I read a quote online which went, "Just a reminder to set boundaries, audacity is at an all time high!" I forget who it was written by which is a shame, as it's such an appropriate quote for a conversation that unravelled over these weekend. What started out as a response to an ignorant comment made by an ignorant iTaukei man with regards to his reasoning behind wanting bi-racial children, led to a conversation on how iTaukei women, particularly dark-skinned iTaukei are expected to shoulder the burden of educating the masses. This idea that extorting free emotional labour from a dark-skinned iTaukei woman, to hand hold grown, ignorant men through their unpacking and navigating of their anti-blackness; anti-Indigenous; anti-whatever the hell is making them hate the very thing that makes them... them, is getting tiresome.
And to top it off, we are then told, as dark-skinned iTaukei women by those who have had the privilege to move through life as light-skinned iTaukei girls and consequently women, that they are tired. Tired of having to read through the rhetoric that we, dark-skinned iTaukei women, are considered second-class members of our own communities. Tired of seeing our womanhood being questioned, being belittled and being discarded each time the conversation comes up about why some ignorant iTaukei men would rather be with white women than with us. Not understanding that by centering themselves in a conversation that has been happening since time eternal, that they themselves are contributing to the silencing and the erasing of the lived experiences of a dark-skinned iTaukei woman. The lived experience of having to hear derogatory comments about their skin tone, their hair texture or their overall physcial appearance from when they were small children. Having to continuously hear these comments throughout our entire childhood, right up until adulthood in present day. Having to figure out a way to live with this internalised trauma that our own people subject us to, time and time again. How we also have to pick and choose our battles so that we can collectively dismantle the systems in place that uphold these toxic rhetoric's that we encounter on a daily basis. We don't need your hero-complex selves parachuting in on the pretext of saving us. We are capable of standing up for ourselves and realising the true value of our beings and how we can be the positive affirmation that the next generation of dark-skinned iTaukei girls seek. What we need from you is to understand how there are layers of intersectional issues that we are battling daily, both directly and indirectly and rather than centring your narrative in a conversation that really shouldn't be led by you or be about you, look around and ask members of your family, friendship circle what you can do to centre them. Be that firm ground they can stand on to allow them to have autonomy over how they have these conversations and when can they have the conversations. You are looking at women who have generational trauma to unpack, listen to them when they say to check yourself at the door before entering their safe space.
Goes without saying, the same goes for the males who try to manpslain their way into these conversations. Whilst your comments might give you the feel-good vibes that comes from offering unsolicited advice to women who are speaking on their lived experiences, take the time to reflect on those words inwardly and ask yourself, who does this actually add value to? Are you infact feeding into the toxicity of misogynistic views where a female is tone-policed by a male, is told how they should utilise platforms to share their knowledge both from a personal and professional background? Are you feeding into the toxicity of misogyny and patriarchy that have a firm hold on the foundation of these systems that uphold these systemic issues that dark-skinned iTaukei women are constantly battling? If you can't even answer any of these questions then you my friend are part of the problem. You see, the irony in your trying to engage in conversations where you in turn belittle the lived experience of a dark-skinned iTaukei woman inorder to one up them with a petty personal attack is that, you prove my point factual and correct. My point being that dark-skinned iTaukei girls and women are undervalued and seen as the literal punching bag for the underhanded jokes, toxic narratives and disgusting stereotypes that is used to show what other iTaukei girls and women should not be. It's sad also that when the time comes and the tables are turned, where our men are the ones being publicly attacked for the same things that dark-skinned iTaukei women are subjected to, the burden falls yet again on our shoulders to uplift you and affirm your value and your worth.
I guess we are only good enough to be the butt of your jokes, to be downtrodden, skipped over and discarded but at the same time we are made to feel that we have to remember to stand by to extol you, with our free emotional labour because we apparently have so much to give. Just like the many f*cks we give for your unsolicited comments and your narratives.
As you can tell, this pandemic is giving me some serious Sunday thoughts! Hope your lockdown Sunday is going as productively as mine has.
Fijian In The UK writer, Isabella Naiduki