Respect Yourself: To Love Yourself is the Greatest Love of All
Basil Waine Kong
We delight in pledging to become a united nation with the plethora of people who call themselves Jamaicans—“Out of many, one people.” People from just about every corner of the world call Jamaica home. We run the gamut of personalities from those who love themselves, love their country and always work to make things a little better.
Then there are those who hate themselves, bent on tearing down our country and always treat and value others better than themselves. Is this behavior an expression of self-hatred? Self hatred describe people of low self esteem who dislike themselves as well as the national, racial or ethnic group to which they belong.
In “Sweetie-Pie”, one of Ms. Louise Bennett’s often quoted poems, she writes:
“Donkey tink him cub a race-horse;
John Crow tink him pickney white;
doah Teacher mark John sums-dem wrong;
Him mumma she dem right!”
An even more derogatory rhyme is repeated much too often by African Americans:
“Niggers and flies;
Niggers and flies;
The more I know Niggers,
The more I love flies”
Because human beings generally strive to better themselves; improve their financial status and quality of life; aspire to be respected and honored; we sometimes become prey to a negative frame of reference. Often we look to others with power for affirmation, which if your are looking to people of European ancestry, requires that you submit and subjugate your values to coincide with those of white people. People of colour are bombarded with images of European values regarding beauty, intelligence and success. These messages can at times be racially biased and instead of uplifting our spirits, they serve to tear down our concept of who we are. We then arrive at the preposterous conclusion that we are unworthy of love and become haters of ourselves, our neighbors and anyone who look like us. Self-hatred is destructive and does not serve us well. So, let’s reject these corrupt values. To thine own self be true.
If you take the case of Michael Jackson, no amount of success could change his obsession with becoming white and having white children. Tiger Woods does not want to be regarded as black and calls himself Cablinasian, married a white woman and demonstrating some of the same traits as Michael. We recognize their self hatred, hope they will one day get over it but love them anyway. Or maybe we love them because we recognize ourselves in them.
As children, we adopted the traits and beliefs of our parents in the hope that we will enjoy the power and privilege that we perceive that they enjoy. Did we adopt the traits of our slave masters in the process?
Do you compulsively compare yourself with others and always conclude that you don’t measure up?
Do you respond negatively and aggressively to criticism?
Do you encourage abuse from others and rationalize that you don’t deserve any better?
Do you start fights you are sure to lose because you deserve to be battered?
Do you relish compliments and attention from whites but do not value kindness from people who look like you? (In fact, you don’t even pay them any mind.)
Do you automatically find yourself only hiring white people when you need a doctor, lawyer, accountant, builder or repairman?
When you do work for whites, do you go out of your way to do a good job but when working for a black owned company, you slack?
Do you believe that anything foreign is better than locally produced products and services?
Do you believe that ice being sold by whites is colder and is of a better quality than ice being sold by Blacks?
Do you believe that white politicians will do a better job than people who look like you?
Do Black people frustrate and make you angry because they can never do anything right?
Do you place unreasonable demands on yourself to be perfect because you believe this is the only way you can get respect and make yourself lovable?
Do you have the courage to be imperfect?
Do you hide Uncle Joe and family members from your uptown friends because you believe they will embarrass you because he talks bad and don’t know how to use his knife and folk?
Do you dread weddings and funerals when everyone will find out about your relatives?
When you look in the mirror do you only see your flaws?
Do you constantly criticize members of your family, belittling and ridiculing them?
Do you engage in reckless, self destructive suicidal behavior like over eating, consuming dangerous drugs, driving recklessly, and engaging in promiscuous behavior?
Have you ever broken off a really great relationship in favor of being with a really bad person? (Do you go out for hotdogs when there is pea soup at home?)
A substantial effort continues to be made to brainwash our people into believing they are physically unattractive. Why is there a market for hair weaves and bleaching creams? Some may arrive at self-hatred because everywhere they look, the people with dark skin are at the bottom of the economic ladder and want to identify with the winners. This process takes place for any child that feels the powerlessness of their diminished circumstances compared to the broader world. They consider themselves losers who lack resources (intelligence, personal connections, money, and influence).
When our police delight in giving white looking people and professionals a break and harass people who look like themselves, it is self hatred. When civil servants ask white people to step to the head of the line ahead of Black people, it is self hatred. When you vote for political candidates because they are white, it is self hatred. When teachers favor a child, advance him or her and hold back a Black child, it is self hatred. When you only invite “respectable people” into your living room, that is self hatred. If you don’t have the courage to be imperfect and cannot accept the imperfections in your neighbours, that is also self hatred. Why do we continue to treat family and friends badly and save our best for guests and strangers?
As opposed to hating ourselves and our neighbours, we are admonished by God to love our neighbours as ourselves. But to do that, we must learn to love ourselves first. Let us shun self-hatred. It is counterproductive. You are a child of God, made in his image and embody the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are a valuable human being who was mysteriously and wonderfully made. Our self-worth is not based on what other people tell us about ourselves. Your rights and privileges are no more and no less than anyone else. In the words of Bob Marley: “Stand up for your rights”.
Bullet Columnist Dr. Basil Waine Kong has written several pieces for this journal and especially likes to expound on his favorite subject; his beloved homeland Jamaica. He is a former Atlien (resident of Atlanta GA), and former President of the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) who now practices law (passing the Georgia Bar Exam in 1990). This article is reprinted with his permission from his blogsite; Coming in From the Cold… Bob Marley.