Photo by Nathaniel Tetteh on Unsplash
What is black on black prejudice? In keeping with my belief about ‘Authenticity and bravery in sync,” it is impossible to not address an issue that I believe is pervasive in the black community. Prejudice towards other blacks is extremely pervasive in the black community but it is very rarely talked about. Even in working on this post, and researching recent articles, the results were very limited. Most people would not use the term ‘racism’ to address the prejudice that exists within the black community, because it’s not black and white or across racial groups.
Our race has, for centuries, been told that white is perfection and black was of no value. We tend to underestimate the lasting effects of slavery. Slavery had more deeply-rooted issues that we tend to understand or admit to. We know that the church was crucial to helping slaves maintain their identifies, cultural practices, and keeping hope alive for a better future. But on a relational level, we really do not know much about how they dealt with their pain. Hence, our race is filled with so much complex trauma. There are deeply rooted issues that are not talked about and are just left to fester below the surface. Some of these issues include loss of identities, loss, forgiveness, acculturation, depression, assimilation, shame, mortality, embarrassment, and ignorance. There is a wide gamut of feelings and thoughts that come with recognizing that you are black, you are a descendant of a slave, and you may not even know which slave. With the entrenched and conditioned beliefs that our race has been exposed to, it is no wonder that we have internalized a lot of those beliefs.
Experiences of Black on Black Prejudice
What are some ways in which black on black prejudice exists? For me, it was a very personal lesson at an early age. Being the darkest complexion of 5 siblings, my skin-color was talked about constantly by my family in negative ways. Consider the music videos and tv ads that we see, how prevalent are the dark-skinned girls or dark-skinned guys?
Consider the comments, “don’t get your black card revoked,” as is there are a list of criteria to be checked off for what constitutes being black. When it comes to mental health, “oh that’s white people problems,” as if our race and culture is not filled with centuries of pain and hurt. Let’s also consider the topic of wealth. We have spent centuries providing labor that we did not consent to and therefore, compensation was never an option for us. This lead to a severe financial scarcity mindset that is still plaguing our culture and race. Most of us do not have expectations of acquiring wealth; because of this mindset, we have never developed the knowledge of how to acquire, much less maintain wealth. Many of us operate from a scarcity mindset which has infected the way that we relate to others. Many of us can attest to family and friends becoming bitter or hateful if it appeared that someone was becoming financially stable. Instead of helping the other person along the path to success, there may be feelings of jealousy and dislike and the belief that there can only be one success story.
Let us not forget the ‘one drop rule.’ Racism and slavery has taught that if there is a drop of black in your blood, you are black, no matter what you may look like. This approach creates even more divide within our culture, especially when it comes to beauty standards.
Mental Health Implications of Black on Black Prejudice
Our history has been dominated by us being pitted against each other in very traumatic ways. Whether it was “house slaves vs fields slaves,” light skinned slaves vs dark-skinned slaves,” we have not recognized how much of that language we still use today in 2018. We still talk about ourselves in divisive terms. We also underestimate the power of the words we use. Hence, we do not recognize how we reflect negativity towards each other.
We use words that were created to be derogatory towards us and say that we are redefining these words when no matter how much you try to redefine them, it does not erase the history of them. We have internalized so much of the effects of slavery but have not been willing to address the core issues; instead, we repeatedly put Band-Aids on them, all while mistakenly thinking we have resolved our issues.
One of the biggest concerns about the continued mental health impacts of slavery is that we have told ourselves that we are moving forward but yet we have such difficulty bringing these conversations to the forefront. How can we heal what we do not talk about? We are unwilling to address our own roles in keeping our culture and race from moving forward.