Month: November 2012

Guest Post: White Women. Part II

When I was initially sent this piece, I thought omg I’m going to have to preface this with X, Y AND Z so people don’t get their feelings hurt slash get mad at this blog slash think the author, me or this blog is racist. However, I’m not going to do that. I think editing this would have made the piece lose its authenticity and raw emotion. Take for it as you will… don’t worry, I’m ready for the backlash. This blog has been lacking some fire, and this piece definitely takes it up a notch. I will be responding to this piece personally… very soon.

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Conversation overheard at a bar in Accra, Ghana… yes… Africa:

White boy: <notices cute white girl and steps to her> Hey, how are you?

White girl: <busy dancing her best version of the azonto> Ummm… good.

White boy: <starts to lay his mac down> So—

White girl: Look. Let me save you some time. I didn’t come all the way to Africa to meet white guys. So, thanks but no thanks.

***drops mic. exits stage left. done.***

I appreciate her honesty. After all, if she spent $1500 on a plane ticket to spend a semester in an African country where the ratio of white women to black men is 1 to a bajillion, then why should Katie waste her time on Ken when she came for Kwame? The discussion concerning white women and their love of African men has been discussed ad nauseum in every black relationship blog on this earth. However, this is not about the white woman’s obsession, and its not even about African men just dating white women. This is about African men overwhelmingly marrying them. This is about the lengths that white women will go to keep them. This is about asking, are we —namely returnees seeking to date men of our own nationality–doing something  most things everything wrong?!

Disclaimer: I can’t be mad at love. I recognize that it don’t matter if you’re black or white can be colorblind. And in todays pseudo post- racial society it seems only right that we would be very taste-the-rainbow-esque given our status as post- apartheid, post-black-president-in-the-USA, post-MLK- on-the-mountain-top intellectuals. But as was discussed in a previous post, the overwhelming rate of African intellectuals marrying white woman has really given me and my comrades some pause. Take the following real life, real world scenarios:

Scenario 1: Tricked ya!

I walk into a bar with bff slash roomie. The roomie notices a classmate in the corner who is very much an African man with great credentials (above 6 feet, nice dark skin, beautiful smile, ivy league degree(s) and a sense of humor— you know, standard fare.) He brings up his wife. I ask my roomie who this lucky Michelle Obama-esque woman of high standard and… of color could possibly be. I obviously needed to get her take on finding— oh wait. She’s not black. Oh… she’s moving to Ghana you say? Oh no, he’s moving to the US to be with her even though he wants to be in Africa?! Oh cuz she said she may or may not move to Ghana depending on how she feels in the morning?!

I don’t get it.

Scenario 2: Comin’ for ya!

Walk into a gathering of a friend. Start talking to a friend of a friend. He’s flirting. I’m flirting. Everyone is having a good time. Suddenly he has to leave to go skype with his girlfriend. Bummed… but at least there’s a woman involved. Most likely an Akua who is getting her masters in the states and will be back in Ghana in the next year. Only to find out… her name is Ashley, not Akua. She is from Texas actually, and she will be moving to Ghana next year even though she has never even visited the country once. Ever. He says they might get married. He’s still trying to decide though.

She’s coming either way…

Scenario 3: Promises and Pipedreams…

Guy breaks up with a friend, says something about misaligned values. Says he’s met someone. But of course he has. Because living in Africa as a smart, eligible African bachelor undoubtedly means connecting with hoards of pretty, intellectual African women that are teeming on the continent. So how awesome was it to find out that she isn’t a pretty intellectual African woman, but rather a white woman. And not one of those ‘homegrown white African’ types, or one of those ‘white women on the continent because they are committed to the plight of all Africans and not just the men’ types either; but your ‘I move to Africa primarily for my African man’ types. Again, with no ring. No vows. No promise of a functioning, long-term relationship. Not even a modicum of excitement on his part for being with her.

Love?

Mayhaps…

Conclusion: Is it US?

White women seem to do a better job of marrying our men then we do and they are more than happy to relocate across the world and/or say they might relocate to ensure they get who they want. So what’s wrong with us? When Beyonce sang, ‘if you want it then you shoulda put a ring on it’, she was throwing a catchy tune and some iconic dance moves behind a motto that has gripped the heart and mind of many an African middle class, well-educated woman. Because truth is…

I am not moving anywhere for a man that hasn’t committed to me in some long-term capacity.

I am not moving anywhere for a man that has strung me along for more than half a decade.

I am not moving anywhere for a man that is with me out of convenience and not out of genuine desire.

I am not moving to anyone’s country where I do not speak the language, cannot cook the food and burn every time I go outside unless there are ring(s) on it…

I am also NOT currently dating an African man, so I suppose there you have it.

You might say… or maybe you wonder… hey, that’s just some of the guys, it’s not all and it’s not even most. But truth be told, it is a critical mass large enough number. If there are maybe 10 guys who meet the minimum bar of intellectual, down-to-earth and mildly attractive, at least 5 of them are dating or married to white women. Is this a legit statistic? No. But based on my personal sampling in the experience of my time here in Ghana, it seems pretty accurate.

Speaking to a Ghanaian man seemed to shed a new light on the situation. According to him, the returnee is the worst type of mate. The white woman is an outsider and acceptably so. The Ghanaian, born-and- raised is the prize and highly desirable. But the returnee is the lukewarm, mediocre, watered down version of the prize. A guy would much sooner bring a white woman home because her ignorance is excusable but the returnee’s one foot in America, one foot in Ghana situation makes them a bit like a house divided—it just can’t stand.

So herein lies the dilemma…

Is it that we are not Ghanaian slash non- Ghanaian enough?

…That we don’t compromise (never mind the paradox of our compromised identity)?

…That we are so quick to lay down all the things we won’t do that he can’t see all the other great things we offer?

The bit about our identity, to me… doesn’t even make any sense slash is its own spate dialogue.  So maybe I’ll address that in another guest post (my fingers are itching for the dada b v. returnee version of real world/ road world challenges—blog style).

But the one about compromise gives me the shivers. Explain to me in what world it would be okay to ask women to compromise on values that are very much the ones your own mother raised you with and still has?! Perhaps this shows you the stark contradictions and very real gender dynamics at play in Ghanaian culture. As women we are supposed to compromise on our ideals, dreams and expectations in order to ensure we can have a family with a man who complains about this very problem in his parents’ relationship. I wonder what kind of life these white women are giving up to live in Africa slash pretend to consider this option? How many of them wanted to go to law school, or raise their kids in Nantucket or be closer to their parents or have Justin Beiber looking babies? Our parents taught us (men and women) that the holy trinity of life priorities is: Education, God and Family… in no particular order. So excuse me if the mix of these things requires:

1.     A commitment to a career or livelihood that I cannot abandon on a whim or hope that maybe if the sun rises in the west one day, you may propose and/ or commit. My father sacrificed his everything to ensure I get some degrees and a useful job in the world because that’s his legacy, and my apologies in advance for wanting to honor that. Does this mean Career Rules Everything Around Me? No. It just means you better be talking kids and white picket fences before I consider any such diversions.

2.     An expectation of love, desire and full commitment instead of a relationship of convenience based on shallow markers of compatibility. We have all seen those sad, tragic relationships, especially amongst African couples, and that’s just not the life we are about. We have also seen functional black relationships brimming with love and pride in one’s partner, and that’s what we want: Black. Love.

3.     A Christ-Centered value system that means that many of my actions and choices will be based around my relationship with my God. The same Christ Centered values your mother lives by and probably tried to instill in you. However because you are a man, somehow the fruits of the Spirit become elusive.

Am I saying that we returnee women are perfect and just sitting there flawlessly waiting for hoards of Ghanaian men to throw stones at our windows and whisper sweet nothings in our ears? Hell yeah. No! Am I saying that white women compromise their values for African men? No. I am pointing out that they don’t have the values we may have because they were not raised by the parents we were raised by. The same parents that the African men were also raised by. All I am doing is crying foul for the hypocrisy of the situation… asking us to compromise on values that we got from mothers very similar to those of these African men is unfair.

Compromise is important, but no one should have to compromise his or her character. No one should have to compromise his or her values. No one should have to neglect twenty some odd years of upbringing because there may be a fairytale-esque ending in some distant (unknown) future…

Or maybe they should. <KanYe Shrug>

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Response: Vulnerability x Time = Intimacy

I’m finally getting around to responding to Eli’s guest post… It’s taken me a little while to finish this… starting and stopping several times. As Eli knows, this is a sensitive topic for me. Something I’ve struggled with in the past.

Vulnerability is scary and often unnatural to many people. I find the latter even more-so true with Africans given that our culture encourages us to suppress (and sometimes not even acknowledge (certain) emotions). One of the main reasons for this is that being vulnerable is viewed as a sign of weakness and exposes flaws…and within a relationship dynamic, this can translate into very real negative consequences, ie. your significant other discovering that they do not want to be with you anymore. So people keep quiet. They conceal themselves. Or become who they believe the other person wants them to be. And this is why many relationships/ marriages have shaky foundations.

Time is the unassuming key factor in this equation. Rightfully, it should have a multiplying effect on vulnerability in order to achieve intimacy. In my opinion, opening up to someone gradually makes for a stronger bond- there’s just something about getting to know someone intimately too soon which screams warning signs (that crash and burn scenario). I know people wouldn’t be able to handle all of me in the first conversation, nor would they be able to understand certain things about me unless there had been a foundation set over time… for example, appreciating that I’m really not as tough as I want people to think I am, first, will allow you to better understand that my feminist roar really masks my burning desire to be an amazing wife to a great man one day… To take care of him… be his support… his best friend and the mother of his children…

One of the tough questions that Eli touched briefly on in his piece is how long should one wait to become vulnerable with someone – emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically- and is there an order which guarantees success? Is it best done all at once? My roommate and I were discussing the romantic landscape of our current lives, and she said something I really connected with: there’s something unnerving about meeting someone out and beginning the relationship on a romantic level right away. Her desire, and frankly mine as well, is to develop a friendship with a guy and for things to naturally blossom. Is this too idealistic? Who knows. But in my experience, the best relationships last when a foundation of spiritual and emotional intimacy is laid first. If I’m to be frank about things, I can accurately predict whether a relationship will be short- or long-term depending on how quickly we’re physical.

Opening up has been a journey for me, even with close friends. I’ve been guarded a lot of my life, because there’s always been an implicit persona that needed to be kept up… ‘the academic one’ ‘the good girl’ ‘the tough girl’ ‘the African daughter from a respectable home’.  How exactly does one admit to their fear of rejection when she’s known as the ‘haaard girl’, you know. Although I’ve become better at opening up, I still stick to the premise that one does not necessarily need to share everything with everyone, and that means your partner too. Some things are just for you and your Creator. However, your significant other should be the one person on this planet earth who knows the most about you and who you feel the most comfortable sharing things with: not your best friend(s), not your colleague(s), not even your family, but your significant other- that’s just how I feel.

But to eli I would say this, a lot of people do not share your our view that love blossoms out of vulnerability. I can “love you”, be married to you/be in a longterm committed relationship with you, and that have nothing to do with my emotional, spiritual (and even physical) fulfillment in life. Rather, my love for you is in how I take care of you- monetarily… it’s how I respect you as a woman and the mother of my children… but not that I necessarily share my feelings with you (perhaps because I don’t even acknowledge my own feelings to myself). Do we look at that couple and say that the man doesn’t love his wife if that’s his definition of love?

This has been good food for thought though…thanks Eli. Remember to check out Dust Magazine, where Eli is the Editor-at-Large. Also, follow him on twitter @elidot.

Bob Marley Love

A little bob marley came my way today, and I thought I would share… it’s nice to hear these things sometimes…

And yall enjoyed my last marley post.

On a side note, I’ve been quite mute lately, but I’m hoping to get out a few posts (including guest posts) in the next couple of weeks. I’ve received feedback that I don’t really write about myself… so I’m going to start opening up in my posts..

“Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.”
― Bob Marley

-and, because every woman wants to feel worth it-