Dupe Oyebolu
by on November 27, 2016
My friend, Mofolaoluwasade, recently started grad school in the U.S. And she has been writing this funny, beautiful blog about her time here. I enjoy reading it, and spending time with her and all of my old friends when they are in the US, because I can gauge my experience of America by watching their experience of America. Which is profoundly helpful because, in case you haven’t heard yet, sometimes, your girl can be a bit um, skewed in her perceptions of the world. Me and Mofolaoluwasade, a few weeks ago. One of Mofolaoluwasade’s earlier posts reminds me of a thing that I’ve learnt about natural hair and blackness, and etc etc in the last few years. I’ve linked it here -- https://olaoluwaoni.blogspot.com/2016/09/sister-to-stranger.html#more. But the basic gist of it is that she has noticed a significant difference in the ways people here, in America, and people at home, in Nigeria, respond to the naturalness of her hair, her ankara clothing, and a t-shirt that she wears that says “I don’t need relaxer, my hair ain’t stressed out.” People in Nigeria, it seems, thought little of these things— they thought her natural hair a fashion statement, engaged her t-shirt like the humorous tongue-in-cheek commentary that she intended it to be. But in America, people see these things as a statement of her “flag-bearing” membership “for a cause that, to be honest, [she] cannot claim to fully understand.” Mofolaoluwasade receives these American reactions with what sounds like a mix of good humor, befuddlement, and mild embarrassment. But there is an abiding self awareness about her tone in the piece, the kind that they don’t sell in the market, otherwise I would have gone to buy it a long time ago. Because maybe it would have kept me from the foolishness of judging people who don’t wear their hair natural. Yes, guys, I was that annoying natural-haired woman. I may never have verbalized any of my judgment, but as Jesus said about adultery, if you do it in your heart, you might as well have done it in the physical. The thing though is that I was judging people based on my own politics, which is profoundly silly when you think about it. And this piece by Mofolaoluwasade is really helping me think about it. The discrepancy in the meanings of wearing natural and ankara fabrics that she has noticed, I think, is the result of the different politics that exist in these two different social contexts. And those politics themselves are the result of two different histories, yeah? Like to be born and raised black in America is, to be caught in the America’s history of slavery and racism. And when you have that, then you are bound to experience things that are consistent with blackness, natural hair/afros, ankara (to a large degree) differently than people who have been born and raised in other places. Places where people may not have even had to refer to think about the color of their skin. And so if this is the case, if each of us enters into natural hair, or straight hair, or weaves, or braids, or etc etc, with different histories, then it follows that each of us’ understanding of and approach to wearing our hairs is “legitimate.” I think it’s important to acknowledge that for me, my straight hair was, for the longest time, legitimate within my understanding of my history. But that is exactly what the problem was— there was limited information, so I had a limited understanding of the historical context that I was living in. And perhaps this is the challenge that we face. How to historicize contemporary society so that each of us has a clearer sense of our histories so that we can enter our own lives empowered to make informed choices. I’m not sure where we would begin with this. Perhaps teach a history of Africa class in primary schools. Perhaps teach a course on the politics of race in a globalizing world in a university’s sociology department. Perhaps share history in our personal conversations or in community gatherings, in mosques, at festivals, in churches. I don’t know. Something. If you have any ideas, or are uniquely placed to share any of these histories, please feel free to share o! I can like to copy from you while I’m also looking for the woman that is selling self-awareness in the market so I can avoid future foolishness.
Kume Ozoro
:joy::joy::joy: Dupe Oyebolu you had me laughing my eyes out with that bit about buying "self-awareness" :laughing: I dey sell o! lol And I know I ain't no woman :joy: Before that, you had my soul crying and my heart bleeding. Truth is, the absence of knowledge is so bad a curse that it afflicts you...View More