The Unveiling of the ‘REAL ME’:  My Emancipation

I arrived in the United Kingdom in 1998 and I remember feeling very excited. Finally I was able to live the life I had always imagined and desired while in Africa. Growing up I used to watch a lot of American sitcoms and one of my favourite was a teen series called “Saved by the bell.” I recall watching the character called Zach Morris and how I wanted to date someone like Zach Morris in future.  England was going to fulfil this dream for me as of course Zach Morris was white and hey, in Africa where I grew up white people did not date black people ever (it was very rare).

I was born in then what was the new Zimbabwe (previously it was Rhodesia a white British colony) and informed that now black people have similar rights to that of white people and I was privy to this. The reality was not so, I might add, Black people were still servants to many white people and certainly poorer than them too. It did make white people more alluring and we grew up constantly watching American and British television programmes with white people such that the epitome of success in my eyes was “WHITE”.

I started nursing school in a town called Brighton here in UK. It was the first time that I was totally separated from close family or persons of parental guardianship. I felt free and I always fantasised of meeting a lovely white man to date, you see, I disliked black men and I did not see them as successful in comparison to their white counterparts. Being a tomboy at school, who was also very lean for a girl, did not help as no black boy at school ever gave me a second glance or told me I was attractive. Looking at television all the beautiful black girls seemed to be light skinned (closer to white) and had long European hair which was very different from mine. All the girls considered attractive at school always seemed to be light skinned too.

Growing up my culture condoned men cheating on women (I hated this) and this was rife in marriages. Television programmes on the other hand did not seem to condone this behaviour much and women seemed more empowered in European countries.  I was then 16years and strongly desired to be in Europe, and to find myself a white man to date who would not treat me the way a black man would (i.e. cheat on me and think it is okay).

Lo’ and behold in the year 2000, I befriended 2 blokes who were not black. We went to lunch and used to hang out together a lot. This was great and such a novelty as this would never happen in Zimbabwe that a dark skinned girl like me would be friends with non-black people and men for that fact. One of the blokes was particularly attractive (greenish hazel eyes, skin that tanned well and brunette) and we discovered we both enjoyed movies. One day we went to the cinema together, it was just the two of us (I will call him Mr Attractive) the other bloke bailed out. We started to spend a lot of time together.  We would often go out for meals and hang out. I started to fancy Mr Attractive and the more we spent time together, the closer we became. I was frightened, I was not sure if he fancied me being black. I set up an experiment to assess if there was any interest and I got confirmation that he did fancy me. He was very shy and was not the type to tell a girl if he was interested which he confessed to me. One evening while out in a bar , the year being a “leap year”, I said to him I had something to tell him ( in the leap year, in  UK they say girls can propose or ask men out) I blurted out that I fancied him and to my surprise he told me he fancied me too.  I proceeded to say “should we go out and see” to which he said yes and that day started our relationship.

I was 20yrs, in a relationship with an attractive white looking man. He told me I was attractive and that one of the things he truly appreciated and loved about me was my skin colour and the tone of it. It did shock me at the time, but for once, I felt accepted as a dark skinned black girl and did not feel the need to be light skinned.

Four months went by and I was having the perfect relationship, it was a dream come true. I was beginning to get comfortable and secure in the relationship and then boom one day he was very withdrawn and I could not understand why, it was unlike him. After several attempts to find out, he finally told me that his parents particularly his mother did not accept me. She was not happy that I was black and dark skinned, she thought something was wrong with him for dating me. I asked him what he thought and he told me ‘he was in love with me’ and will not do what his mother wants. Months went by and He never mentioned it again. He sent his mother a few pictures of me and vice-versa. She seemed to accept me (kind of after seeing my pictures) and I thought that was the end of that.

I did eventually meet my mother in-law the following year.  Things appeared to be fine but for little remarks here and there that “I am black and other white people will stare at me with her son and that if my skin tone was a little paler then perhaps I will be accepted”….random comments  said with a smile. Despite this her son seemed to grow closer to me and I to him.


The relationship grew stronger; he had started to learn some things about my culture and upbringing while he taught me about Asian cuisine. We appreciated each other’s music, for instance, he started to listen to soul, Rnb and hip-hop and I started listening to some indie and nu-metal/heavy metal bands too. He met my family who accepted him and took him as their own.

My mother in law came to live with us and this brought change in the home. It was challenging to have her under my roof.  She constantly reminded me and her son that he is not an African and during any little argument we had she made it clear that “she will never take my side even if I am right because he is her son and I am not her child.” She always told him that he should leave me as it was obviously not working. Talk about ‘subliminal’ messages. We got engaged under volatile circumstances as my mother in law to be walked out on me during coffee in a packed coffee shop right after (embarrassingly) shouting at me that “Her son is not African” the day before the engagement.  He was going to take part in a traditional dowry ceremony which, in my culture, indicates marriage and the blending of families. He never had an issue with this initially and always knew about it until his mother told him to refuse this as he is white and European.  We did finally go through it but I was feeling very uptight. I was very tense, anxious and nervous; I mean this was only the day after my mother in law had lambasted me in the coffee shop for making her son go through this African process. She eventually came but my heart was “sad”. It was a sadness that I could not easily shake off…this was meant to be a happy moment, a fantasy coming to life but I realised my reality was not what I had wished or hoped for.

To cut a long story short I started to feel lost and rejected. I felt like I did as a teenager, fighting for my identity all over again. Several questions went through my head such as

  1. Would my children ever be accepted if I marry this man since they will not be white? Will they grow up not suffering with their own acceptance and identity issues as it will be blatant that their mothers black side is deemed inferior.
  2. Am I truly loved by this man if accepting me, means I have to deny who I am, my identity and compromise to become fully white and European? Is it even possible to be fully white when you are not born white? Is this conditional or unconditional love?
  3. I have to always know that I am inferior to my mother in law as I am a dark black African. My mother is inferior too as many times this was implied.
  4. I would have to deny my culture to be happy as this seems a major cause of conflicts. I would have to adopt European ways as they are superior.
  5. I would have to lose myself and many aspects about me (my family especially) to be accepted.

I addressed my hurts and insecurities to my fiancé in the hope of assurance but this led to catastrophic events finally leading to the termination of our engagement, traditional marriage and relationship. I was dismissed by my in-laws so easily with words such as “you are not welcome in our family” after 9 and a half years with their son. I asked myself if I was ever welcome… After the breakup, he tried to get back with me and he also told me his mother was “trying to set him up with someone else” and advising him not to be with me but he still loved me. It was painful to see how indispensable I was to her.  All the time spent and memories shared, what we achieved together were all bygones and forgotten.

Can you imagine how I felt? I was now even more lost amid confusion. How could my dream turn out to be such a nightmare? Where did I go wrong?  How could this happen? I was left with a feeling of loss and despair. Fatima had to retrace her footsteps to see where this fantasy had turned to a living nightmare. I had to dig deep to see what went wrong and when i did…

 The problem was “ME”. Alas!

As painful as it was to admit to myself, I did not love myself or who I was. I based my self-worth on someone else’s identity, on popular culture and the worlds reasoning.

I compared myself to others and aspired to fulfil their dreams, needs and expectations in my own life as my source of perfection. How foolish!!! Other people struggle to fulfil their dreams and have many issues with their self-worth and identity, how then was I supposed to do that living on borrowed dreams and think they could fulfil my own self-worth and identity? My idea of perfect was not something my mother told me but something I conceived “a white boyfriend is better than a black one”.  Yes, some say our media purports this but “we should guard our minds and identities” to refute this as all people can be good or bad.  One race is not superior to another. There are traits of excellence in races but the qualities can transcend to other races too.

I was a victim of a slave mentality that white people are more superior to black people. Slavery was abolished in UK in 1808, in USA in 1865. Black people continued to face segregation and the reason why Martin Luther King marched famously in 1963 for the civil rights of black people, to become part of society and be awarded equal opportunities.  All this in the name of the liberation of black people, but in my mind I felt inferior to white people and even my relationship fantasy of a white person was solely based on the notion that “I can claim some white privilege and also become better, more acceptable to society, perhaps overshadow that I am a dark skinned black woman.” Perhaps I thought it would make me of better standing in society. I cringe, now thinking about how I was so lost and how I devalued myself. I can honestly say I gave power to others to confirm my worth. I disowned my own self and my people, funny how facing the same treatment hurt me to the core of my very existence. Being black is something to embrace and cherish and not be ashamed of and doing so I learnt not to denigrate another race. It is more positive to have a good opinion of another race and admire good qualities however this should not be at the expense of who I am.

God created me in his own image, how can my skin colour be a mistake and a thing to be ridiculed for? Do we not all after all share human traits such as being birthed into this world as a baby with no notion of colour? To all grow and at some point in our lives, we will all experience joy, tears, happiness, sadness, grief, good health, ill health and ultimately die. How then can we be better than another person based on the colour of our skin? Indeed cultures may be different which is one thing we do not all share but I know human beings have the power to adopt and assimilate too albeit if they choose to.

God set me free to become who he created me to be, a black woman who is here on this earth for a purpose and is not inferior to any other race or person.  It was a true release hence the emancipation of Fatima Denga. The veil was removed. I finally accepted who I am. I may be dark skinned and black but that is who I am and I am happy as I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

India Arie sung ‘I am not my hair’. I had an issue with my hair but now I have embraced it.  I have learnt not to let other people’s opinions of me dictate my identity. I have come to love and admire my own black men now and would rather see the potential in them than berate them while losing myself.


In hindsight I am not angry at what happened with my ex-partner, I am forever grateful  as it led to the revealing of my true identity and accepting ‘me’ as a black person. In fact I forgave them.  It led me to seek to find my own purpose, one that will help others in my community. I realise I have a voice which can be heard to spread awareness of self-worth and value to others by encouraging them and helping them realise their potential. I learnt to see myself the way God sees me and not the way other people or races see me or wish to define me. God orders my steps and he directs my paths so my success is in him and he shall see me through.

I live you with this analogy: Can you imagine living in your own house, where you live by your own set of rules. The next day a new neighbour moves in who seems more educated than you. Would that mean you will suddenly start living in your house according to that neighbours rules in the hope of seeming to appear more educated as they are and so would you allow them to come into your house and tell you your house is inferior and can only succeed if you emulate their ways at the expense of who you were or are? Imagine they then move out and another family of even higher standards moves in next. What would you do? Borrow their identity and self-worth too?  Ludicrous!  Living under comparisons. No-one even likes being compared, just check out children and what being compared does to their emotions, psyche and socially.

Your story might not be like mine but I hope this blesses someone who is trying to find their identity and self-worth. If I was able to change my perception – one that I have had most of my life and accept who I am regardless of what others think then I believe anyone can do it.

If you need me to come and speak to youths or groups that need empowering regarding their identity and finding their potential please email with your requests.

Thank You
Fatima Denga.

(Disclaimer: I am not against white people or against white and black relationships at all and understand that my experience is not everyone’s experience so we cannot generalise on this account. I only seek to empower the minds of those who feel as I felt in walking in who they are).

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