Being Black

Nneka Ukonu
3 min readMar 22, 2021

For the first time after 31 years of my life, I came into this crazy awareness on the 21st day of January 2019 that I was black, not that I didn't know before, but everyone in Nigeria where I’m from is black so I never felt black, I just felt like me. walking down the streets in a foreign country made me feel black because of the number of white people I saw. I don't ever recall being treated differently because of my colour, I think in many ways the British are non-racist (subject to discussions) but in between conversations with people, I began to sense a colour preference in people. I sensed this through their reactions and indirect comments that were made. One time I told a white friend of mine stories of how as a child I wished I was as dark as Lupita Nyongo due to the fact that darker girls in my junior secondary school were considered a “black beauty” while lighter-skinned black girls were considered “attractive” (NOT BLACK BEAUTY). I honestly thought the story would make him laugh but he looked at me with mild disgust, which I read to be “why on earth would you wish you were darker than this. I could be wrong in reading it this way, but that's sure what I saw and felt.

Thankfully my kids being so young did not notice any difference in colour, they never asked me why other people around them were white. Unfortunately or fortunately my landlord brought this to their attention. how? did you ask? ok so, he came around to fix stuff at my flat and my eldest daughter who was 5 at the time asked him “are you, my uncle?” His response could have been anything ranging from “no darling, but I wish you were because you are so cute” to “Oh yes I am that's why I'm visiting” but instead he replied to her “I’d be the wrong colour to be your uncle isn't it” like Jesus Christ! who talks and thinks like this, I mean, I could have had a sister who married a white man, I could somehow have had relatives who are white, how on earth can he be a wrong colour to be related to a little black girl. I did express my displeasure to him, but not as strong as I would have prefered looking back at it in retrospect.

I'm not telling this story because I'm mad at anything or anyone. I love people the way God commanded me to, but to give my little insight on how bad things can get for other black people. We have been and still experience a disadvantage because of our colour, seen as different when we are human, and for many, it has caused unequal opportunities and most cruel, loss of lives. There's just so much pain out there, so when you see people, be deliberate about treating them like you'll treat yourself irrespective of their race, background or lifestyle.

Can love be the guiding principle…