Black History Month tells the stories of an infinite number of black people across the nations and the seas. There is so much to learn about the culture, experiences, traditions, ethics, practices - the list is endless! There is also a lot we must be thankful for, with regards to impacts and influences black culture has had on our society today. In this edit of TALA Talks, @ama.fitt shares her experiences of growing up as a black woman in Fife, Scotland. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Amanda.
I spent a lot of my life feeling like I didn’t belong in the places I was in. Growing up we were the only Black family in this little village in Fife. It wasn’t until high school that this feeling really took over my life. I remember before starting high school, I refused to go to my first day with braids or my natural hair styled, I wanted a weave. While this might not sound too crazy, I had never had a weave before. I had always gone to primary school with braids or my natural hair. I knew that had I turned up to my first day of first year, I would have stood out like a sore thumb. To be clear, I didn’t want that. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm really dramatic and eccentric so not wanting to stand out is the most un-Amanda thing. This was different though. I wanted to fit in. It wasn’t just that first day, I spent years trying to fit in. Lots of people feel like that, I know. It’s not that I was something special. High school for a lot of people is just trying to get by and fit in. However, for me fitting in meant largely avoiding my blackness. I didn’t want hair that grew up and out or hair that was braided down with lots of little braids. I wanted hair that looked like everyone else. Hair that looked like the girls on magazines that I loved. I was always going to be different because of the colour of my skin. But I wanted to not stick out any more than this. I wanted to shrink the things in my control. I couldn’t change my skin colour but my hair, that I could change.
The funny thing about shrinking myself was that people then thought that I wasn’t “black enough” because my hair looked just like theirs, it didn’t look like the black people they seen on tv. I didn’t act like them either. I didn’t speak like Black Americans or Black Londoners. Why would I have? My circumstances, environment were completely different. People didn’t understand that though. I was essentially a Fifer just like them but they wanted me to be this whole other person. They wanted me to be this cool Black friend that said outlandish things and had a whole other accent. I was born in Aberdeen and lived most of my life in Fife. I couldn’t have acted like that even if I wanted too because I wasn’t from these places. That didn’t stop people from assuming they knew who I was, what I was like. That was their only reference point of Black people so I'm not surprised that’s how people reacted. The power of representation is so important.
While I grew up thinking we were the only Black family in Scotland that couldn’t have been further from the truth. But people act like you are. Like you’re a unicorn. Like you’re the only one and like you don’t belong. Looking back I wonder if I would have wanted my natural hair or one of my primary school hairstyles had there been other Black girls who looked like me at school, on the tv, in magazines or even on the street. I might not have wanted to hide who I was, to hide my blackness just to fit in.
While a lot of the conversation about what it means to be a Black British woman even today is heavily dominated by women in England. There is a whole spectrum of what it means to be a Black British woman. People are always surprised when they meet me. I get a lot of “Amanda isn’t a Black girls name” or “where are you really from” because people don’t believe that a Black girl could be born and raised in Scotland, I have to have came from somewhere else. It's 2020. We need to as a society and nation rid ourselves of believing that people have to fit into boxes. People are people. There are no requirements/ stipulation of being white so why do we put them on Black people?
The beautiful thing about the umbrella term of “Black British” is that there is diversity. Black itself is diverse. There are different shades, cultures, views and people. We have to let people be. We have to stop deciding for people what it means to be Black. We have to stop pushing Eurocentric ideals onto women. I want all Black British women to be able to love themselves. Whether that be in their natural hair, braids, cornrows, weaves or wigs. I want them to be able to love themselves whole heartedly and unapologetically. I spent years trying to fit myself into boxes that I would never be able to get into, that society told me I needed to squeeze myself into to be beautiful, to fit in. They were never boxes for me. I want people to know that Black Scottish is here and it’s here to stay. We exist! I want to be seen. In spaces I felt like I didn’t belong before, I am carving out an Amanda shaped space. I am Black. I am Scottish. I can be and will be whoever I decide I want to be. I won’t allow the colour of my skin to be a barrier to my success and I deserve to navigate spaces that I want to be in.