While I like to think that I am the sole representative for all black women, I am indeed not. These are my feeble, yet sole views and experiences. That being said I think being in Vancouver does nothing for a black woman’s self esteem, or at any rate at least mine. Spotting another black person in Vancouver is like spotting some gazelle in an African safari, especially a black woman who is natural and proud to be who she is. Two years ago I made the choice to go natural to be truer to myself and to save my hair from breaking. When I made this decision, (which some days I do regret) I could no longer hide behind the guise of long flowing hair and blend in with the masses. I now stood out even more and it made me question my own self image and self hate.
Coming from a largely Caribbean city (Montreal) I was raised in such a way to never acknowledge colour and treat people like equals, so I never saw any really. I had friends growing up who were Greek, Lebanese, Palestinian, Jewish, Haitian and Jamaican and so forth. A real melee. Thus, in montreal as there were plenty of people who looked like me I blended in and never had an issue with self image and feeling like an outsider. And then the big CRASH of 96- what I like to call “The day my world ended” aka moving to Vancouver. Now let’s be honest shall we, Vancouver is a great city. It is gorgeous on a sunny day or even the heaviest of rainfall. It also has such a picturesque view with the mountains and greenery. However, the black population here is so small, its not even on the radar. When I first moved to Vancouver from Montreal I was called Nigger while walking to school, made fun of for the way I looked and really bullied for pretty much anything you can think of. I grew up really hating my surroundings and myself, thus its no wonder my self esteem is shot. There are not any black role models that I could look up to, or even idolize. My mom was not the best person I could talk to about self image for she wasn’t always the best when it comes to that sort of thing.While I’ll say that she has gotten a LOT better, she still says things that may hurt my feelings such as “Your hair reminds me of those kids in Africa” now that’s just plain mean and insulting to the African nation,but I digress. (I ll take this moment to say that I did educate my mom on the harshness of this comment and suggest she stop watching Nat Geo cause its skewing her opinion of African people).
I am not afraid or ashamed to say that I deal with a negative self esteem issue, the last year has really taken a toll on me, with the whole loss of job thing and friends from high school, and graduating from University, but I am really trying to get back to the real me. Its my hair that is being a stupid cow. I hate it. Being natural in Vancouver is the worst. It is so hard to find any black hair products, and to order them online cost a fortune. Also the rain and dry weather are the devil to black hair, I can never keep a style and I’m having a hell of a time transitioning into this natural stage of my life. With my weaves and braids I can hide behind my insecurities, sans them? they are staring back at me every time I look at myself in the mirror. Perhaps if black women were sought after in this town like the many black men (side note- as a black woman dating in Vancouver is awful. There’s not many men who will date a black woman or have any interest in them. Its no surprise that I do love black men but the black men in this city do not love me. I fear the longer I live here the more I’ll have to let go of the dream of marrying and having children). Or if by chance they would be represented in the media in Canada in a positive way then maybe I can change my outlook on myself and being a black woman in Canada. I have tried to change my views on being black and have also tried to educate myself on the roots of black people and have discovered this: black people as a whole are brainwashed to think that the lighter your skin is, the straighter your hair is and the dumber you sound the more you are appealing to the masses. This wonderful documentary called ” Hidden Colors|” talks about the real black history and how a colonialism mentality still enslaves people to this day. But when you are the only one seeking the truth, it can feel quite lonely and makes it easier to succumb to my old thinking that my hair, nose, lips and skin colour is ugly and unattractive. I really do hope I can get a hold of this horrible self image that I do have of myself, the thing is I just don’t know how and I have a feeling dealing with unruly hair is just making things worse.