Anti-Blackness in Somalinimo

Zakariya Abdullahi, staff writer 
Photo of Zak Abdullahi by Mallory Ferguson

Somalinimo is hard to define. I would define it as the unity of Somalis around the world. For as long as Somalis can remember, we have been scattered into different nations and divided into tribes.

Somalinimo has been a way to reclaim our oneness and unity, especially after the Civil War. This concept is usually heartwarming but it also can be unhealthy and dangerous. Somalinimo can often lead to othering those who are different from us. Othering can lead to a dangerous trend of disregard for outsiders and their wellbeing. 

The majority of Somalis , both at home and in the diaspora, believe that they are no longer Black. Some like to simply identify as Somali. They often don’t see themselves as a part of the Black struggle. Others see themselves as Arab or other identities that would make them not Black/African. Not only that, but there is also a distaste for Black people due to a narrative that has been passed on for generations and amplified in America: Black means bad. We use Somalinimo as an excuse to exclude others. This is most visible in our interactions with the African American/Black community. We perpetuate stereotypes about the community, which in turn hurts us as well.

Anti-Blackness is present both in the diaspora and back home. As Somali-Americans, we have seen and encountered the explicit anti-Blackness expressed by our parents, family members and friends. Our younger generation has sat too comfortably rightly blaming others (Indians, Arabs and many other communities) for being anti-Black and hasn’t checked our people. We didn’t speak up as we heard family members say things like “don’t be friends with Madows (Blacks). They’re gangsters.” We were silent as they perpetuated stereotypes about a whole group of people being dangerous, poor and lazy. 

Beyond that, we have colorism and racism within our community. Somalis who are dark skin are deemed “not Somali enough” and mothers are looked down upon for giving birth to a dark skin child, with girls being the primary recipients of hate. There is also the blatant racism against Somali Bantus, who were enslaved in Somalia during the Arab slave trade. There are those who tell Somali Bantus to “go back where they came from.” These people often feel as though they have ownership over the Somali identity and that they can take it from others. 

What are the next steps? As the future generation, we need to have honest conversations about the harm that we cause not only to the general Black community, but to ourselves as well. We need to recognize what is happening, talk about it and address it. We need to love ourselves and those close to us. If we can’t accept people with darker skin tones in our own families how can we love all Black people? It starts from within. 

If we can’t accept people with darker skin tones in our own families how can we love all Black people? It starts from within.