‘East-African women are like, so gorgeous’

Why do I poke around in these awkward intellectual spaces? I’ve been trying to find a way to conceptualize sexuality and beauty within the context of ‘Somalinimo’ (an abstract system of Somali nationalism), and in having these conversations with friends; I’m reminded and advised to leave this particular can of worms alone. You know I can’t do that. Muahahaha! I live for these uncomfortable intellectual spaces. But first, rather than set this up as an opinion piece where I vandalize your mind with my conclusions, (that I believe to be a bastion of rationality, don’t get it twisted :P), I’ll instead set it up as a list of questions and comments I’ve compiled surrounding issues of beauty/aesthetics in the Horn of Africa. I also wanna tackle this  through diaspora lens, as this is the space where East African (a term, geographically/politically problematic, but in this case, referring to the Horn of Africa region) women have had their experiences collide with that of other women of the continent/diaspora. Ok, now my disclaimers. 1) I’m setting this up as conversation as opposed to a community of like minded people who only cosign each others intellectual conclusions, which is a short way of saying, ‘please come for me, because I’m about to bait the shit out of you’.  2) Come correct with evidence and clear arguments, but sans the rhetoric/emotional outburst (I’m guilty of this, but this is an important conversation, let’s not derail) por favor. 3) I know there are African women not originating from the Horn who exhibit similar features. I know this. But the people who single out Horn of African women as the sole carriers of this aesthetic do not know this. So please don’t respond with ‘It’s not only Somali women, women from Burundi also have soft hair and long noses’. Please don’t do that.  4) Anyone seen Dark Knight Rises yet? :/  (Can’t have a list of disclaimers with only three points now).

And off to deconstruction land we go. First thing is first, obey your thirst, drink sprite :/  Ok, let’s try this one more time. I want to discuss the issue of East African women and the way their bodies are fetishised by internal and external communities (the internal part needs a dissertation and critical theory). But I want to do this in a manner that is true to scholarly brevity, while paying particular attention to the nuance of representation of African female bodies (emphasis on want, I’ll inevitably fail at both, this I’m sure of). As a Somali woman (and most Horn of Africa women can cosign this narrative), I’m often rewarded with instant ‘beauty points’ because of the phenotypic features of the women from my region.  When one conjures an image of a Somali, an Ethiopian, an Eritrean, its usually involves some form of  slender noses, loosely curly/wave hair,  a face that looks like it was a ‘white woman dipped in chocolate’ as a poetic friend once pointed out.  This is what people think, and this is the image we as a community boast of, and perpetuate the shit out of it. We’ve internalized these narratives and replicate a standard of beauty that marginalizes other forms of blackness. Para example, to some Somalis, other Africans are ‘Jareers’  (degorative term meaning nappy-headed), and hell yes, I’m putting us on blast. I will not be binded by code of ethnic solidarity that makes use of oppressive language used to demonize our African brothers and sisters, while simultaneously effective in distancing ourselves from any perceived kinship with other Africans/blackness. I’m not about that.

Also, while challenging european ideals as a member of the diaspora, I’m often reminded that white supremacist paradigms grow strongly in the petri dish that is the minds of my own community. Now, I know this cultural ‘place’ I’m trying to unpackage is rife with problematic language and narratives. Confounded are issues of internalized self-hate on top of narratives that seek to remove the ‘Horn of Africa’ region from the consciousness of any collective black consciousness.  We just don’t make the cut.  It’s difficult to blog about in such a concise way, but I’ll try it with a set of questions and comments/declarative statements that point to some of the issues I have when it comes to East African women and theorizing their bodies and spaces.

1)   Is there such thing as ‘East-African’ privilege in the context of African  bodies? Are we allowed to occupy spaces because our features legitimize anti-black narratives? Have you experienced this? Are you consistently complimented on your ‘features’ and how often do you hear remarks like ‘East African women are so gorgeous’ (they are indeed; but all African women are stuff of dreams, but that reality can exist while challenging the roots of the paradigms that legitimize that narrative)

2)   Non-East African black women, do you consider us one of your own? Or is our black-ness something to be contested? Are we ‘mixed’ to you? When/if you believe in a universal African narrative, are we a part of it? or a region protected from anti-black rhetoric. Growing up, I remember my Jamaican schoolmates consistently downplaying my role as  legitimate member of the black community in Canada. Apparently my facial features and the texture of my hair were enough to dismiss my Somali peers and I as ‘mixed-chicks’ or  ‘probably Indian or some shit’

3)   We’re not mixed. Rewriting the histories of people/cultures is not an effective tool to dissect the political/cultural implications of valuing Horn of African beauty above other African women.  I’ve spent years convincing/educating my African sisters that the rumors of our ‘mixed’ heritage are without evidence. What form of mass colonialization took place in Ethiopia to justify the phenotypic features of our Ethiopian brothers and sisters? What special admixture happened in the horn of Africa that didn’t couldn’t happen to African slaves removed from their home, mixed with Europeans and Native communities? I’m not convinced. I need evidence. And if so, so what if we’re mixed? How does that diminish our role in any construction of an universal African consciousness? This whole ‘let’s exalt blackness by limiting it’ is problematic IMO.

4)   If you continue to promote the lie that Somalis are mixed with Arabs, I’ll have your spleen removed and dipped in ranch dressing. WE ARE NOT MIXED! Are there ethnic groups in the region with Arab ancestry? yes, they’re unique communities, and we’re aware of their existence. They’re aware of their lineage, too. We’re all aware of the roots of our ancestors, so as much as we appreciate self-made Archaeologists chiming in, we got this. And if you’re so inclined, do me a favour, grab a Kuwaiti women and a brother from Benin, and if they can produce a child that looks Somali, I’ll concede.  Till then, keep your Arabs out of my family lineage please. Shout-outs to my Arab brothers and sisters 🙂

5)   I will not have my ‘African-ness’ questioned in order to give legitimacy to those who’ve fetishized this region as that only consisting only of kente clothes, and West Africa. There are others on this continent too, you know. Those who do not conform to your fabricated illustration of what Africa looks like.  The Tuaregs are just as African as the Ashanti people. We can challenge anti-black rhetoric without reducing our continent to one phenotype; setting it as the standard, and dismissing everything else as something perverse and diluted.

6)   Non-East-African men who tell us we’re beautiful, please stop. We know! As are all African women (and all women). But we’re also suspicious of your need to single us out(the few that do). The texture of our hair is as ancient as cave paintings in Las Gaal( shoutouts to Somaliland), but I’m also aware of the cultural climate that allows you to value mine above a sister who has tightly coiled curls. I’m onto you. We’re onto you. And we do not need your fetishized gaze.  Go fetishize the women of your own nation, and learn to exalt their beauty as divine.

7)   East-African women, sit down and shut up once in awhile. Be present to how your looks can replicate oppressive ideals of what blackness looks like. Do not take pride in an aesthetic (although indigenious to your community) that is used to belittle the black bodies of your brothers and sisters. This is nothing to be proud of/ashamed of. It just ‘is’. Infact, pick a book, and be more than this high-fashion model caricature. I love you!

8)   Somalis, if I hear the sentence ‘Oh I didn’t know he/she was Somali, they don’t look it’, I’ll sentence you to the invasive enhanced pat down and a lifetime without Diana skin lightning cream. Just as those who seek to reduce Africa to a reductionist representation are guilty, you’re also indicted for reducing our diverse country to high foreheads and slender noses. Cut it out already! The only thing is that authentically ‘Somali’ is our love for welfare states 😛

9) And to my sisters from the region in question, have you been ostracized for not conforming to the standard of what it means to be ‘ an Ethiopian’, a ‘Somali’, etc?

Anyway, friends and foes, what say you of my questions and charges? I really wanna hear from the diaspora on this one. Is there a semblance of truth to some of my concerns and conclusions? Or I have constructed a fictitious world where people find East-African women beautiful?  runs off into the moonlight to work on the cure for five-finger Somali foreheads


86 thoughts on “‘East-African women are like, so gorgeous’

  1. I don’t think I’m ugly , subjective I know , but around Somalis I question my appearance. I never realized I looked different until it was pointed out to me by well-meaning Somalis. I’ve been told that even though my features don’t look ‘traditionally’ somali , my hair makes up for my uncharacteristically somali features . what the fuck kind of compliment is that? I’m sad to say this misguided flattery did for a period provide comfort to my wounded soul  if it wasn’t for the POC blogsphere world I probably would never have learned about internalized racism and the divide and conquer affect it has on the community.

    • Preach! Story of every Somali girl’s life who fails to conform to that image. Growing up, I was berated for not being a tall, svelte ford model, but was praised with back-handed compliments like ‘well she has a slender nose and soft hair, can’t be too bad now’…and like you, that form of depraved commentary provided a sense of worth, till I realized ‘wait a minute’…And as a Somali, I too, was guilty of perpetuating that toxic mindset by grooming my hair like it was my last stand against blackness….Luckily, Bell Hooks saved me 😛

  2. I have countless experiences that speak to every single question you asked- from being told ”you don’t look Somali” by Somalis and non-Somalis, to ’East-Africans’ who ask for special Salon that works with ’East-African hair’, and Somali people who swear they are Arabs:/. But I will cite 2 experiences from last week:
    1) My light skinned super gorgeous younger cousin has ’African’ hair and she got her hair relaxed- the girl loves the straight hair and I hate the reasons behind her love for straight hair. I play the recent ’transitioning to natural hair’ documentary from Times magazine. Aunt comes in and says something to the effect of ”these women’s hair are jareer; cousin’s hair is just curly a little bit’ – implying that Somalis have jileec hair(which is better/more beautiful..) even though that isn’t true for all Somalis.
    2) I went to a Nigerian Salon to get my hair braided- there was an advertisement of Lorraine Hansberry’s ’A Raisin in the Sun’ in a movie the kids were watching- started to explain to them what it is about- ’… Black people like you and me…’ The little boy says ’I didn’t know you are black’ – I showed him my hand next to his and told him we are all Africans and Black- he says ’I thought you were Somali’ – I tell him Somalis are Africans from the East and Nigerians are from the West but we are all black. His mother hated me and made sure she showed it- she over charged me because my hair was long, yelled at the Liberian woman who used a hot comb to straighten my wet curls before braiding it… she kept making insulting remarks about Somali women and their hair I finally left with a half straightened hair, no braids and paid 1/3 of the $.

    • OMG! yes and yes to all that! Those two narratives just illustrated my anxieties about the identity politics of ‘Somalinimo’…..On one hand, we have a nation that prides itself on its capacity to be separate from Africa. All things African are ‘jareer’, and had a similar experience once, when I overheard Somali ladies gossiping about a Somali girl married to a Kenyan brother. Snide remarks about the depraved future of their children as she will inevitably produce ‘jareer’ kids. This narrative is nothing new and we’ve all heard it. The worst thing one can do to a Somali mother is bring home ‘niin madoow’. It’s sickening, oppressive, and completely damaging to our sense of worth. I love that Somalis are proud people and find solace amongst their own, but when there is a system of hierarchy than exalts Arabs as divine, and demonizes our own African kin, we got issues. Let’s not even get into how we treat Somali Bantus (I hate this classification, marginalizing, assumes there’s a standard of ‘Somalinimo), and most minority groups in Somalia.

      Now here’s where it gets tricky. While I acknowledge the role my people play in replicating negative motifs about blackness, I’m also equally outraged by those black women (not all) with a vendetta against East African women (the overwhelming love for loosely curled hair is problematic, but the communities that possess that trait cannot be demonized). Like I said, I will not be made to apologize for my aesthetic, and the aesthetic of my people, but I can be challenged about the privileges that came with said aesthetic, if any exist. So what if sisters from Eritrea have long and curly hair?, move on from it, embrace that reality as a testament to the diversity of the continent. And maybe, just maybe we can work as a collective to push for diversity in images/narratives about black/african bodies.

      • Somali Bantus are not Somali…there are just Bantus living in Somalia.

        Also why would they stay ina country where they were enslaved like wtf?

        ALso they are muslims so its haraam for them to change their lineage and ancestry so them claiming to be pure blooded somalis is haraam and you supporting that is haraam.

        I am all for Somali pride, but I hate it when People jack our swag.
        LOL at the arab myth, lol whichever somali thinks they are from Saudi can go live there and LEAVE.

      • Wow, even in Africa the obsession with what defines beauty is based on whatever is closest to white is what’s right. For three hundred years my black sisters in America have been oppressed with this lunacy. I can’t believe that the same thing happens in Africa. We here in America inherited this way of thinking from slavery. The white master’s need for black women produced many biracial children. Those children who were lighter and had straighter hair had more privileges and didn’t have to work in the fields. The darker slaves were worked to death. Thus began the hatred inside our own race. We are still stuck in this mentality. Enough already, this insane jealousy over hair and skin complexion has got to end. We are all beautiful, so embrace your beauty and stop begrudging the next woman hers. Let us strive to love one another and do something to show it.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I am spiritually tired of the elitist behaviour of many Somalis (I encounter them more than other East Africans). Some of the language that is used, I dare say it makes me physically ill. My problem extends to the conceited belief that “Somali women are the MOST beautiful women in the whole world.” Why is there so much emphasis on the female beauty, as if there’s nothing more you can care about, feel, achieve, or be. I am looking forward to a time where Somali women aren’t referred to as the “Imaan” of her generation.

    I really am.

    • Hahahahha@’Iman’ of her generation. Touche! Again, not to knock all those amazing pioneers like Iman; but agreed, some of us need books in our lives. When one comes from a society that reduces the worth of a woman to the physical, and an external world that fetishizes that physical; there ceases to be a motive to challenge that narrative. We have East African writers, poets, politicians, artists, activist, but rarely is ‘intellectual’, a label conjured when one thinks of a Somali woman. That’s problematic, at least I think so.

  4. Somali language has not the slightest resemblance to eaither Arabic, Amharic, Galla or Swahili.(1867 by;Ethnological Society of London )
    If the Somalis are descended from Abyssinian invaders of Arabs felix, who were driven out by the tripe of Hamyar assisted by an army sent by Khsuru Ansushirwan, King of Persia. it sremarkable that they have not preserved any knowledge of a written character. I consider that the Somalis are an original unmmixed African race..

    • Hi TrueSomali,

      You wrote: “Somali language has not the slightest resemblance to eaither Arabic, Amharic, Galla or Swahili.(1867 by;Ethnological Society of London )”

      It´s true that the Somali language isn´t resemblent to arabic, swahili and amharic but we do have many similiarities with the Oromo. Our Cushitic languages share many words, for instance words like “Shan (5)” Sagaal (9)”, “Dhooqo” “Magaalo” “Geeraar” “Bidix”, “Meeqa” and “Roob”, to name a few, mean the exact same thing in both Afaan Oromoo and Af Soomaali. And I think for Soomalis who are fluent in the May-May dialect the resemblence are even more clear. I always tell Somalis who (are tired of the “Somalis are arabs” non-sense) want to learn more about the Somali language and are curious about the pre-Islamic religion of Somalis to learn Afaan Oromo (as it is the language closest to ours) and learn more about the Waaq religion (practiced by our foreparents) which is still practiced by a very small percentage of the Oromo people.

      (I´m sorry, I know this blog post wasn´t about linguistics)

    • Actually the Somali language is pretty similar to Arabic since most of our basic language cam from them for example:

      Siriir(Bed in Somali) = Siriirun(Bed in Arabic)

      Kursi ( chair in Somali) = Kursiyun( Chair in Arabic)

      Albab (door in Somali) = Babun( Door in Arabic)

      Qalin ( pen in Somali) = Qalam ( pen in Arabic)
      So you not all of our language came from the Arabs but rather our fundamentals ( Such as alphabet and basic words).

      I rest my case.

  5. If the world has created a hierarchy of aesthetics in which the aesthetics of a scandinavian white woman are placed at the very top, then I wouldn´t say East African women are privileged. In that hierarchy we are simply regarded as sloppy seconds, or sloppy thirds or fourths, depending the rankings of latinas and asians. I guess what I´m trying to say is that “east african features” are not celebrated as “african” features, instead they are celebrated because they resemble those of white people. That´s just sad. “White woman dipped in Choclate”, LOL, that was how one writer described Iman when she catapulted into the fashion scene in the ´70´s. But why did Iman have to be a”white woman dipped in chocolate”? Why can´t white women who resemble Iman be labelled “black women dipped in Vanilla”?

    • so I grew up in east africa for most of my childhood and the whole concept of things revolving around whites was NOT there. It was like there was us and on tv there were foreigners who were white. Well- at least pink/beige and other colors that were defiantly NOT white- I was particular with color when i was a kid so i didn’t get why colors on ppl were only referred to as white and black later on. Anyways, even the word used for whites WAS “foreigners.” I feel like I was actually protected from this whole color ordeal there. It wasn’t until I came to the US that I noticed how much of an emphasis was put on color and race. So my point is that it irritates me when ppl think that the WHOLE EARTH revolves around something like “the aesthetics of a scandinavian white woman are placed at the very top” because in some parts of the world im sure ppl are going about their happy lives not seeing this whole white on top thing. I think if each country kind of has a media that emphasizes on themselves and nation then that will greatly increase self confidences (look at China and the US). Note that this emphasizes shouldn’t be comparing them to others (unlike China and the US) as much as looking at the good and the bad of the nation and u know showing it to the people so that the nation can grow; as for the side effect of that being that u dont know whats going on in the world- well thats what the internate is for!!! Right im just blabbing on now but thats what i wanted to say. Disclaimer: I realize that even in nations there will be ethnicity issues and all but i feel like that might be easier to deal with if we dont have to deal with all the other global race issues and if we accept that we nee to deal with it.

  6. I was gona respond by using lots of F words but it’s Ramadan and I am fasting!

    – East Africans as a whole do have distinct looks the same way North Africans look different that the rest of Africa. so there is no reason to bitch about it.

    – OFCOURSE we are mixed and Simple knowledge of geography and history shows it. For example all the three holy books tell the stories of the Prophets and their people movements from nowaday Israeal/Plastine to Yemen and Arabia going through the Red Sea and passing by the “punt land” and that’s is early history of Prophet Sulaiman Time.

    there is also the well documented history of early Muslims who migrated to Ethiopia and of east Africa some more than 1400 years ago!!!

    I am proud to be African but I am also thankfull to be from East Africa where the history and culture of Africa, Early Egyptians, Arabia, and Islam/Christianity have mixed and found a home!!!

    “Somalnimo” is such short sighted nationalistic crap invented in the 20th Century!!!

      • Also, North Africans have a strong history with Arab colonialism, how come we don’t look like them? Why don’t Somalis look like North Sudanese? do you see what I’m getting at?

    • You can’t base your scientific knowledge of history on ‘holy books’…The first human remains were found in Ethiopia, and archaeologists would agree we are of Cushitic ancestry, and while we have tribes that have ‘Arab’ ancestry, the phenotypic makeup of East Africans has nothing to do with a recent interaction with Muslims from the Middle East. You’re comparing a history of 1400 years ago to a history that predates a Palaeolithic era. Now, I know for many Somalis, history began with the first muslims on the shores of East Africa, but we’ve existed longer than that. There are images of Ethiopians who look like the modern day stereotypical Somalis. Let’s put science aside, and ask for a second, why don’t arabs look like us? The foreheads, the noses, the hair texture do not come from Arabs, they look nothing like us. A broad nosed, short Saudi is suppose to be father of Somalis? you’re kidding right?

      You may personally be of a tribe that has Arab lineage, but all Somalis do not share your history. And what of Ethiopians? who are they mixed with? I feel your sentiments, but I can’t argue with historical/scientific facts borrowed from a holy books that are recent.I’m tired of Somalis that exalt Arabs above their African-ness. You can be muslim without rewriting facts. No one will chalenge your right to practice Islam.

      Thank you for your input, and its okay you’re allowed to swear, just not at me loool..

      • I do not think we need apologies for celebrating our beauty, in our current state it is one thing that we can still hold out on. We are elevated to our standard by our surroundings. In my experience having lived most of my life between N. America and Kenya, Uganda, there is always a feeling of not belonging. Our African brethren single us out like we are not African and we did the same to them. Chicken and egg scenario…

        Are we mixed, FOR SURE, In the past (pre 1400 past 🙂 )We had the advantage of having a few cultures mixing with the population that was living in that area. We are on a major trade route and had the benefit/drawback of other communities adding to the gene pool. As nomadic individuals, we needed both sexes to be fit and slim. The prototypical Viking woman or the Saartje Baartman’s of south/west Africa would not cope with the terrain or vast travels that the lifestyle required. From there NATURAL SELECTION took over. Mixing the jareer and the indian/arab/(whatever else we have been ascribed to)… our g,g,g,g grand parents might have liked the soft hair and that could have resulted in the hair that is currently prevalent in the region, again natural selection.

        I believe we treasure our difference because it places a clear demarcation point as an identity (call it Somalinimo if you want) brains, and beauty. We just have to get past the few issues that face us today…. lol

        Back beauty, we do not live in a perfect world, depending on which rung you are on, there will always be some looking down on you on the ladder or looking up to you. I am happy that I will be choosing my mate from this particular rung…

      • btw since evidence shows the first human remains are from africa does that mean all races are technically speaking from the african race?

  7. Wow! I loved reading you my sister! Thank you so much for confronting this issue head on and with no compromise! It is one subject that is really close to my heart and it goes much deeper than just facial features. I was talking about this just few days ago on my fb wall.

    On one hand, I try to enlighten our people, the Somalis who claim with pride that they are descendents of Arabs. On the other, I try to educate other Africans.
    In order to do both of the above, I spend such a great deal of time researching our history and nothing I found links our ethnicity, genes or physical traits to any Arabs or Europeans. Sorry to disappoint some of you – we are not mixed with Arabs. Since the Ancient Egyptians came to our shores and recorded some of our history more than 5,000 years ago and also according to other researches dating back 10,000 years, the modern Somalis look exactly like their ancestors…. So even if along the years some of us may have mixed with others, it was not widespread enough to change they way we look.
    Africans have given birth to humanity so it is only natural we find every shape, shade, hair texture and features that exist in the world.

    Also, there is nothing for Somalis to be proud of. We can find many unflattering features in us as well, such as that skinny body frame, big teeth that say salam to the skies and massive foreheads! (No offense to anyone….I happen to have the least useful and flattering of those and I wish I was skinny! The malaaiik were thinking about a chubby one with big teeth when they were designing me!) I am just turning our standards of beauty on its head!
    What I hate the most is the hatred we express towards other African people, including our closest cousins, the Amhara! Dadka kale oo dhan waa xaayawaan siiba dadka ‘madow’ according to our people! Walaahi, as my sister said above, it makes me physically ill and that was not daring for me to say – it is very easy to say it out loud. I could write books about the kind of prejudices our people recycle. It offends me to the core!
    Our people’s ignorance around this issue always disturbs me…the prejudice that comes out of some of them and the way everyone around us normalised it and how I am seen as the crazy one for challenging that behaviour can be so disheartening.

    The kind of prejudice ay soomaalideenu u qabaan dadka kale ee africaanka ah wa cudur walaahi! I had the misfortune of dealing those just a few days ago, which actually prompted me to comment on it on my wall. Mid doonayay inuu ila sheekeysto uunba sheekadi kusoo daray, ‘isku DNA or genetics and genes ma nihin umadaa xayawaanka ah’ referring to Africans/Blacks. Another one in the office said he used to attend the student events we used to hold and he recalled one of these events but the only thing he could remember was this Somali sister who was a guest speaker from oxford university who ‘brought with her saaxiibkeedi cadaa!’ !!!!…………..He said that as if she was having sex on the panel so disgusted he looked! Then a female colleague said, ‘waar iskadaa ku cad eh, madoowgana imika hableheenu weey raacaan. He stood up and said, “Nooo, ‘biddeyaasha’ inagadaaba!!”

    BIG SIGH……Qalbiga kasoo go’ay kind of SIGH!………………..

    I just felt sick but I did not let any of them get away with it. I gave them a LONG lecture about how disgustingly prejudiced they were and that was so WRONG! I reasoned and protested and really put them on the spot. All I got in return was NOT, ‘We apologise for being so prejudiced’ but ‘Adna ma waxaad soo wadaa biddeh? You seem to be taking this personally!’
    ……………………………….OMG!!!………………….. More SIGH!……………..UFF!
    How about the Somali sister who made daanyeer noises and faces as she mentioned a Nigerian man her cousin was married too! She said, ‘gidaarkaasu leeg yahoo markuu qoslona, dhulka gariira!’
    She is a ‘well educated’, young, hijaab wearing woman. I just told her to take the fuck off her hijaab as her behaviour was an insult to the very God she wants to show she is trying to please! Tagg dhe, caqligeedu iyo qalbigeeduba waa usgag!

    I am not surprised that other Africans have prejudices towards us or sincerely believe we are mixed with Arabs. That is what WE keep on telling and showing them. One Caribbean sister told me that many Eritrean and Somali people she met told her their ancestors were Arabs and that is why they look as they do. She said, ‘who am I to argue with them or disbelief their story?’ SMH!
    We throw at our African brothers and sisters; ‘Maya! Africaaan ma nihin! Somaalido maaha madow! We are more beautiful! You are fufus! Waar dhagaxow kaaley!’….etc.
    This disgraceful behaviour really hurts me because I love so much my madownimo, Africaness and dark skin! Alhamdulilah walaahi for our Creator!
    But of course I note your comments about those who deny us a place in our African family just because we do not fit the definition of an African the white supremacists injected in the African mind through slavery and colonialism. That needs to be challenged to however, I don’t think it would have been that heard if we, Somalis, were not trying to live up to this racist theories!
    But thank God I have great Somali warrior sisters like you, around me who feel just as strongly about this issue as I feel. We cannot continue ineeynu isu xilqarino oo foolxumadan caqliga saameysay ineeynu daboolno!
    Keep it up my sister! Love you dearly walaahi!

  8. Well written. While I hate being associated with arabs ( we are prettier… Is that prejudice?) and I totally agree with you on the need to stop our prejudice against other people, you cannot lump all Africans in the same pool because being ‘African’ is not about being a particular colour or race, it is about being from the African continent. What I am trying to say ( though lacking in your finesse in prose) is that while a Nigerian is an African and a Somali is an African, we are of two different and unique races. We should be proud of both.

    We should be able to celebrate and flaunt our beauty without discriminating against other people. If I say Somali women are the most beautiful women in the world (because they are), it doesn’t mean that other black women, arab, white or asian women are ugly… just not as beautiful IMO.

    As fuad has rightly pointed out, no apologies for celebrating our beauty. In our current state, it is one thing we can hold on to. Perhaps the only thing, don’t take it away from us.

  9. As a Kenyan female I find it annoying how Horn-people usint the term ‘East-africa’ for themselfes. I get along with Horners very well, so there is no hating.
    But geographical, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda = East Africa
    And The Horner countries are North-East Africa, please don’t forget using this term when you are only reffering to Ethiopians and Somali’s

    • Good point.

      East Africa = Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi
      Horn of Africa = Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti (sometimes Sudan)
      Island East Africa – Madagascar, Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros

      This is VERY important.

  10. very well written. thanks for provoking our minds. I always hate it when a Somali meets me and says “you must be somalis. you look so somali”. As if only Somalis in Africa have this “mixed look”. And then when I refuse they insist on speaking to me in Somali and proceed to insult me with the comment “but you dont look kenyan”. Aaaaargh! Africa is diverse. Not all Africans luk the same and not all mixed looking Africans r Somali. As a side note, please refrain from using East African to refer to Somalia and Ethiopia. Thats like using South Africa to refer to Angola. Its confusing for those who dont know the politics n history. East Africa is Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. If you add Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi, then it becomes EastERN Africa. Somalia and Ethiopia are therefore North Eastern Africa. Please correct.

  11. Please read “The Africans” by Prof. Ali Mazrui…not sure that it is still in print though. He tries to define what makes one an African…excellent read.

  12. Thank you! A lot of the points you mentioned are things that have always bothered me although, I’ll admit, not all. Honestly, I don’t know if I agree with you on the ‘mixed’ thing. I don’t know much (read: anything) about Somali history so I can’t really form an opinion of my own so I won’t comment on that.

    I’ve always hated the way Somali’s tend to think that beauty means light skin and soft hair but what’s worse is how they speak about themselves as if they aren’t really African. The rest of Africa are the ‘Africans’ and they are…well, they’re Somalis.

    I think most people just don’t understand what it means to be African. A lot of non-Africans tend to think of Africans as all one big group of people that all look the same when obviously we aren’t! What makes Africa IS the diversity. From North Africans to East Africans to South Africans. We aren’t “exceptions” the same way Arab Africans aren’t “exceptions”.

    It kills me that Somali girls (and guys) are brought up to think that not having jileec hair or light skin makes them any less beautiful. I have a friend who refuses to take off her scarf at parties at school because her hair isn’t as “nice” as the other girls (all Arab). I hate that she tells me I’m lucky because my hair is softer than hers and because it’s easier to straighten. It’s a mentality we need to get fucking rid of.

    Sorry for the long comment, it’s just something I feel strongly about!

  13. What’s even more fascinating and perhaps weird is that although Somali/Ethiopian women are admired for their beauty, the Somalian/Ethiopian men are considered very unattractive and undesirable by Black women. I have a male friend from Somalia who said a Jamaican girl told him that his look was much too feminine for her and she preferred more “stereotypical African” features on a man. So what’s turned out to be a blessing for the women is a curse for the men.

  14. I am an Ethiopian girl who really hate this thing about the horners not beliveing that we are african. It just makes me sad. Many of the west africans that ive met are telling me that i am an arab, that im mixed and i refuse to say that its true. I tell them that I am a proud African, that im black and that Africa is a diverse place with many different kinds of people. Just take Asia for an example – if u compare indians and chinese they have no features alike – still no scientist make statements about why its like that. But when it comes to Africa there is no way for the people to look different. Do u know why? Because white people want to claim that everything that resembels them arent African. Thats just bullshit if u ask me. Put an Ethiopian with some Germans for instans. Does he look white? Hell noo! They would say that hes black. But I really think that the media has alot to do with way some people are thinking. The media are constantly showing pics of Africans with the “typical” features such as wide noses, big lips, nappy hair etc. but they never show that theres other type of blacks to who got narrow noses, curly hair and lighter skin. So thats why when people see East African people they often wonder why we look like we do. I think theres nothing wrong with being curious beacuse I think its very intersting when people ask me about my country. But i hate when the horners are trying to consider us non-African. I know that my country have a different culture then others countrys in Africa, but so does Gambia, Nigeira, Burundi! No country has the same culture or looks and thats something we should be proud of – Africas diversity!

    • ohmygod!!! u r soo right!! no one ever questions that both china and india are asian!!! and the answer i give as to what i am when asked is either black or “pure african”( I love how it just sounds so bad ass!!) 🙂

  15. Well…my sista, I decided to make my life easier, and remove myself from this particular identity (Somalinimo!). After years and years of mental slavery by my own people, I decided to finally not care much about it or them for that matter. When asked who I am, I say I’m Sudanese or Kenyan and that’s usually the end of my intro piece. Sure, I might have some of the “East African” features,,, but the much BS that goes around among our people’s (Somalis) conversations,,,is just too disheartening…I’m also mentally deprived of intellectual conversations, because most often than not, (the people that I often talk to) talk beauty (or lack there-of) or gossip about other people who do not look Somali enough (Might sound unfair, but I’m just sharing my experiences).

    I avoid my own people at all costs (it is that serious!) …I’m always in depression when I’m around my people. So for my own health, I decided to avoid them at all costs. Sure I might help out once in a while if one they needs something in a public space and somehow the language barrier is in the picture,,,otherwise, I love being a recluse with no origin.

    One love to you though, sister, you’re my current Somali fling/crush (oops, I just declared my love for you!).

    • Lol! You are not the only one in love with our sister from Afrolens! You got competition sistahsomali!

      Joke aside, I truly feel what you are saying and I can totally understand why one may get to that point. However, there is something in me that will always be fighting to salvage the goodness our people possess and they do sister. We cannot take that away from them even if it is just a small thing that is overshadowed by the negative. I do agree it is not easy…who wants to be challenge every second of every day by prejudice and ignorance we have turned into a normal thing?

      I think we just have to live and lead by example, be our own person and individual and walk good in our personal path and live that authentic life we choose to live regardless of what somalis do, say or become. That is the only way we can avoid depression and soul-destruction and reach personal fulfilment.

      Love and pregress.

  16. I thoroughly enjoyed this! I’m tired of people looking for ways to be “above” those of a similar background. I’ve seen it time and time again. For example, my Catholic Indian friends from Goa who emphasized the hell out of the fact that they are part Portuguese kills me. Yes, the Portuguese colonized Goa and forced their European ways and Catholic religion on the people. But that was a very, very long time ago and while I’m not going to deny that there was mixing, the actual Portuguese blood in you is close to nill at this point. And yet, it gives them some kind of trump card to say, “We’re not really Indian…we’re Portuguese,” with such arrogance as if to say Indians are beneath them. It annoyed the heck out of me…and these are my friends that I love very much.

    On a personal note, my parents are from Afghanistan. I had blonde hair as a child that is now light brown, I have fair skin and hazel eyes. The way my “white/European” features has been praised is ridiculous. When I tell someone I’m Afghan, the response I always get is: “Oh, you don’t look Afghan.” Please tell me what an Afghan looks like! Every Empire known in history tried to take over Afghanistan and as a result, we are a very mixed people. No two Afghans look alike. The best is, “But you’re so pretty.” Did you expect Afghans to look ugly? That one offends me the most.

    Anytime another Afghan compliments my fair skin, I tell them, “I appreciate the gesture, but valuing “white/European” features is dangerous in our culture. It makes girls with dark skin feel bad. We live in Canada now and we should leave these thoughts back in Afghanistan.”

    By the way, have you seen this? My friend produced this documentary. http://shadeism.com/

  17. Sadly, i notice the very same inferiority complex when it comes to the women in my family. I realize and come across the fact that in the Somali community, not only is being slender, and possessing soft-hair attributed, being light skin is also praised. This is sickening to the point that i rarely ever hear a somali woman praising a dark-skinned or chocolate-skinned woman as beautiful; she’s either mixed (xamar of some sort) or just light skined. It gets to the point where other Africans disidentify with us. At one point, i was asked if i was a dark-skinned indian, because i certainly can’t be from Africa, or better yet, the typical remark: “Is that your real hair…Get out”
    Yes, i’ll admit Somalis take pride in this, and love the compliments….but at the same time, these compliments are deamonizing because they degrade other Africans as unworthy or unfortunate. This problem is not only in the Somali community, it’s in every African/black nation in general. Often times, possessing caucasian features is regarded as ‘beautifu’ – I mean look at the hype generated based on the sixteen year old Gabby Douglas’s hair by the black community simply because she was wearing her hair naturally, tied up in a bun, instead of straightened in attempt to assimilate with white culture – i noticed many people of colour tweeting or ranting about how her hair does not speak on behalf of all Black people. This was sickening to say the least. I wish my family and the rest of the world could stop seeing lighter skinned girls as more beautiful. Of course, no one says it bluntly but they indicate on so many terms, and low and behold, i find the same issue on the internet.
    I love how you noted that we’re most probably not a mixed race, seeing as the North african countries dominated by Europeans at one point look nothing like us. We are unique. And we just need to appreciate that there is immense diversity on the African continent. I personally believe this is the will of God. We need to embrace our blackness and stop indirectly portraying the fairer skin colour, and softer hair as beautiful. I

    • Sadly, i notice the very same inferiority complex when it comes to the women in my family. I realize and come across the fact that in the Somali community, not only is being slender, and possessing soft-hair beautiful, being light skin is also praised. This is sickening to the point that i rarely ever hear a somali woman praising a dark-skinned or chocolate-skinned woman as beautiful; she’s either mixed (xamar of some sort) or just light skined. It gets to the point where other Africans disidentify with us. At one point, i was asked if i was a dark-skinned indian, because i certainly can’t be from Africa, or better yet, the typical remark: “Is that your real hair…Get out”
      Yes, i’ll admit Somalis take pride in this, and love the compliments….but at the same time, these compliments are deamonizing because they degrade other Africans as unworthy or unfortunate. This problem is not only in the Somali community, it’s in every African/black nation in general. Often times, possessing caucasian features is regarded as ‘beautifu’ – I mean look at the hype generated based on the sixteen year old Gabby Douglas’s hair by the black community simply because she was wearing her hair naturally, tied up in a bun, instead of straightened in attempt to assimilate with white culture – i noticed many people of colour tweeting or ranting about how her hair does not speak on behalf of all Black people. This was sickening to say the least. I wish my family and the rest of the world could stop seeing lighter skinned girls as more beautiful. Of course, no one says it bluntly but they indicate on so many terms, and low and behold, i find the same issue on the internet.
      I love how you noted that we’re most probably not a mixed race, seeing as the North african countries dominated by Europeans at one point look nothing like us. We are unique. And we just need to appreciate that there is immense diversity on the African continent. I personally believe this is the will of God. We need to embrace our blackness and stop indirectly portraying the fairer skin colour, and softer hair as beautiful.

  18. Hi Idil, I enjoyed immensely reading your insightful and nuanced take on the popularized conceptions of East african beauty, and its initimate and often times ugly relationship with race and notions of superiority/inferiority. Nonetheless, I did find myself disagreeing with one of your assumptions and its attendent conclusion.

    You correctly state Somalis are often times praised and given brownie point just because their phenotypic features happen to more closely approach Western standards of beauty compared to other Africans. But then you go on to make the dubious conclusion that Somalis have internalized these aesthetic ideals and have used them to relegate their fellow African Brethren to a lowly and ignoble ‘jareer’ status. Here, you give the white man too much credit, because what you fail to realize is that Somalis have always thought themselves to be superior to other Africans. They didn’t need the validations and reassurances of the colonizing British, French or Italians to inflate their already enormous egos. Somalis were enslaving fellow Africans, keeping some and selling the rest to the Arabs centuries before a white man ever stepped foot in east africa. The arrogance, independance and volatile nature of the prototypical Somali nomad has been documented by almost every traveller and colonialist from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Also, Somali notions of beauty have been captured in the expressions of poets who have long passed away and mind you have not lived in the same century as MTV or Hollywood, yet their love interests in the poems invariably had a slender figure, long slender limbs and neck, slim waist, small and well defined nose, long hair, large eyes….etc. Also, studies have shown that almost all studied ethnic groups in the world, except a very small minority, show a preference for lighter skin in their women folk, including groups who have had very little to no contact with the Western world and its culture. So the irony in all of this is, you cede to the white man the power to shape our constructs of beauty and our relative position within the racial aesthetic hierarchy, all the while fighting against the appropriation of our physical features by the very same whites by vehemently denying that we are mixed (which I wholeheartedly agree with u on). I assume you have made this mistake by conflating the Somali experience with the larger experience of Blacks in the west and their struggles with the insidious and devestating disease of self-hate. Though Somalis are Black no doubt, their differences with the wider black communities in the west are large enough to warrant and even necessitate a different analytic lens and point of departure when tackling issues. To fully deconstruct and critically examine issues pertaining to Somalis and Somalia, one needs, along with his/her formal academic training (which you definitely possess), a thorough education on Somali history and culture to even begin to pick apart the pieces.

    I’m really glad you brought up the issue of the origins of the Somali people. Now we don’t have to speculate anymore, because thanks to advances in genetic geneology, studies have shown that Somalis are one of the most homogenous ethnic groups in Africa, with negligible amounts of admixture. Somalis are a Cushitic people, who are related to other African cushitic peoples such the Oromo, the Afar, the Saho, the Rendille, and the Beja. They have no geneological relationship with Arabs or any other group outside the continent of Africa. The puny continent of Europe is full of different looks, with no one ever disputing their being categorized under ‘white’ or ‘caucasion’. Yet the indigenous diversity of Africa, many times the size of Europe in land mass and population, has to be called into question, rationalized and explained away with myths about ancient Arab patriarchs marrying local African women. What a sham/e. Thank you for calling it out.

  19. This is fascinating read on so many levels. As a West Indian and a Trinbagonian who has wrestled with the similar (though not identical) “Trini women are beautiful” rhetoric–I can relate to much of this. How even inside that construction, there’s this notion of what Trini women all must look like (and mixing is invariably presumed or involved) though some are, many, if not the majority of us are not mixed. When you walk around Port of Spain–that’s not what you see. & if you’re not a stereotypical mix (as in me), we’re supposed to benefit from the construct, by virtue of just being from that place, by proxy as it were–or having the accent. :-/ On top of which, most Trinis themselves have bought wholeheartedly into these pseudo-nationalistic notions of beauty. Weird, these notions of identity, nationhood, race and beauty and how they inform one another. I liked that the author pointed out the responsibilities of the women holding the cultural-beauty privilege (for lack of a better term) to examine their own privileges as part of the process of dismantling them and maybe be able to help make space for the consideration of different of beauty. There’s probably a lot more I could say but all in all, good piece. From my particular cultural space, I relate in more ways than one!

  20. Let me start this off by saying , I adore this. It brings to light all aspects of what Northeastern-African women face on the regular and although I may not agree with everything you’ve pointed out, I can respect you for shedding a light on it. As I have just returned from a 3 month long vacation in Somaliland, I can see where you’re coming from in respect to the way Somali woman see beauty.
    About a month back, I went to this beauty salon in Hargeisa to get henna done for a wedding and saw these women greased up and wrapped head-to-toe in towels. I asked the receptionist what they were doing and she replied, “Way bacaysiniyan.”
    This is a process where women cover their entire bodies in a mixture of diluted hydrogen peroxide, Diana, Fair and Lovely, and whatever else they can get their hands on and proceed to wrap themselves for up to 6 hours to get the skin on their entire body lightened. This apparently is the ‘in’ thing to get done back home which frankly scared me. And this is done country-wide.
    The way my cousin broke it down for me was that women can change their hair. You can add weave if you want it longer, you can straighten the kinks out, you can relax your curls but your skin colour will always be your skin colour… at least until now.

    We as a people look to Arabs and see them as our ideal. (Yes, I said it.) I don’t think we want to believe it but looking from the inside out, we see them as a goal to reach. Light-skinned women with long, thick, flowing hair. We are stubborn and proud people, Somalis, and changing the mind of one is like trying to change the tides in Berbera but if we show our women that we are uniquely beautiful, as are all of the women in Africa, then we can empower ourselves and accept ourselves for who we are and not what we look like. But that’s just my opinion.

  21. ok, I haven’t read all of the comments above. But, recently I’ve been hanging out with alot of Somalis. Being a West African Muslimah, I thought this would be somewhat of an antidote to being surrounded by South-Asians who generally have an abysmal opinion of Black Africans, although to their credit it generally goes unspoken. But the environment for me around Somalis was so much worse.

    I heard a quote from a political science professor once. He said something like “two nations that are most similar will try the hardest to create distinctions between them.” So most of the time, there were these nagging comments and interactions that always left me a little sick and for a long while I didn’t know why. Comments like “I have Indian hair” and people having fake Afronationalist pride (I know it was fake because I hung out w/ them frequently) and stories about how low ‘Adhon’ (I dunno who to spell it) people are and how one was thrown out of someone’s house and insulted for DARING to ask the hand of a woman in a family. I think the last straw was when I was told of the theory that Somalis are the descendants of the people of Pharoah. I mean, really. Pharoah? The mass murderer who was drowned in the sea? Or seeing how some somalis introduce West African friends to non-Somalis as “this is my friend XYZ” and to Somalis as “This is XYZ,” no mention of friend.

    I’m not being judgemental about Somalis at all. I’m saying these interactions are toxic, especially, especially, especially to and for Muslims. And all of this when the distinct look of Somalis, as it’s been called, is all throughout East Africa and Sahara with certain ethinities. From the Masai in Kenya to the Tustis in Burundi to the Fulani in the West, this “distincly Somali” look abounds on the continent among cattle-herders and nomadic people. I’ve heard that is because of the cattle rearing diet, and it’s a thing that is evident to everyone who wants to use her/his eyes. What’s more, Somalis are mentioned in Masaai legends as descendents from the same lineage and so that’s why “they speak similarly.”

    What’s curious is how Ethiopians and Eritrians don’t seem to have this complex as much as Somalis/ or at all. I’ve never felt this/heard it from Ethiopians and Eritrians nor any hesitation in being romaticlly involved with people from other parts of Africa (culture and religion aside are other issues) b/t speciically because of phenotype.

    Thoughts? and Salam.

    ps. thanks for writing it. It was very brave!

    • Its really disgusting how some of us have internalized anti-black sentiment, and while many Somalis suffer from this, the rest are proud Africans and will hardly yield to european supremacist ideals. But you’re absolutely right, the proof is in the pudding, and as a community we must do better to address this issue.

      • ‘Internalized anti-black sentiments’ is spot on, if how my whole family speaks about skin color is anything to go by. Even my mother, who is one of the most open-minded person i know sometimes makes comments that irk me the wrong way. And my grandmother who claims “we are not black!,” ‘”but we most definitely are!” i say to which she responds with ‘at least we are not ‘African-American/South African black’.I can hardly blame her though, or ostracize her, just point it out to her (with Islamic undertones) her errors. They both grew up in Somalia which was/is a society very much different from ours, where western standards of beauty are the only ones of worth and this thinking is deeply entrenched into their minds. We on the other hand, our generation, with all our privileged cannot be caught into this narrow-minded way of thinking. We cannot perpetuate self-hatred and we, with all our privilege, have no excuse to.

  22. Well I’m biracial, European and African American. I definitely sympathise with feeling like I am ostracized for just being who I am. In grade school, I was never given a black or white pass. I was teased for my hair, for which I am now objectified. I was made to believe that somehow, just by existing, I was oppressing black women who weren’t mixed or ‘blessed’ with light skin, something white slave owners taught us. I also sympathise with the fact that a lot of white women are obsessed with my particular look, but look down on black women with kinky afros. I seem to be a middle ground that white people are comfortable with. And of course, there are African Americans out there who get down on ‘nappy hair’ and make it difficult for our women to feel confident and proud of themselves. It’s all unnecessary.

  23. While this is a really interesting post that raises important issues, I think it’s a bit unfair to assume that it’s an exclusively “East African” mindset. I think the author of this post is only considering these issues from a Somali perspective. I’m Somali and I have met a lot of West Africans who do not consider Somalis and Ethiopians to be “full Africans” (whatever that means). My sister went to Malawi and was referred to as “colored” which means mixed– by the locals. So I think this mental slavery is a lot bigger and complex than this post is assuming. I also have a problem with the word blackness because it creates an essentialist view of Africans. Whose ‘blackness’ are we talking about? These kinds of terms undermine the diversity and differences and ultimately perpetuate the same stereotypes you are trying to challenge.

  24. I remember my mom always trying to keep me light skinned as a child so she could parade me around to her friends. So she wouldn’t let me play outside most days when the sun was at high noon. I remember being sad b/c I didn’t care if I was light or dark I just wanted to play with my friends. I then wished I would become more dark skinned so that I could not only play outside more, but then also be more excepted in my African American community which I lived in. I then began to view every dark skinned person as lucky, b/c they wouldn’t be questioned about their “black” and as a more fair skinned friend of mine put it “you at least look it”. Always being outcasted in daily roast sessions as “African” none the less knew all along deep down inside I will always be the true essence of the term “African-American” as the first member of my “African” family to be born in American [Oakland, CAli-For-NiA] brought her without my consensus whether it had been in the late 1800’s or the 21st century. Our lineage never changes but still originates in “Africa” the motherland.

  25. This is a very enlightening, albeit sad article. It is unfortunate that we cannot accept ourselves and each other as wholly African, no matter your look. But we live in a world where aesthetics is everything. When did this light vs dark skinned disparity start infiltrating our culture like this? I honestly thought it was a major problem in the US but it seems that it has descended upon us as well. Maybe it is the pictures the media present, or am I just naive in blaming the media? In my own family, I never encountered any prejudice because of someone’s skin pigment. I have light skinned family and dark skinned, long, short, straight, curly hair, you name it. What I have personally taken from this, when I am blessed enough to have the daughter I dream of is to teach her to be proud of who she is, proud of her very essence, and be with her in every step of her growth, especially during the times when she questions herself because she will not be seen as African enough or light enough or dark enough, or any of this other outside factors that do not really matter.

  26. Ya’ll confused.There’s no color discrimination among somalis(biggest lie).Ye If you talking about the less than 2% bantu somalis,even those is not what you call discrimination,as they been intermarrying with somalis in down south.Northern somalis have seen very few of them if any.2nd thing is prejudice goes both ways,I been to kenya & called arab,mulatto,half cast,bastard and am not even light skin rather the brown most somalis are.Once I been to Nigerian party & were told to leave on microphone(both ethiopians & somalis).The otha thing is ova 90% of somalis have never seen africans as they r geographically cut off.The only border they have with africa is down south with kenya and even in here people who live on the side of border(inside kenya upto more than 300 miles)are ethnic somalis.You need to stop your shallow perceptions and paint somalis what they r not.My family back home have neva seen african or black american,maybe on tv which is very recent.Ladies if you wana be panafricanist,don’t do it at the expense of innocent somalis who have least idea of what the hell you all talking about.Great majority of us in the west are not anything close to what you describing here.Infact I see more racism from otha africans & some blacks toward somalis simply cos of their features.The question is always why somalis don’t marry black(they do) but it seems otha africans r all looking for somali lady, and how could that be possible.The great majority of each & every nation marry their own(ova 95%).I refuse the victim mentality,those blacks always playing the victim card when at times you wonder if they themselves the most racist of all(reverse racism).I don’t buy this nonesense.

  27. and anyone who says there’s dark/light problem atleast among ethnic somalis must be from mars.The most deceptive ,uncalled for I have eva read….balderdash.
    As you all aware if you somalis which am beginning to have 2nd thought about,,every somali family have dark,brown,light even when they from same mom & dad.The fact is darker ones are even more beautiful,nothing againest my otha family members.Look all the somali models,out of 7,,,5 are very dark including Iman.

  28. In response to Roble

    It is not OK to be in denial but I expect it from many. What fallacies you have just written!! You are telling big porkies boy!

    So Somali do not discriminate against those they call ‘bantu’? You are blinding yourself so much that I wonder how you find your way when you walk around outside!! Pffff! It is you who is telling the lies to cover your own prejudices and the prejudices we know are so prevalent in our community. Everyday I meet Somalis who say they do not have anything in common with Africans/Blacks or with the Somalis who they call bantu. Beenta iska daa! We do not intermarry with them even back home and they are pushed aside like they suffer with the worse disease ever. Even when we need their services because they happen to be skilled people who build things and cultivate the land, we talk down to them and about them. It is SICK!

    The very fact that you say, ‘ova 90% of somalis have never seen africans as they r geographically cut off.’ proves the comments in the original article right. How cut of are we? Aren’t we on the African continent? Foolishness you speaking boy! You are one of those countless Somalis who do not see themselves as Africans…simple. You would not even say ‘we haven’t seen Africans’ if you saw yourself as African, because you would know that the African is in yourself imagine. Despite the diversity within Africans, we all know that Somalis are Africans. It is like an English man saying, ‘I have never seen any European!’ to justify his prejudice against European. It does not make any sense!

    And you say there is no problem of light vs dark skin issue with Somalis? What another big lie! Everyday our women use bleaching creams from Hargeysa to Djibouti to fit in the popular saying, ‘casaan qurux kama qatana’ as light skin is seen as beautiful and dark skin ugly.I think it is you who is observing things from another planet. You are certainly not talking about Somali society or you are simply in denial. And I think it is the second one!

    Of course, most of us Somalis know that all skin complexions exist in our families but we also know that the light skin is always preferred to the dark skin. This can only be explained as inferiority complexes inherited from white supremacists colonialists and the Arabs we love so much!

    So, please, quit denying what our realities are and accusing us of not being Somali. Lol! You are making me laugh! This is just so ignorant truly but you just prove our point right.

    Halkaa ku dhaaf weeye sheekadan.

  29. you so angry for whateva reason.Somalis had neva had any contact with rest of Africa.How can they be when the only country they have borders with is kenya and the people on kenyan side of the border are somalis and most somalis above kismayo had neva had any contact..and don’t tell me the few that went out of the country since the civil war.And is it racism if some people prefer light skin? True all ova the world light might be prefered and am just pointing out it’s the features that matter.Somalis whetha dark,brown or light have same features & hair.From my experience the dark somali don’t feel inferior to the light.You have issues.
    Go ask the somali grandma nomad if she racist?she won’t understand.She have neva seen anyone otha than her people,maybe ethiopians which we look alike.
    I’m not gona respond to all you said here,my earlier post stands.
    You must be young and keep the fight!

    • LOL! No man, I am not angry. I am just allergic to bullshit!

      You do not want to respond my points because there is nothing you can say about them. Have I burst your little bubbles?

      You are patronising our people. They have come into contact with other Africans and the rest of the world. Nooc aynu arag ma jiro! We are everywhere in the world and we live with all kinds of people. We are true nomads and have been traveling for decades.

      So, no…your comments stand on nothing but denial.

      Hey, thank you for the compliment. I am young but I can argue with you this way? I am blessed then. Alhamdulilah.

  30. yes somalis outside the country have come across every race but how many r outside out of close to 20m including those in ethiopia & jubouti…may be a million or so and that’s the last 20yrs after civil war.You don’t know what you talking about and I can’t respond to every fallacy of yours.You just heard words racism,black,white and took to anotha level without having the least idea.Ye it’s always white’s fault,mulatto’s fault,light skins fault,somalis fault.Do you surf the internet what some otha blacks saying about somalis,ethiopians,mulattos,creoles etc.
    You’r not the first one nor be the last one who defame their people out of ignorance,getting closer to others or for monetary reasons….I’m not saying you getting paid for this but get the gist.
    You telling me somalis had contact with otha africans when that’s not the case.We have borders to the indian ocean in the east,red sea in the noth & ethiopia in the west.We been dealing and intermarrying with asia for millenia,that’s why people r lighter as you go north(yes there lights in south but are pure arabs etc).The person in north or center somalia have even never seen the somali Bantus in down south.The only place you could bantu somalis is around Mogadishu and further south.Do your home work before trying to impress & stay cool.

  31. and you telling me somalis not mix with somali bantus in kismayo,merca,brava..they do intermarry, people like fadumo qasim(the singer)and many otha singers you can see in youtube..they might not be quite as large which is the same among various clans among ethnic somalis.How you define racism,are they raped,killed,enslaved etc…not at all.The only problem is there’s no enough intermarriage,but if you look at ethnic somalis,it’s the same among various clans who even inhabit the same town,is there much intermarriage between north & south,or between those in proper somalia & others in jubouti,kenya,ethiopia or between say north & south hargeisa(same town)etc .The answer is NO..
    Get ova youself.

  32. I personally think people like you like to exaggerate this issue to make themselves feel better and boost their self esteem. I can see right through your fake ass “concern.” I also notice that this whole “beauty” thing always made in comparison to other Black women. The beauty of Horn women is only vetted against other Black women, NEVER against European, Asian, Latina, and Middle Eastern women. The reason for this is obvious. Get over yourself. Women from ALL regions of Africa are always told they are beautiful and to pretend that it is only directed to the Horn region is silly at worst and a joke at best. It’s sad how the only thing going for some groups of Africans is their aesthetics. Like really, that’s all you talk about. Features this, features that. All your identity is wrapped in the physical. People from your region troll predominately Black message boards to claim your supposed “superior” features. Again, this is rarely done on predominately European, Asian, Latina, or Middle Eastern websites. The reason for this is obvious. Again, get over yourself. I wouldn’t be surprised if you acted like features is your saving grace.
    It’s perfectly fine to believe your ethnic group/region is the most beautiful. But the problem comes when people try to force OTHER people to see it that way too. Sorry, aint happening. This is a group on Facebook that celebrates the beauty of all women in Africa.

    • Left perplexed by your comment. You spent the first half denouncing this topic as a fictitious concern, not worthy of any critique, and the second half denouncing Horn of African folks for buying into this delusional air of superiority (basically the thesis of the article)…which one is it?

      “People from your region troll predominately Black message boards to claim your supposed “superior” features.”

      But thats what the article is discussing..This notion of ‘superior features’…I agree with you. This is a problem. The fact that you’ve witness folks do this is a testament to my argument…

      “It’s perfectly fine to believe your ethnic group/region is the most beautiful. But the problem comes when people try to force OTHER people to see it that way too. Sorry, aint happening. This is a group on Facebook that celebrates the beauty of all women in Africa.”

      sigh..I’m starting to suspect you read the title, and missed the tongue in cheek tone of it, and completely skipped over the piece.…the piece is about dissecting how we navigate standards of beauty, rejecting Eurocentric ideals of beauty, and celebrating the diversity of our region.

      I think we’re on the same page sis, and I agree with you, African women are diverse, glorious and beautiful…but its deeper than that…You and I, and countless others may subscribe to this philosophy, but there’s an oppressive, anti-black environment that embraces the contrary…But that’s just my opinion…Thank you for stopping by.

  33. It’s me again.
    I just find it interesting how this “air of superiority” is always toward other Black women. Seems like a lot of women need to have Black women as a personal punching bag to boost their self esteem. You would think they would compare themselves to Asian, White, Latino, and Middle Eastern women and deem themselves superior, but they don’t. Why is that? Afrolens, can you answer that question?

  34. I am going to write this in somali way so ajanabis can not understand it……. walaahi waan aqriyay waxeey nagahaan soo qoreen.. i believe most of these naago in ee jareer ilmo ka dhalay marka way iskudheex yaaceen.. oo topic ayii kadhiganaayeen waxaan jirin. no wonder maahmaahdaan somali “naag goood hakaaga jirto ama nin ha kaa guursado” imagine gabar somali hadii madaxwayne somaliya ka noqon laheed? mid baa inta waxaa soo qortay somalida aniga maba la hadlo majeclo yet she is is using somali sis .. hadii aa somali nacebtahay why don’t leave the somali name alone ? .. naagaha somali timo jilicsan iyo qurux bey kufaanaan.. somalidu waxay tirahdaa ” ilaahey baa naag wax noogu dhiibin” horta ladies put your heart breaking stories to the side… xagee uu ka yimid.. odaygii isaaq or odaygii daarood or odeygii ciise or daygii canfar? mataqaaniin.. wiki kafiiriiyaa.. kadhib kahadlaa bal in ee carabta wax noo galeen iyo in kalee.. mideeda kalee sarsuulkeensa scw wuxuu in carab ah.. marka wax fiican waaye oo arab nimada wax laga cararo maahin… tusaale.. Jamaican waxeey aad uuga danbeyaan kuwada rastaha ah haile selassie kuwanne jah” ayii ugu wacaan minaha “jah” waa god.. marka they identified with him spiritually. marka somalidu hadii ee isku connect gareeyaan carabta maxaa ka fiican ? ma waxun baa kujiro .. carabtu soo kuwa diinta islaamka nasoo gaarsiiyay mahin…naagihiinu waxaas way nii ka hoosbaxday. ninkii nii waso baad taqaaniin waa caadi.. wax nili ka filaayay waaye.. manilaka filaayo somalia in aa hogaan u noqotaan.. not in your life time.. waxaan aqriyay news ka south africa.. hada waxaa jareerta south africa ee dileen naag somali oo uur 9 months leh. way xoogeen then waydileen.. every year more then 200 somalis bay dilaan. adinkuna halkaan baa jareer u doodeysaan woooooooooooooooooooooow oo waxaad somali oo dhan naga dhigteen dad racist ah oo dadka naceb.. oo african ka naceb. your point of view is soooo short walaahi.. in kenya somalidu do you think in red carpet loo dhigo ?
    no no no… leeta kibaandha beey kujoogaan iyo lacagtooda… mideeda kale somali hadii aa joogi jirteen. miyiidan arag marku qof somali ku xad gudbo qof ajanabi ah.. dadka oo dhan baa qofka somali la dagaali jirey oo dhihi jirey qofkaan maskiinka ah imaxaa ka rabtaa.. laakiin maantay wadamada jareerta dadkeena somali waa lagu dilaa oo waa lagu dhibaa… adinku naago ayaa tihiin more emotional because waxaa laga yaabaa in uu qos somali kudhaho naa jareer baa u egtahay ama caruurtada waa jareer…. you don’t see the bigger picture. dadka somali waa dad nadiif ah…xitaa 1970 waxaa jirtay in africa oo dhan hees loo qaaday.. madax waynnihii somaliya waa tuu caawiyay wadamo badan oo ee kujirta Zimbabwe south Africa Mozambique. adinka waxaas ma ogidiin.. because i read what most of you have written.. no wonder why naag somali ee somalia madax uga soo noqon.. somalia waxaay ka gadilaheed… madaxwayna Jamaican for one night stand…….. no wonder why Jamaican call somali woman cheap and clean……………..

    I wrote what i have said in somali, because i don’t want..dadka kale in ee fahmaan waxaan ka hadlaayo

    soon i bet you .. you will see somali women in another form complaining about our mother language afka ” somaliga”

    they defend jareerta not knowing jareerta are the one who are killing our people in Africa..

    My conclusion is … naag somali waxaan iyo wax kadaranba waa laga sugaayay.. i really love this maah maah ” shinbir marbey dab qaaday , markiina gurigeeda ayii ku gubtay “.

    • For anyone interested in this conversation-This fine gentleman went on a essay length racist diatribe against his own african brethren. This somali brother called his fellow Africans niggers and nappy headed monkeys, and called many of the Somali commentators and myself whores who sleep with Jamaican men, and that any Somali women who professes solidarity with her African heritage is a whore. He then continued to praise arab-ness, and said it’s the great thing that sets us apart from the Ethiopians. He also wished to convey this message in somali because he’s a coward and did not want the ‘nappy headed africans’ understanding his position, and the rest of it was incoherent, incomprehensible, ahistorical ranting of a self-hating negro……You my friend are a disgrace to Somalia and Africa. I’m ashamed to call you a co-citizen, and can only prescribe a library to heal your wounded and colonized mind.

      • OMG! Afkaagu waa usgag waryaa Mr KLM! Loool!

        You wrote, in a very bad Somaali by the way,

        “i believe most of these naago in ee jareer ilmo ka dhalay marka way iskudheex yaaceen.. oo topic ayii kadhiganaayeen waxaan jirin.”

        Translation: ‘I believe that these women (those who wrote the orginal article and those who commented) must have been impregnated by the nappy headed men so they do not know what they are talking about and they are inventing something that does not exist.’

        You also wrote: “ninkii nii waso baad taqaaniin waa caadi.. wax nili ka filaayay waaye..”

        Translation: ‘You only know/believe the men (Black men he means!) who fuck you…it is to be expected from you (Somali women he means)”

        Well, you have proven us so right. Lool! You coward and brainwashed house negro!

        Many of the Arabs that you admire so much call you cabiid al aswad (Black slave) and they hardly allow Somali men to marry their Arab women because they see you as the Black/African you are even if you hate yourself.

        And your hatred and disrespect against Somali women, your deeply ingrained misogynistic mind is beyond disturbing! UFF! You are quite sick walaal so go a get some help.

        By the way, you are right, I am married to a Jamaican beautiful MAN and I am the happiest women on earth! Thank you LORD for the Black man! Go and hide your sorry ass somewhere. Lol!

  35. I know the title is for our beautiful sisters but as a Somali brother, I just wanted to chip in my little experience of being a half Somali and living in the West. Please forgive me if this topic is not related to the article. (I haven’t read…oops)

    A lot of times, there is that unending curiosity from humans which begs them to ask questions about the background, origin and sometimes the race of a person. I am not exception here. I have many friends from different background. When I am hanging out with Africans, I can easily sense the hate fuming out from their distaste for Somalis. I came to realize that not many Africans really like us. A lot of them seems to be preoccupied with a feeling that ‘Somalis are racists’. Even someone went far and told me that how will it be like if I ever happen to be in Somalia? Shockingly, he told me that they will perhaps treat him like a slave. That was a Tanzanian. Furthermore, a lot of Nigerian guys that I met at my uni seem to have expressed a distaste for Somalis. So I wonder, is it because we were so mentally Arabized that we forgot to interact with Africans? or did we develop a sense of distancing ourselves from our African heritage and adopted cultures that really have no room for Somalis? I recently joined a Pan-African youth organization to explore and perhaps find answers to my questions.

    In addition to that, when I am with Arabs and Pakistanis, every other person thinks I am one of them. Is it because we have like a lot of things in common with Arabs? For the few Arabs that lived in the West for sometime, they seem to have developed a sense of racial awareness and little is mentioned about the racial disparity that exist within a group. However, this shouldn’t mean that I am not aware how racist Arabs can sometimes be..and everyone else for that matter including Somalis.

    Besides that, it is quite disappointing to see when your fellow Somalis can’t even tell if you are Somali. I went to a Somali event last year and not many Somalis thought I was a Somali. Some were even backstabbing me with their gibberish Somali. When I spoke Somali with them, it was a different story. You can say, embarrassing!! I was told you are Arab, Pakistani, Bangali, Sri-Lankan…the list is long. What do you think of non-Somalis? So I came up with an idea of asking back the renowned question, ‘where are you from?’ whenever someone asks me. People keep on guessing until I tell them I am a Somali blah blah. And they will be, ‘Oh that is why…” I don’t f*&%*** get it.

    Please don’t get the assumption that I am not satisfied with my origin. I am actually proud Somali and I want most people, if not all, to appreciate our beauty and accept us for who we are. You may think that I am suffering from identity crisis, which could be true, but I still like my canjeero in the morning and a beautiful xalimo swaying dirac and remaining as beautiful as evening sunset.

    I just wanted to let this out and present in a forum where open-mindedness seem to have been incubated and perhaps maturing faster than ever thought in a Somali setting. I really like your blogs Afrolens.

    p.s. being a half Somali is a bitter-sweet (or love-hate) experience among Somalis. Life just gets interesting…allow dadkeyga jahliga ka bixi

    • Oh yes, the five-finger fore-headed nomad is so problematic. I, too, have experienced the
      narrative that Somalis are wildly allergic to other Africans. During my university years,
      they were always hanging around pro-palestinian orgs and any Arab political faction, and
      last ones at African student groups. Self-hating lot we are.

      LOL@backbiting. I have a friend who doesn’t possess the stereotypical features of the nomad,
      and was once physically assaulted as he was walked with a somali girl (his own cousin), and was called
      ‘jareer’, ‘danyaar’ and a plethora of other choice epithets for daring to be seen with a Somali girl. We’ve always had issues of
      internalized racism, but I think Arabism has given voice to that trend in a powerful
      and disturbing way. Thanks for stopping by.

  36. hey i am kurubel ….i am Eritrean i do not regard my self white/black/arab/asian but i do regard my self hebesha the main race of Ethio and Eri….you can not exactly call a race by its skin colour…..eg arabs as yellow cause their nearly yellow also chinese….or we can say the horn of africa is colourd….have you ever seen a mixture of an arab/black than that race mix with another of it self …..thats the results habesha…….i have a theory that @ horn of africa we were mixed with not only arabs but greeks,romans/israelis but the main race that existed there was black and all of it was mixed with black which resulted us so don’t go looking for a name of your race just use habesha (Ethio/Eri and some somali) why are brazilians/argentinis called latins ….thats what habesha should be used as in horn of africa….

  37. Dear Afrolens:

    Thank you for the candid article. It makes for an honest discussion. I just wanted to add a few specific points. I apologize for the length, and for being a bit dense. It is intended to point readers to the relevant scientific fields of study for the confusing issues raised here.

    Let me begin by saying that I am of Ethiopian/Eritrean heritage, a single people really, save differences arising from language speciations.

    Like many of you who wrote here, I fret when [white] Americans and Europeans compliment us on our looks. It nags at me as a backhanded derogation of our African brothers. I am also very annoyed when our Black American brothers and sisters innocently ask me, “Are you Black?”

    There are many myths about Horners, and like all myths they are not based on facts. Some of the myths are internalized and perpetuated by Horners themselves. Some Somali brothers, for instance, try to berate Ethiopians as mixed with Arabs. I know where this misinformation comes from. They have internalized the falsehood that “Semitic” = Arab or Jew … This can not be farther from the truth. “Jew” is only a religious classification, not a race classification. We now know, for instance, that no more than 15% of Jews are what is called “Semitic”, and no more than 3% of “Semites” are Jews. Most “Semites” are Muslim-Arabs, followed by Abyssinian Christians. Over 80% of Jews are Ashkenazie (Slavic roots), not Semitic.

    I put “Semite” in quotes for a reason. Strictly speaking, “Semitic” is a linguistic, not an ethnic classification. The people who lump Ethiopians/Eritreans with Arabs mistakenly believe that Semitic is “Caucasian”. In fact, Semitic is an African language group. The Semitic languages – 12 out of 18 of which are Ethiopian – comprise one of six subdivisions of the Afro-Asiatic super family of langauges. Egyptian, Cushtic, Berber, Chadic, and Omotic complete the superfamily. Note that all of them are in Africa. Among them, only the Semitic sub-family spread out of Africa. Linguists believe Ethiopia to be the original home of the Semitic language sub-family, and that the sub-family spread out of the Ethiopian highlands to the Middle East during pre-historic migrations.

    Second, the Semitic language speaking populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea are fundamentally Cushitic. Language and genetics are different things. Amhara, Tigre, Gafat, Argoba etc… do not cease being Cushitic for speaking a Semitic language, anymore African Americans can be said to be Anglos because they speak English. The problem linguists wrestle with is the question of when the Semitic language group arose, and how and why it spread over the North Central Cushtic population of Ethiopia (Agaw, Qimant, Quara, etc..).

    Third, there is a mistaken belief that “Habesha” means “mixed,” and that it originated from Yemen. This theory, which was vigorously advocated in the Nazi period (pre-WWII), was intended to separate Ethiopians from other Africans. There is now evidence indicating that “Habesha (Abyssinia)” simply means “Highlander”. Much of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) is highland. For eg. Addis Ababa is 8,300 ft – 9,300 ft above see level. It is believed that there were Habeshat tribes in the mountainous regions of Yemen, although a long search has not been able to substantiate their supposed existence. We believe they are now simply called Gebelli (Mountainer). There are Arab clans of mountain origin that still carry the name Habesh or its variations. The Banu Abs and the Al Hibsi of Oman, for example. The Al Hibsi may have originally dwelt in the Al Hajar Mountains of Oman. Also, the Omani Semitic languages are only distantly related to Arabic, but they are known to be closely related to the Semitic languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

    Most importantly, we now can rely on the science of population genetics to figure out lineage. Y-DNA chromosome Haplogroup E1b1b, which is believed to have originated in Ethiopia over 22,400 years ago, accounts for the lineage of 60% of Ethiopians, including Amhara, Oromos, and Wolayta populations. One of the sub-clades of E1b1b, which developed 18,000 years ago, accounts for 78% of Somalis. The linegae of 15% of Ethiopians (Haplotype J) goes farther back to 35,000 years, and another 15% (Haplotype A) to 140,000 years ago. 6% trace to Haplotype T (34,000 years old). Most of Ethiopia’s long distance Marathon runners, Kenenisa Beqele etc.., belong to Haplotype T. Scientists have noted this for a correleation. Most other Africans are in haplogroup E1b1a.

    Berebers trace in big numbers to another subclade of E1b1b, as do Yemenis. Haplotype J (35,000 years ago) extends from Lebanon to Yemen to Ethiopia and Sudan. Guess what- the notion of pure Arab blood was found to be a myth. Saudi Arabia has a big mixture, including an E1b1b component.

    In short, the Horner Haplotypes are very old (22,400 ybp) and native grown. No scientist was able to trace even .5% of Ethiopian lineage (or for that matter, any number) to recent Arabian haplotype sub-clades. The mixture theory is just that, without basis. We look what we look like from long evolution on our native earth, through Ice Ages and Older and Younger Dryas periods.

  38. To the OP: Naya get back in the kitchen and make me some baasto. I am hungry. On a more serious note. I don’t give two shits. I am Somali. A tribe that has inhabited the Horn of Africa since time immemorial. A long and proud history. Each culture has something that they see as beautiful. Somalis are no exception. Don’t act as if Somalis have preputated these ideas amongst Africans and Blacks. That is their problem. Another thing fuck the term Black. I am Somali. End of discussion.

    P.S Xaalimo I love you. So off the interwebs and back into our chamber so we can make some luv.

  39. I love this blog and its uncharacteristic frank exploration of Somali identity. Being Kenyan, I have grown up lots of Somali’s both Kenyan-Somalis and Somali-Somalis. Needless to say I find it wonderful that when you described East African women, you took the time to exclusively refer to Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali features. It IS more correct to refer to the Horn of Africa region (Still part of East Africa of course) that has majority of these features and takes out the problematic stigmatization of the rest of the region.

    As a Kenyan, I didn’t grow up thinking that Somali’s were mixed, just different. That being said I feel that as long as we refuse to accept that more-european features leads to certain privilege that “atypical” Africans have no access to, we are not moving forward. The inclusion of mixed race peoples into the black identity has led to the mass-labeling of atypical black women as not beautiful. At the end of the day you cannot compare black women to asian women and it shouldn’t be acceptable to compare certain types of black women to mixed women. Colorism is a distinct reality that many refuse to accept.

    The insistence of black women referring to somali women as mixed, is because of the tendency of the world to wonder why we don’t have those features. Why we are not as beautiful in the standard application of the word. If she’s black and your black where did it go wrong? Men who advocate for women to have natural hair sometimes only do that because they believe it will be soft and fluffy like women with the mixed look. When defining blackness, should you look to the standard blanket application of the word or is it ok to re-evaluate it? In my opinion, we do have to because it is problematic to lump us all together in one category. IF we are to re-evaluate it, it would allow your beauty to not take away from mine, and in so doing give us both agency.

    So in summary, do I consider horn of africa women black? No, I consider them ethiopian, somali or eritrean. Why? because I feel that as a Somali woman your first level of oppression would be based on your religious inclination then your race, whereas for myself it will always be on a basis of race.

    That being said, I am re-evaluating my biases that have been born out of painful experiences. Once again thank you for this wonderful and informative forum

  40. I enjoyed reading your post. As a West African ( Liberian) I agree with everything you said. First and foremost West Africa is not the only region in Africa we have several regions. Secondly, I see my East Africans/Horn of Africa people as my brothers and sisters and that goes for everyone else. As a child my parents explained to me that Africans have a variety of complexions, features, and hair textures. I knew that Horn of Africans is also black. I thought you all were mixed way down the line. However there’s no pure race everyone has some form of mixture. I also discovered there are some West Africans who can pass for East African and East Africans who can pass for West Africans. A friend of mine from Ethiopia said I can past for someone who is from Burundi or any East African region except for the Horn of Africa. I had several negative and positive experiences with my Horn of Africa brothers and sisters. For example, an individual said that Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea are the most beautiful Africans and the rest of Africa is Zenjero. Zenjero means (Gorilla, Ape, and Monkey) in Amharic. The second negative experience is when a Somali sister said how the modeling industries prefer East African girls over West African girls because they look more white and that’s the type of black White people like. Moreover here comes the positive. I have met other East African or Horn of Africa people who are very down to earth and take pride in their African identity. My cousins also have best friends from Ethiopia and Somalia and they consider each other family. In addition my cousin’s friend who is Ethiopian said that there’s beauty in all African regions. He founded me beautiful and I founded him handsome. Furthermore, when my mother lived in Italy she told me that she became friends with Ethiopians and she said that they told her that not all Horn of African women have “Good Hair” and not all West African women have “Bad Hair”. Lastly, All African women and men are beautiful and handsome. Lastly, we need to start uplifting and embracing one another. I believe that we should let people know that Africans come in varieties and we need to let people know that no one is better than the next.

  41. africa is diverse some times we actual forget africa is not country but a continent there for the people don’t look the same if look at ethiopia every village is different than the next one we are blessed to be african

  42. its nice to see Somali people who are proud of their culture and background.
    Im a Filipino whose baby daddy is a “horner” as we term it here…
    there are a lot of Somali, Eritrean, Sudanese, Ghanian, Nigerian and Ethiopian students here; sad thing is that most of them deny their culture, they don’t even speak their own languages and speak Arabic only…

    One more thing that i noticed is that most of the time, the Muslims (Somalis, Eritreans, Sudanese) are always together and they think that they are better in every aspect as compared to the Nigerians and Ghanaians. (coz they are better looking as they say)

    And the Muslims would usually single out the Somalis and say so many bad things about them..

    In a typical asian perspective… most of asians consider all africans as “black

  43. (continuation)
    here in the Philippines most Filipinos think that horners are “mullato” or meztiso meaning mixed because of the unusual feature but even so, all aficans are called “negro” no offense but it is the filipino term for a black person, most aficans here get offended by it but we do not mean any disrespect… its just really the term for an african.

  44. Hi sister. Great topic! I am with you on the dangers of internalized racism and how we should all pay attention to its subtleties. However, to be honest with you, I am NOT very proud of being an African(especially) East African woman, because if I was lucky enough to be born in another part of the world, perhaps I would have not been genitally mutilated! The worst thing that can happen to a girl in the 21st century is to be born in East Africa…as she will definitely be a victim of genital mutilation which will haunt her for a lifetime.

    • genital mutilation applies to those who are muslims… not all east african women go through it.

      I do not agree to it as well…

      being in the medical field…

      just imagine the pain and bleeding that can re occur over and over during intercourse as well as during post partum and the infection that comes with it

      I do not have anything against Islam… its just that this act of faith i believe is unjust

  45. This is a good topic and I hope I’m not completely repeating things here. Somali’s are generally divide up by tribes and each person knows their lineage. There are tribes that have an arab lineage. One of the most know, Arab Salah, originated from a man who came from Yemen to Bosaso with others who married Somalian women. But there are tribes that haven’t mixed with Arabs largely. People do get married to Arabs and in the past they did, but not to the large scale that added a whole bunch of distinct features to the gene pool.
    Also the misconception that many girls are genitally mutilated isn’t true. True it happens and more so in the past, but usually in places of lesser civilization, the bush. But they are extremely rare cases. I lived in Somalia for two year, traveling around in my spare time and me, being a mild feminist asked many questions similar to this but never have I found someone who could attest to this. My family and everyone I know in each of their generations never had this problem so this stereotype, I find false.
    And as a Somali, I know there are bias and a certain criteria of what beauty is. Where I live, the Somali often judge the other African girls skin (texture) and how they’re make-up is worn. Delicate features are more desired as well as lighter skin. But this is also similar to how the Western part of the world are tanning, curling their hair, aiming for an hour glass figure.
    People want what is rare and different from what they have. Its just human nature.

  46. of course lots of somalis are mixed
    darod was founded by an arab
    so was isaaq
    so was sheekhaal
    so was the other tribe (forget the name)
    and some others
    but the black ones are like hawiye

  47. hawiye is black?
    are darood white ?
    don’t make fool out of yourself if darood and isaq are arabs why don’t they speak arabic
    why are they tall rather then short and fat like most arabs why are they not as hairy as arabs
    i can’t tell hawiye from darood isaaq from raxanweyn unless they start speaking then i can tell what clan they might be there are no arabs in somalia other than ‘rer hamer’ though they keep some of their arab culture still they are somalisised speak the somali language and have somali culture and they make up less then one percent of the population i thank allah for making me an african long live africa may allah bless africa

  48. Ran across this blog by accident and I may say it was very informative and educational. I wish more people knew and just accepted beauty in diffrent forms. We are all one, people always mistook me for Ethiopian and I am from Jamaica. Which “west African” slaves were transported to during the slave trade. People have a sad sense of beauty because ones nose is “straighter” or hair of a silkier texture.

    Good read.

  49. Pingback: Poetic Justice: Drake and East African Girls | The Feminist Wire


  51. What a bunch of self hating somali girls on this thread. Be happy you guys don’t look like adoon.

    Go have a baby with an adoon and see if your kids turn out half as good as a full somali child.

  52. First let me start of by saying i don’t define myself as black nor asian or white but somali, for all of you crying that somalis don’t define themselves as black stop and listen to the words your saying. Name me one other ethic group other than Americans (both black and white) which refer to themselves as a skin colour even when asked white people will tell you their European ancestor. A skin colour mind you that none but a select few actual have , a skin colour which denotes evil and negativity why black when most of us are brown. It’s degrading to refer to yourselves as the colour of your skin when you have a identity. I am sick and tired of Somalis and other Horn Africans bending over backwards to garner favour from Africans and diaspora. The amount of racism we face greatly out ways the xenophobic tendencies of the our older generation. In Toronto Canada, Jamaicans shot Somalis, in South Africa they set us on fire, in Kenya we are discriminated against and massacred in our own territories ( Garre genocide) but according to the author and many of the other people here we are to blame because we are arrogant and proud of our looks. Come off it. I’m supposed to sit there and take insults that west africans throw at us because I have soft hair, I’m supposed humble myself when somebody runs their hands through my hair unprovoked because it’s them manifesting their self hate. I’m supposed to understand why my African identity is questioned time and time again because it’s our fault for distancing ourselves. Do these people not hold any fault at all, always the victim never the perpetrator. The beauty anesthetics the Somalis and other Horn Africans strive for are native to the region and has nothing to do with White people. Our ancestors have been writing poems defining our sense of beauty for thousands of years before any arab landed on our shores. Just because others don’t fit it doesn’t mean we have to change it. Somalis are not as pure as the authors want you to believe our DNA is 80% cushtic 15% Eurasian and 5% sub Saharan. This admixture is not recent but very ancient and it is not arab we pre- date the people of the arab peninsula, that being said it is not the reason for our looks.No such thing as a pure race just levels of low admixture. When somalis say they are different from other “Africans” they are right just because one shares a continent and or skin colour does make them the same. Is a Brit the same as an Italian, Is a chinese person the same as a Japanese person, and Persian the same as a Arab? The answer is no. Why can’t somalis just be Somalis why is there a push from both “Arab lovers” and ” Afro centrist” to accept a identity that we’ve never fit in. FYI Somalis dislike Arabs just as much as they do madoow people. Somalis are XENOPHOBIC not racist stop throwing words around that you don’t understand Somalis don’t discriminate by race, Somalis dislike anybody that is not Somali and even then clan politics ostracize some Somalis themselves , the Somalis bantu and reer xamarian ( somali arabs) have faced equal discrimination and both are not considered somalis by the biliis clans. As mentioned before most ethnic groups around the world like lighter skin on their female population this was the case before colonization ( why do black people always give white people too much credit) do you think our ancestors knew what a cadaan person was when they wrote about jileeb caas iyo timo jileec. This bleaching thing is a fad that will go away and it’s looked down upon by everybody . Somalis are more feature based then colourist I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, It’s mostly jokes that relatives and friends spew at each other when hanging out not ill intended at all but when it comes to features that’s another story if your nose is wider or flatter then straight your not Somali, if your hair is nappier then the next person shun you’ll never be considered Somali at best you’ll get ethiopian or oromo if your lips are big same deal. That is because there is a very obvious somali look which most of us fit, so to say Somalis don’t know how other somalis look is incorrect and stupid they do your just an anomaly because you don’t fit . So am I but I learned to accept that when i walk into a halal store the ayaayo’s will gossip about the hindi boy that just walked in. I don’t take it offensively or take pleasure in it, i just know that i don’t fit the stereotypical Somali look thats all. All in All, i’m just saying don’t paint your ethnic group with the same wide brush and stop looking at everything with a western mind set, somali anesthetics and xenophobia has more to do with our own culture than anything. and I really do believe some but not all of the things the specific posters posted stems for self hate. But regardless I’m somali and proud.

  53. This is an extremely interesting discussion. The scientific community is in agreement that the concept of “race” is moot- it doesn’t exist- only nationality, meaning where your ancestors came from determines your gene pool, based on evolution and natural selection. Everyone knows that Africa is the cradle of humankind. In fact, according to DNA research, there is more genetic diversity WITHIN Africa than without, color be damned.

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s