Initially my intent was to procure a Korean scholarship. I love Korea you see. I love the culture, the language, the quirks, the peculiarities. I love it all. However, I didn’t get one. Instead I am now the recipient of a Russian scholarship. When this shift from Korean to Russian first came into view I did some research on the country itself because almost everything I had heard about Russia was negative, and the bits that weren’t negative weren’t really positive either. But that’s just in the mainstream media. So I went looking where people like you and me would speak about our own perspectives. Here, I most now note that I am of African descent, and that it is obvious once you see me. (Let’s be clear, I am not African. I am an Antiguan. My ancestors left Africa 300 years ago.) For this reason I was a little more concerned than some might be because I’d also been fed that Russians are racist. Thankfully, the good people of Netville dispelled this myth (for me). I went looking for first-hand accounts of what blacks had undergone on trips to Russia. I was amazed.
The accounts of people who had actually been to Russia were not negative they were closer to being neutral. They mentioned strange stares on the street, and persons feeling threatened but not being harmed. That is perfectly okay for me. I am strange enough so I get stared at and I’ve grown quite accustomed to it. So the real issue here is feeling threatened. The story that goes along with this was a second-hand account of a black Russian (they exist) who in a bar one day saw a man standing outside of the bar with a club. Apparently it was communicated that he was waiting for her. After a few hours he left. The storyteller was keen to mention that the reaction to blacks in Russia varies depending on whether you’re closer to the capital or farther away. To be honest, that bar story frazzled me a bit. What balanced it for me was the introduction of a black man married to a Russian woman. Let me also inform you that I take more away from the exception than from the norm. If one black man has been living in a rural area in Russia with a Russian woman for several years and he is still alive and unharmed how much do I need to fear? So, yes, there are many videos with persons saying it’s bad in Russia. But it’s the other side that drew me.
I mean really? Of course, one will still have doubts but I thought that was a rather important issue. And I stopped my research after finding the account of a black female who had been to Russia. I wasn’t afraid anymore. This might not seem like the smartest move, but it’s exactly what I did. For me the major aspects that seemed to bother people is explained by the fact that blacks aren’t a commonality in Russia and similar areas of the world. Their ‘racism’ isn’t “I hate you because you aren’t worthy”. If we can truly call it racism then it should be classed under “I am threatened by this change.” Aren’t we all threatened by change? Is it not our habit, our tradition, our way of life to revolt against change.
For the last year I have felt a revolution boiling. A revolution against me and my hair. A revolution led by own people. Oddly this revolution isn’t just against me. It is against every kinky-haired individual who decides to embrace the naturalness of their hair. Does that sound odd to you? If a black person’s hair is straightened to resemble that of other races they have a better chance of being taken seriously, of being hired. This is comment includes but isn’t focused on managers of other races. It is about black managers who consider natural hair to be a sign that the person beneath the hair is unkempt, uncouth, unbusiness-like, and unfit for any position be it an auxiliary worker or anything else.
The first image below is a photo of me one of approximately twelve occasion on which attention was actually paid to my hair. The rest of the eight years I did as little as is humanly possible to my hair. Very few people complained. The next image, is more recent. Approximately one year after cutting my hair people doubt my ability, and when it is found that I am efficient at what I do…they suggest I change my hair.
Oddly, I take more care of my natural hair in one month than I ever did in the eight years I was straightening my hair. Every time I do my natural hair I ensure it is done exactly how I want it to look: polished. I never cared with my straightened hair. But that isn’t anyone’s concern. Their concern is that this hair is different, a change and hence it should be shunned by all means humanly possible. This not only includes looking at kinky-haired persons with eyes that suggest ill intent, but also withholding jobs, at times, segregation. I remember an incident where a group of students belittled a woman because of her hair. After being told she was a talented and accomplished writer, they were appalled. They were not sorry. They were appalled and they promptly dismissed her.
Shortly after I cut my hair, and before it began trending people would stare at me in that strange way that people do as if to make one feel less human. I have yet to see Russian eyes give me that look. I have only seen curiosity, and for me curiosity is exactly the brand of racism I like…the kind that observes, and questions, and accepts. Come along with me. Experience Russia and its people through my eyes, black eyes, the eyes of a kinky-haired girl.
- I watched less than a minute, then read the comments (from about a year ago) which I completely agreed with.
- This is from the same person in #1 with a guy married to a Russian
- Again same person from 1 and 2, in which advice and explanation is given about Russian culture on the street
- A black woman who visited Russia, and her experience
And a link I’ve just found that gives a more open-minded feel to it all. Two American basketballers in Krasnodar, Russia
After doing the same search I am amazed at how much more I’m seeing negative things that were online long before my initial search. Nonetheless, I am pleased with my finds, and decision.
Do share your thoughts, views, and questions.