Yesha Callahan

Who Taught You To Hate Yourself?

May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965

“Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to so much so that you don’t want to be around each other? No… Before you come asking Mr. Muhammad does he teach hate, you should ask yourself who taught you to hate being what God made you.” (Malcolm X – May 22, 1962, Los Angeles)

48 years later, the question of self-hate still looms in my mind when I think of certain people.  I’m thinking beyond the texture of a person’s hair, but more so the skin deep issues, when it comes to the color of someone’s skin. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m Black and I’ve never claimed to be anything other than Black. Sure, my last name is probably one of the most Irish names out there, but I’ve never been mistaken for anything but a Black woman. I embrace my kinky/curly hair, I embrace my full lips, caramel skin and almond shaped eyes. I embrace the fact that my background is a diverse mixture of Irish, Black & Native American. My family’s history is one of diversity, but as diverse as we are, I realize that I’m still a Black woman.

I remember the first time I heard James Brown’s song, “Say It Loud I’m Black & I”m Proud”, I was 6 years old, and my grandmother played it on her old record player. As I saw this really light-skin woman dancing around the living room, singing the lyrics, I realized that being “Black” was a beautiful existence. Even though I remember the stories she used to share about her growing up and being teased because of her “lightness”, it still never made her ashamed of her blackness.

What really sucks, is that nowadays, there are still individuals out there, who still can’t bring themselves to say, “I’m Black & I’m Proud”. In the words of the late El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, “Who Taught You To Hate Yourself”?

  1. February 21, 2010 - Reply

    You know, I see this a lot on online dating sites.

    Men, who are obviously black, when asked their ethnicity will put things like “Race doesn't matter to me,” “I'm human,” “This is irrelevant,” “I embrace everyone,” etc. It annoys me.

    Why is it so difficult to just say, “I'm black.”? To me, they're not embracing. They're negating. I make no efforts to interact with someone who can't just be who he is and keep it moving.

    We should all feel comfortable identifying with who we are, even when we have no problems including everyone else.

  2. February 21, 2010 - Reply

    Absolutely GOSPEL! It sickens me to see people claim EVERY other thing in them…and cast the blackness to the side. My family's background is diverse, too…I'm constantly being spoken to in Spanish, lol. YET…I am and always WILL be forever a black woman in my glory. I love all my folks from the highest “high yella” to the darkest “blue black”. For me…there is NOTHING like being black, having this skin and this heritage. I couldn't imagine being anyone else.

    I think it's fine to embrace other races and be a well-rounded, cultured individual who has friends/lovers from all walks of life…but, take heed that embracing everything else doesn't mean excluding self.

  3. February 21, 2010 - Reply

    This makes me think back when my little cousin came to stay with us for the Summer. I bought her a cute doll or so I thought. She would not play with that doll to save her life. She said that the white doll was prettier, because she had long straight hair. Today, she's 23 and is constantly wearing wigs, weaves, and the like, and has damaged her own hair to the point of no return. That saddens me because, she feels that “straight hair” is good hair and doesn't have any love for her self, unless she is wearing some artifical something on her head. Our children, need to exposed to our rich heritage early so they can have a sense of self and self pride and not feel that our natural hair is not good hair. ALL HAIR IS GOOD HAIR!

  4. February 22, 2010 - Reply

    Powerful yet sad this still exists. I'm not so concerned about a “post-racial America” as I am about the love (of lack of) we have for each other.

  5. February 22, 2010 - Reply

    Powerful! Powerful! Powerful! Its saddening that we need leaders in our community now & they are not prolific or recognized.

  6. February 22, 2010 - Reply

    I agree with you 100%..Everyone wants to be a 1/4th this…1/4th that…has saying that you're 'black' gone out of style? Then you have those who choose to think that referring to themselves as a breakdown of ethnic backgrounds makes them more 'exotic'..give me a break.

  7. February 22, 2010 - Reply

    “I think it's fine to embrace other races and be a well-rounded, cultured individual who has friends/lovers from all walks of life…but, take heed that embracing everything else doesn't mean excluding self.”

    My point exactly! I couldn't have said it better myself!

  8. February 22, 2010 - Reply


  9. February 22, 2010 - Reply

    post-racial is a bunch of bs to me…as long as their are ignorant people, regardless of what race there are..we'll never be a post-racial society.

  10. February 22, 2010 - Reply

    or….like your boy kwame…just down right stupid lol

  11. February 22, 2010 - Reply

    I agree with ever part of this post. My mother made sure that my siblings and I embraced our race from a young age. My mother wouldn't even buy us a white Barbie doll and still won't buy any child she comes across a white doll. I think we need to instill in our children that black is in fact beautiful. We need to learn how to love ourselves.

  12. February 25, 2010 - Reply

    Nice post! It's shame that a conversation about race that is 48 years old is still prevalent now…fo shame, fo shame. It seems like since we have a black president, people forget that black people still have complexes and serious personal race issues. Its funny how, initially, non-black people made us hate ourselves but now, WE make US hate US. Its like, black people make fun of other black people who have dark skin, thick kinky hair, big lips, etc. We create the hate within our own communities. We don't find value in being black–people think that there is no real intrinsic value to being black. Until that mentality changes, i guess posts like this will always be needed. Thanks for the post

  13. October 6, 2010 - Reply

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bella Syk, Rosetta. Rosetta said: Black love is self-love. Thoughtful post by @flyblackchick: Who Taught You To Hate Yourself? […]

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