Examining the ugly truth about Jealousy in the black family.
I went out last night…Whilst I was ‘shacking out’ and truly loving myself and the feeling of freedom I get from dancing, a woman came past me, invading my personal space (like literally inches away!) and shoved her miserable face into mine; threateningly. She then looked me up and down as if she’d stood in a dog turd and passed by looking over her shoulder as she went.
No words were exchanged, I didn’t even know her… the threat was obvious but why?
She is an insidious and malicious mistress…
Two night’s before I was in the delightful company of four other black women. We chatted and discussed and all noted how wonderful it was to be amongst sisters and not have the tension and pique of resentment or petty insecurities peppering our commentary and tainting the energy.
Sad, though it is to admit, this is not often the case when ‘black folks’ get together and ‘two or more are gathered.’ The reality is, that oftentimes there is a thinly veiled covetousness and resentment amongst us. It’s a highly destructive and pervasive social malady.
Why does this happen? For if we are to change how we operate as a community on an equal footing with other groups in society creating opportunities for those that follow us, we need to undo the limitations and shackles we are still placing on ourselves.
Our great Leader and ancestor Marcus Garvey once said:
‘Do not remove the kinks from your hair, remove them from your brain.’
In my view one of the greatest and most insidious kinks prevalent within Black Culture, society and families is this Jealousy. Jealousy causes a huge wound ensuring we never come together as a collective to stem the tide of our collective destruction.
One reason jealousy manifests is the ‘Black Sheep’ scenario. This is when one member of the family is singled out for different (usually negative) treatment from the family’s caregivers. how they then treat the ‘Black Sheep,’ is noted subconsciously and can be replicated amongst the other siblings.
The emotional damage of this for the ‘odd one out,’ is incredibly painful to bear, but also, in my view, crippling too for the ‘jealous’ sibling, who spends their life focused on either the resenting their ‘black sheep’ siblings qualities, achievements or lifestyle or else trying to destroy their possessions, or reputation or both, when they should be focused on developing their own unique gifts to their fullest.
A Black Sheep is often created for the following reasons:
The Black Sheep
- The have a particular gift or talent and without training ‘comes naturally and is executed to a high standard. This gift may bring external attention and validation to them.
- Their personality is unusual and obviously different to that of the mother or father and they find it a challenge to relate to and parent them. Sometimes this is because the nature of the child triggers their insecurities. e.g. a particularly gifted child academically whose parent(s) struggled with school and harbour resentment or fear of the system; a child who is personable and friendly, yet has been born to parents or a parent who is insecure and nervous in social situations
- The child could be very like the mother or father and the other parent resents them and the characteristics that remind them of the ex-partner.
- Perhaps there is some secret or shame surrounding the child’s conception and the are a reminder to the parent of that poor decision or traumatic event.
Whatever the reason the persecuted child, the ‘Black sheep’ struggles for years with their decision-making & self worth and may reject the very ‘gifts’ they were born with.
- They spend a lifetime wondering what is so horrid about who they are and insecurity a lack of self-trust and self-loathing follow them into adulthood.
- If not that, then they make life decisions based on either pleasing others or in some cases in direct opposition to the advice of friends now around them in adulthood, as they find it impossible to believe these people have their best interests at heart .
- An inability to trust follows and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy*
Invariably they blame themselves or become a people pleaser; wearing themselves out to make everything alright for everyone else, swallowing their own voices and shrinking in a vain attempt to gain approval.
The reality is that approval is never coming…
The worst of situations like this is that nothing is stated or discussed yet it permeates every interaction and every family decision.
It’s tough for an adult to recognise their parents are not perfect and are perhaps not as learned, emotional literate or experienced as they are, let alone a child who is dependent on these people for their view of the world and their care.
Crabs in a Barrel’
When one of us starts to ‘rise’ out of the constraining situation and circumstances of our birth or community, others members, become resentful.
They do several things to try and bring you down:
- Other siblings, cousins or even the parents or caregivers take (usually without permission) use and destroy your property then negate your feelings of hurt, your protestations or upset, blaming you for overreacting or being ’emotional,’ disrespectful or miserable
- Your physical attributes are often criticised
- Family members cannot be pleased for you when you achieve triumphs and successes.
- Family don’t pay attention to what you’re doing and show no interest
- You’re not congratulated you on our achievements, or it is done with restraint and tension…the obligation being evident
- Your school, college, work events & ceremonies are not attended, or they have excuses.
- They separate others from you with whisper campaigns (or downright lies) or try and get them on their ‘side’ in situations. btw – their ‘side’ is always in opposition to whatever you think or feel.
- They may go as far as trying to ‘live’ your life and cheat with your partner OR
- Try stealing you own children’s affections and the affections of the wider family network in an attempt to isolate you. This isolation somehow ‘justifies’ their behaviour in their eyes. After all everyone else thinks you’re (insert your own negative label here)…’bossy,’ ‘too loud,’ ‘a know-it-all,’ ‘sneaky’ (if you’re shy) whatever it is they can find a way to persecute you for it
- The wider community fail to support your attempts at entrepreneurship or comment on how you think you’re above them if your life decisions are different to theirs or you appear to be prospering materially.
to move forward as individuals and communities we need to stem the ‘miseducation’ and warped socialisation that goes on within our lives.
Its imperative that we understand that the family is the fertiliser in which the ‘seed’ of the child is planted. For the seed to be properly nourished and grow into full potential that soil has to have the correct nutrients.
One of the most vital minerals in that soil is ‘support.’
I have taught many children for different cultural backgrounds and one thing they always tell me that we as a people do not do well, is support one another. They can be in the midst of a family feud, but if it comes to business or moving forward in society they will always support their own first…fraternise the shop within their own community and owned by a community member before running off to give their money, services to other social groups. Regardless!
Once we begin to support one another’s achievements we will see an exponential rise in our communities social, cultural and financial gains.
Family is the the foundation of society that community, if our communities are to move forward, but with proper understanding, we can come together and move and speak as one, create unity.
The family is the first place we learn to socialise and so it is here that that unity, the appreciation of and support for others and their gifts will first be taught.
It was through unity that our our ancestors fought tirelessly and secured their freedoms. It’s through unity that our countries gained independence and it was through unity that civil rights were won.
It’s not too late…
Come together within our communities and teach our children who they are and where they come from, teach them, their history and that they are unique; teach them that their gifts and those of the people around them are valuable. Teach them to respect themselves, their property and the community’s property as well as others.
Ensure they have collective and individual pride.
There’s no longer a place in the farmyard for a barrel full of crabs or black sheep!
Start the process of ‘de-kinking’ our minds!
Blissings and much love
*self-fulfiling prophesy: https://positivepsychology.com/self-fulfilling-prophecy/