Y’all know how sensitive we black folk can get. Sometimes we rightfully or wrongfully assume that we know what everybody else thinks or feels about us. Often times we have not actually been privy to first hand information, but we base our feelings on what we were told by other blacks and even how we are (mis)treated by other races. However, actually having a honest conversation with a person of another race about how they personally feel or how they believe others feel about blacks is rare. Yesterday, I actually found myself in such a discussion, and let me tell you it was quite a rude awakening to hear what many of us may already assume come straight from the horses mouth.
It started off innocent enough and it actually ended innocent with no one meaning to offend anyone, just honest talk. I was at a picnic. I brought with me my non-Saudi Arab neighbor, who is married to a Afro Saudi. Also in attendance were two non American Western women both with African origins. One from a country that makes you think of exotic women, the other from a country that makes you think of the ‘Motherland’. Exotic sister is married to a white westerner, ‘Motherland’ sister is married to a brother with her nationality and origins. There was also another non-Saudi Arab sister there, married to a black man and of course me – an African American married to a white American.
I’ve been in such mixed gatherings plenty of times, but usually it is with western families of various origins. In these instances, being the savvy westerners, you may quietly wonder where such and such is from and you may even inquire at some point once GETTING TO KNOW the person. However, if you are in an Arab gathering, your family’s nationality and origin will be the focal point if you are in a mixed marriage and all types of nosey questions will be drilled at you or about you.
The exotic sister was the last to arrive. She was familiar with everyone there except my neighbor. Who instantly turned to me after she lifted her face veil and noticed how different her complexion was from her extremely light skinned children. She asked me what was her nationality and knowing what this would lead to, I vaguely answered with the country of her passport and turned back around. I knew what was to follow, “where is her husband from?” I told her the same country, they have the same nationality. Then turned back around. She knew she was getting nowhere with me, so she started talking in Arabic (she doesn’t know any English) to the other Arab sister (who knows English) and they were going on and on about the sister as if she were not there (which is better than backbiting, I suppose, but rude). It got to be a bit much and I interrupted them and said, “you know we (Exotic sister and I) may not speak Arabic but we understand everything you are saying. I was shocked that i said this, because it happens to me all the time and I usually do as exotic sister does and just play dumb like I have no idea they are all in my business. Once I said this, ‘Motherland’ sister started talking to them in both Arabic and English explaining how rude and ridiculous some of the things they said were. Like at one point my neighbor said that the sister looked Sudani. The other Arab sister, not wanting to insult exotic sister came to her defense (to be called Sudani is the ultimate insult here) and said that exotic sister was too beautiful to be Sudani. Sister ‘Motherland’ was highly offended by this and explained that she was making a sweeping generalization.
Sister Exotic and I started talking about something else and left the Arab sis and the sis from the motherland in a heated discussion. After sometime, the sis from the motherland asked the exotic sister and I, “You are both black do you think that other blacks feel that whites are better than blacks?” Before, I could answer the question, my neighbor grabbed my hand and exclaimed in a tone indicating that she thought that I was offended and said, (rough translation) “Intisar is not black! She is white! She is the same as me!” and put our hands together to show the similarity in our complexion. I could not believe she did that! I laughed and said, “O no, I’m black” and left off the and proud part because I’m sure black pride is something that I’m sure they would never imagine anyone having (not that I’m into black pride, but to make a point that I am happy and content with how Allah created me).
I eventually and hesitantly answered the question, by saying that I thought that people all over the world, in general, thought that whites were superior. I corrected the Arab sister who thought that I meant this based solely on the color of the skin and I told her that I saw it more of a power and respect issue than a personal preference for white skin. Exotic sister said that she agreed with me and the sister from the motherland (who disagreed to some extent) asked if we thought that it was because we had been brainwashed as a people. At this point, I think they were speaking more on the line of attractiveness and to that I cited the black doll white doll experiments that have been done for years. She was shocked and never had heard of such a thing and asked if I could give her more information about that. The Arab sister said that there was no need for the data, and said, “give me ANY black man and two women – one black and one white and then ask him which one he would like to marry.” This even enraged the exotic sister, who was actually trying to ignore the whole discussion up until that point. All of us black sisters expressed our disbelief in what she said and we all felt that it was more to it than that and that you could not just pull any and all black man and they all would automatically reject a black woman and prefer a white woman. She was adamant about this and said that black women knew this and that we knew basically knew we were black and ugly (yes she actually said black and ugly together as if you can not be one without the other).
I was speechless after that, but could not help to wonder what their children who are CLEARLY BLACK thought of themselves and of other blacks. The Arab sister married to a western black brother, her children seem to have a healthy outlook. Their father is religious and they have close relations to his family. My neighbors children on the other hand, are very prejudice against other blacks. They don’t spend much time with their father, and no time with his family. I think they identify most with their mother even though they look more like their father and only a trained eye could tell that they are mixed (if they are not with their mother you would assume they were black).
as if that were not enough, I had to stop by one of my white American friends house (married to Saudi) and I brought my neighbor with me. When my friend walked away, my neighbor told me that she thought that all American women (read :white women) were skinny but that my friend was built like a Saudi woman. At which point she started drilling in me about everything she could think of to ask about her.
I know this sounds awful to some, but trust me when I tell you that many of these women don’t mean any harm at all. Most are curious, but what was surprising to me was that because they considered themselves white Arabs and because they were married to black men, they thought that ALL black men preferred white women over black women! I’m actually confused more than ever, because black women say the same thing (which is what the Arab woman was getting at when she made the black and ugly comment, she was coming from the perspective of black women), so why is it so shocking to hear non-black women be honest about their perceptions?
Oh and if you think Morocco is NOT the solution for African American men, then somebody needs to come over here and tell that to the Afro-Saudi men who are breaking their necks to run off and bring a bride back from a poor non-black nation.
I just reread this and I sound very contradicting, but such is the way of race discussions!