So my articles usually always have a medical application and this one will be no different. I’ve made my statement that Racism is Stupid and you can view that here, but today I want to highlight a pet peeve of mine and one that I believe needs just as much emphasis. 40 years ago the legendary Bob Marley released Redemption Song. 40 years later the famous lines “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our minds” remains just as, if not more, relevant.
I have learnt and accepted that I am privileged and my life has been, simply put, easy. I have worked hard for my achievements but a solid upbringing, loving parents and brother, great education, great husband, great children and all round goodness and happiness has paved my way and I count myself blessed. This is perhaps the root of my confidence and to a point, arrogance.
I’ve never felt that anyone of any race was for some reason better than I was; far more to conceive that I was lesser than they. I’ve never had any inclination to straighten/relax my hair, ever. I love my hair and frankly I see no reason that I shouldn’t. I don’t know why I should wish for it to be longer or straighter or curlier or anything else but what it is. I’ve never wished to be another complexion; not darker not lighter. I’ve never thought to think about my complexion (not a typo). It is what it is. What’s wrong with it? Nothing, it’s lovely. To achieve anything in life you have to first master yourself. This mastery is an ongoing process but it starts with self love; breaking those bonds of mental slavery. Now there are people who have life much harder but even through that hardship you must develop self-love.
Many black men and women do not even recognise their enslavement. It’s great to fight the system and rid it of racism but what is that worth if your mind remains enslaved? What good is ridding a system of racism when you describe little black girls as the one with nice hair, good hair and mixed hair in contrast to nappy hair, bad hair and black hair. What good is Black Lives Matter if you choose to buy someone else’s straight real hair to stitch onto your own to think that you look good. Does not your Black Hair Matter? Why is the market for Indian or Brazilian hair so huge, with black women being the largest customer base, yet the market for real black hair extensions a newcomer?
What does any of this have to do with health? Well if you have to ask that then the significance of mental health is lost on you. You cannot be mentally healthy if you don’t love the skin that you are in. If you find yourself saying things like “beauty is on the inside” or “Thank God you got soft hair” or “Your going with your hair like that (well styled natural hair) to the interview?” then you need to stop and reflect. You are subtly teaching others that their black skin does not constitute outward beauty and that something that is now called type 4c hair is bad. You are giving them flawed lenses through which to see themselves and the world. This presents later in life with them coveting living in a “white neighbourhood” or needing acceptance from Eurocentric bodies.
Freedom from mental slavery means that you aspire to your own standards. You don’t need to live next to a white person or in a “wealthy” neighbourhood to feel justified or accomplished. It shouldn’t matter who you live next to. Mental freedom is taking your money and building your own mansion at the farthest point from that coveted neighbourhood and feeling an even more intense sense of accomplishment. Or even better, the thought of that neighbourhood never crossed your mind at all because it’s just a neighbourhood like any other.
Freedom from mental slavery is the best thing black people can do for themselves; but “None but ourselves can free our minds”.