you have...ati Mr Ravishing...Shona I am distancing myself now...lol

don't believe a word I write said...

That was an excellent post. I found it very interesting, especially because a couple of white friends of mine and I (who am white...who is white? Shit, where's my supposedly superior English? ;-D ;-D)were talking this weekend about what it would mean to adopt a baby of a different race, and how much responsibility there should be to ensure the child is in touch with/aware of/lives out his/her own culture. Or even IF there should be such a responsibility placed on the parents. What do you think?

Vimbai said...

Ravishing Super, you seem to be an interesting bunch of contradictions mate, am loving the attempt at humility there, " you will find I am a very humble guy"...

And i will have you know, that although the likelihood of getting a full blown blog post in shona from me is a likely as MJ's kid's actually belonging to him. Dude, i may not know my tsumo's from a tsunami but i am just as fantastic and Super Star-ish!

K, when you've got it, you got it...no need for false modesty, hahaha. Okay, now i am justing talking out of my bum.

Shona and Super sitting in a tree, K-I-S-....if this match ever materialises, i am gonna take credit for making it happen!

Shona Fierce, i like, i like it a lot. Work it girl, WORK IT!

Vimbai said...

DBAWIW: You bring up a great point chica. When i walk through Rosebank and notice the growing number of white couples walking about with their adopted black babies it makes me wonder if they've thought their decision to adopt through.

Don't get me wrong, a child adopted by any family is better than a child having to live out their days in an orphanage or in successive foster homes.

I just think that couples that adopt out of their race or culture should make a concious decision to ensure the child has exposure through out their lives to people who represent they actual race and culture.

I would even go as far as saying that a tutor or mentor be identified for the child to keep them in a close contact to their languages, cultural practices etc.

Obviously, this is wishful thinking but i think it will better equip the child for life in the real world and not the closeted bubble of family life.

The child will always know that he/she is different from the get go, so the child should be empowered as far as possible.

Hadassah said...

hehehede ayas ma comments andaonapano ka andisetsa! these comments are too funny!

Good post Vimbai I think its everywhere

K said...

@ DBAWIW totally agree with Vimbai, if you have a foundation of self then no one can tell you who you are. There has been the term thrown around "musalad" by Super to infer that those of us not fluent in our mother tongue are not worthy of the "superstars" league. This would affect a person of lesser confidence but my mother and father brought me up to know that I am Zambian through and through no matter how far I stray from the soil or whether or not I can speak the language.

So yeah if you adopt an asian child and someone has something ignorant to say about their asian heritage through that child's foundation of knowledge of self, origin and tradition they can stand up and either correct that person or choose to remain silent in the knowledge that they know who they are.

Super star! said...

The Super Star league I argue embraces meritocracy in everything, and its hated upon for being good at almost everything- he/she is the valedictorian of life. The league is proud of its mother tongue and culture, moreso because its in danger of being extinct. And what language has such charm and effervesce than Bantu linguistics. For example in describing my girl friend who is in the super league you would use such words as tsvarakadenga.

The way that rolls on the tongue, and frankly I haven’t found an English translation that retains the same charm and succinct meaning. Then to expand further on how grateful I am she is in my life, I use nhetembo, punctuated with such colour as “ tsvarakadenga yangu isvigiri muma svusvu embakwaidza,”. Maybe MUNHU can possibly translate the meaning….. the direct english translation falters into simple expletives and doesn’t ignite “manyuku nyuku” that shona readers of this blogg felt just reading those words….

@ V, clearly the super star league is a difficult membership to be under?
@k, there is nothing wrong with being a musalad. but Super Stars defy any stereotype, maybe its because they are their own stereotype.
@ Shona, i resent that my ravishing good looks bring such thoughts of kanye west, KW is ugly.
@DBAWIW: i am all for the united nations of super Stars!
@Hadassah: humour is the best medicine

ShonaVixen said...

@Mr Ravishingly Mazvikokota you so got the wrong end of the stick sha-a it's not about Kanye's looks I'm talking about...no no no..after that episode even Kanye had an 'ego epiphany'..
VaMazvikokota some of us choose not to run around saying tsumo nemadimikira in our day-to-day lives but I know my roots, am proud of them BUT you won't find me saying Munongedzo hauzvinogedzi or Chipitipiti chakazvara chimwandamwanda or Chidembo hachinzwi kunhuhwa kwacho!!

@DBAWIW - I watched when this comedian Stephen K Amos who was adopted by white parents, brought up in a white community in a little village, he joked about it BUT he did eventually trace his background, taste the foods, the lingo and all of black people because he knew he was different from the parents no matter how much they loved him and had sheltered him!So I guess that child when adopted into a different culture should still have a link to their heritage..as they grow up and questions start rolling in!

K said...

love Stephen K Amos, he's in Oz right now on tour. sha I think you people and your Shona now requires translation for the token Zambian. Sorry Vee for the influx of comments

ShonaVixen said...

@K - my point exactly..I don't run around speaking idioms n such coz my circle of friends would be lost!!
I basically wrote
'The wrong doer never blames themself'

'Familiarity breeds contempt' and the last I'll just say 'The skunk can never smell its own stench!!'

K said...

ah much better now...thanks babe!

Vimbai said...

@Hadassah: What can i say, peeps are full of BEANS with the comments, tis very entertaining to say the least.

@K: Here, here, i concur!

@Super: Awwwwwwwwwwwww, it's so cute to be waxing lyrical about your chick. I guess there will no Shona and Super romantic alliance then, ah well...NEXT.

As for you Super Star League, don't get too Aryan on us mate...embrace the One Love ideal.

@Shona: Apa wataura mate, we don't all have to go around waxing lyrical in idioms and tsumo's that leave way too many people inthe dark in the first place.

@K: Stop apologising for the influx of comments, i look forward to ALL comments, big and small :-)

Don't believe a word I write said...

Thanks for answering my question so thoughtfully Vimbai, K, Superstar and Shona Vixen. It truly fascinates me, and I think Stephen Amos's story is interesting. I wonder if the fear of not exposing the child enough to his/her cultural references deters white people from adopting babies of other races? Well, agreed Vimbai, surely adoption is better than letting a little one grow up in an orphanage or worse.

tjidzani said...

Don't worry Vimbs, I have embraced being called a 'salad' by my fellow Zims...whatever that means!

Vimbai said...

DBAWIW: Adopting any child is a huge responsibility. More black people should do it, but given cultural stigma and all sorts of othere obstacles the numbers aren't so great...then again, if you walked past a black couple with a black adopted baby, who would even look twice you know?

My question is: Has there ever been a black couple who adopted a white baby, now that would be tres interesting to read about their experiences!

Tji: Hahaha, exactly "whatever that means"! Salads Unite!

Sarai said...

I haven't laughed this much in a while - I am dying here.

Vimbai said...

Sazzles, glad you got a chuckle out of this!