“Pretty for an African?”

Posted in Guest Posts,Life and Culture with Yvonne on February 18th, 2014 By Yvonne Mtengwa

I remember walking across a patch of grass in front of the B. Jones Center at Atlanta’s Emory University a good 12 years ago now. Bright eyed college freshman I was, who had categorically been placed under the “International Students” sub-group…you know; the group that arrives on campus earlier than the rest and endures lecture upon lecture on how to navigate the bus system, the do’s and don’ts of living on American soil and so on. A young African American guy with a Frat jacket on randomly stopped me and asked me where I was from. The conversation went something like this: Me: “Zimbabwe” (…thinking to myself surely guy couldn’t have been loitering about campus asking folks tit-bits about their backgrounds!) Guy: “I’m guessing that’s somewhere in Africa right?” Me: “Yeah, Southern Africa to be exact. If you have ever heard of South Africa, we are right above it” Guy: “Oh okay cool. I thought I should ask because you did not look like you could be from Atlanta. I was thinking Africa or the Islands. I’m Jason, but my frat brothers call me Jay. Has anyone ever told you though, that you are really pretty for an African, plus the accent’s cute too!” Me: #DEAD#CUE.MORTIFIED.FACIALS#FINISHED I’m not sure if he expected cool points or for me to swoon over his confident borderline arrogant bad boy disposition. #Confession: guy was a looker with the carefully trimmed line across his forehead and hazel-colored eyes. Totally the type of guy you have in your head like “Dang!” in a Morris Chestnut movie. Be that as it may, looking back I attribute naivety and the sheer excitement of being a few days old on an American campus in a city I had always wanted to live in; to my not having responded with the rudimentary “And what exactly do you mean by ‘you are really pretty for an African’?

I am a little older now and for sure a lot wiser and have since those many years ago, made a practice of analyzing certain words folks use in jest or subconsciously. Back then I heard a lot of the “You are really this or that….for an African” and did not really dwell on it much. The United States as a nation is an incredible melting pot that one cannot even begin to dissect in one conversation. What has however dawned on me over time, is the issue of black consciousness especially as it relates to women across racial, national and cultural divides. Movies like “For Colored Girls” and Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” have challenged me to question the magnitude of stereotypes that exist concerning women of African descent, juxtaposed with the self-fulfilling prophesies that even we as women carry about ourselves as a result of the influence of popular culture, tradition or the quest to find oneself. Throw in the element of the 18 inch tresses of Brazilian hair that women are forfeiting outstanding bills to wear on their heads and yes…the skin bleaching creams on promotion out there - and the whole equation really leans towards the loco end of the spectrum. Bottom line is beauty is subjective and can be related to so many other things before it’s tied in to the notion of one’s race or culture. So no, it is not a compliment to me to state with enthusiasm how “pretty I am FOR AN AFRICAN” and it was not one back then either. I dare say we still have a long way to go as a people before we can fully understand what real beauty or “pretty” as used by Hazel-eyed Frat boy is truly about; lessons of which begin within.

More posts

  • How Many More Girls Need to Disappear?

    Posted in Life and Culture,Life and Culture with Yvonne on May 4th, 2014 By Yvonne Mtengwa

    I have to say, that I cannot remotely imagine being a mother who received word 2 weeks ago that her daughter was one of the girls kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria. I have to say, that I cannot imagine being the politician who knows what avenues can be taken and efforts made […]

    Read more →

  • Thank You LUPITA! Thank You!

    Posted in Life and Culture,Life and Culture with Yvonne on March 12th, 2014 By Yvonne Mtengwa

      I bumped into someone’s status update on Facebook wherein (with such courage) she asked who Lupita Nyong’o was and what her claim to fame was. I thought to myself “What!? Who is Lupita? Is she just not the most tweeted and talked about Kenyan woman, Oscar Winner and Hollywood’s Award Season darling??” I then […]

    Read more →

  • Reawakening the 90s

    Posted in Beats & Soul with Carly on February 26th, 2014 By Carly Mond

    If you have not kept up to date with the world of music recently then you have missed possibly the greatest few days in RnB revival history!! It seems that some of everyone’s favourite artists of the 90s have all woken up from their artistic coma in synchronization and here is the outcome….. During on […]

    Read more →

  • Does Luck Exist on Home Soil?

    Posted in Life and Culture on February 25th, 2014 By Yvonne Mtengwa

    So the adage goes that when opportunity meets preparedness success has every potential to ensue. Roman philosopher Seneca defined luck as the moment when preparedness and opportunity collide. Others simply assert that it is about being at the right place at the right time. In the advent of the economic collapse in my home country […]

    Read more →

  • And Yes! Africa is not a Country!

    Posted in Life and Culture on February 12th, 2014 By Yvonne Mtengwa

    So enthralled I was to bump into a piece on CNN’s website entitled “Africa is not a country’: Students’ photo campaign breaks down stereotypes.” The first thing I thought was “Wow! Finally a people have taken it upon themselves to visually dispel the myths regarding all which Africa isn’t!” A group of students from Ithaca […]

    Read more →

  • Born to Lose, Built to Win – The Short Story of George Weah

    Posted in Guest Posts,Life and Culture on December 18th, 2013 By Tinashe Mabasha

    The first famous black footballer I can remember was John Barnes. He was the fast, athletic left winger for England and Liverpool. I think my dad along with other dads in Zimbabwe supported John Barnes and Liverpool as a result. As much as I hate to admit it, I followed suit. Barnes was subjected to racism […]

    Read more →

  • Were The Super Eagles Dared

    Posted in Guest Posts,What's going On on December 2nd, 2013 By Tinashe Mabasha

    On a winter night in early July 1994, my brothers and I switched off our old Panasonic TV after a disappointing loss for the Nigerian Super Eagles. It was way past our bedtime but we didn’t care. Plus I think my parents were out and made it easier to watch the game.  Pajamas and all […]

    Read more →

  • Music and Passion: Spending time with Questlove

    Posted in Beats & Soul with Carly,Guest Posts,Life and Culture,What's going On on November 29th, 2013 By Simba

    It’s very rare that I come across somebody in the media spotlight whose life I envy. However, I have just read Ahmir Thompson aka Questlove’s book ‘Mo Meta Blues’ and wow I would happily trade lives with him for a while!! ‘Mo Meta Blues’ is described as a memoir/autobiography but it is more a journey […]

    Read more →

  • We Invented The Remix

    Posted in Guest Posts,What's going On on November 27th, 2013 By Ticha

    Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy aka Puffy aka P.Diddy aka Diddy often liked to make the claim that Bad Boy Records (meaning him) invented the remix. I’m not too sure who definitively invented the remix, but one thing is certain and that is Puffy was responsible for some of the greatest remixes ever produced. The […]

    Read more →

  • More Than A Rapper - The Anniversary for The Black Album

    Posted in Guest Posts on November 20th, 2013 By Tinashe Mabasha

      The Black Album was released on November 14 2003. At the time, this was Jay-Z  aka Hov’s last album and he was retiring to become President of Island-Def Jam records and pursue other business interests. Last week was the 10 year anniversary of this record. The Black Album is widely recognized as Hov’s best […]

    Read more →

Watch The Lab on Wabona

Wabona on Twitter