This week's Blog Post is a heart felt portrayal of the teenage years from two of our Community Champions:
I remember coming home from school and talking to my white friend who would ask me for advice on what to do when guys message her. After a while I found this recurring conversation annoying and somewhat humiliating - I felt like the sidekick, I felt like Dionne in Clueless. It was never me who had guys interested in them, I was just an advice bureau. After that, I started becoming more self-conscious about myself and automatically assuming that I wasn’t pretty or couldn’t be viewed as pretty, no matter what I wore or put on, because I was still a black girl. It even impacted on my life outside of school - if any inconvenience happened such as someone bumping into me, I automatically assumed that it was because they did not like me because of my appearance. As irrational as that may sound, that was the thought process of the teenage me. I felt anxious a lot more and even simple things such as catching the bus scared me. I could not wait in public for a friend - I would go to the toilets and lock myself in a cubicle until my friends were there.
"My self-worth is not determined solely by appearance and how boys view me".
This self-hatred and lack of confidence lasted a few years, from year 7-10. I saw a shift in attitudes from other people, however. As a teenager, being viewed as attractive by boys was important. In the space of a few years I went from being in the background, being overlooked to being acknowledged and even receiving the occasional message. Although this made me feel better, I still had doubts. I tried to surround myself with black inspirational people, beautiful black people to make me realise that being black and beautiful is a thing.
I also realised that my self-worth was not determined solely by appearance and how boys view me. I realised that, despite the experiences of others, it was normal and okay to not have a boyfriend during school. It is okay to have not had a first kiss yet. I realised that as I get older, I will find more like-minded individuals to get on with, and that if a boy rejects you based on race then that is his loss rather than mine. It is also not the type of person to be with anyway.
The only time in Sixth Form where I have had an issue with being black was at a party, where an Asian guy said I was ‘pretty for a black girl’. Unfortunately, this was not the first time that he had said that, and it was not the last. That comment stayed with me for a while, despite his subpar apology. To me, it reinforced the idea that black women are unattractive, and that it is a surprise when one is considered good looking. However, being older I acknowledged that some people just have a crap mindset and that is how they see things. There is good out there and it can only get better.
"I am Pretty. Period"
At university, I have not had any issue, but I am surprised at the lack of black people, especially being that I am in Manchester. In my first-year accommodation I was the only black person in a block of 50, there were a handful of BAME students - roughly 5? Similarly on my course of law which has around 300 students, there’s less than 20 that are black. Do I look to them for validation, no. I know my own worth, I know my value. I am pretty. Period.
Djamillia recalls her experiences:
As a young black woman, I just got used to being part of the minority because it was rare to have more than a few black people in any of my classes. Standing out in the crowd was never not an option. Kids in class used to make jokes about me being an African which would make me feel ashamed to be black; but as I grew up, I realised what a blessing it is.
“ashamed to be black”
I have always achieved high grades, but despite this I felt like I had to prove myself more than other kids. I’d often receive little remarks from teachers such as “I didn’t expect you to do so well” or “you do realise you need to get high grades for this university” which would be demotivating at times. However I used it to fuel my ambitions. I felt
like I had to prove them wrong constantly, which luckily I was able to do.
“I didn’t expect you to do so well”
Being a young black woman in school and at university has just made me realise that regardless of the disadvantages I can achieve great things. But also, I am responsible for educating those who are ignorant and have preconceptions and misconceptions about black people. We are worthy and talented and THAT is what we have to show.