Photo Maryan Garane // Mizizi Shop
Growing up as a child of a Somali family, I always heard the words “Somalis aren’t black”, “Somalis are Arab” and all other responses. I grew up not appreciating my blackness and not acknowledging it. Around my culture, being a true Somali would be having type 2 or 3 hair, light skin tone and having a straight nose. As for me, I didn’t have those features. I have 4A hair and more afro-centric features and for the longest time, it’s what made me hate myself and my blackness. I would constantly relax my hair and bleach my skin. It took so long to love myself and my afro-centric features.
I would always be told that Somalis are Arab, and in some cases it’s true but the majority of them are not. People need to understand that Africa does not have one look. Africa is the most genetically-diverse continent in the world. As I did more research into Somali genetic, I have found some interesting information. the Somalis are paternally closely related to other Afro-Asiatic-speaking groups in Northeast Africa. Besides comprising the majority of the Y-DNA in Somalis, the E1b1b haplogroup also makes up a significant proportion of the paternal DNA of Ethiopians, Sudanese, Egyptians, Berbers, North African Arabs, as well as many Mediterranean populations.
Of course, DNA is the major player in people’s genetics. I just totally notice how easily the East-African community can have internalized black-hate on themselves, to have certain brutal words for the African-American community like we are separate from them. It’s truly saddening for us to not be acknowledging & loving our blackness and not labeling to another ethnicity/race. There are a stigma and superiority-complex in us sometimes depending on the person. The great thing is that not all Somalis or all Horners are like this, some embrace our blackness and culture but some don’t.
It took me quite a long time to start loving myself and loving others. I was never really an activist for the black community or people of color in general because I was never really told that having black features is beautiful. It wasn’t until a year ago when I found the activist community on Twitter or Instagram and the Black Lives Matter movement that I labeled myself as an activist for equality. I hope for the future for Somalis and East-Africans, in general, to tell their kids to love themselves and their blackness, to love their features, and to acknowledge it.