When Abeer Sinder first noticed the lack of representation of black women from the region on social media and questioned why she had to draw makeup inspiration from foreign beauty influencers, she took matters into her own hands. Putting into action the phrase “be the change you wish to see in the world,” Sinder created a YouTube channel catering to black Arab women and became Saudi Arabia’s first black beauty vlogger. Although her goal was to challenge stereotypical beauty standards and uplift other women in the Arab world who look like her, she was met with major backlash.
Unfortunately, Sinder was no stranger to the ignorant criticisms and racist comments that ensued. As a fourth-generation Saudi of African ancestry, Sinder had been experiencing racism from as young as six years old, even if she couldn’t understand what had provoked such cruel treatment.
“I was only six; I did not understand why some other kids saw me as ‘different’ and I did not understand why someone would treat me badly just because my skin color was darker than theirs,” shared Sinder. “I still clearly remember it because it was my first incident with anti-blackness.”
Taking to Instagram a few days ago to recount this traumatic memory in detail to her half a million followers, Sinder explained she was playing on the swings with her friends when a girl her age pushed her away saying “Get out of my face, you slave!” That was the first time she had ever heard that word and she remembers asking her mother its meaning amid tears. Sinder posted this story in hopes of reminding us all that words have power and we must be teaching future generations how to use them positively if we want to stop the cycle of racist behaviors and redefine what is “normal.”
“The point is to know that fine upbringing matters in a child’s life,” wrote Sinder. “This kid just repeated a word she used to hear from her family members. This is how, eventually, such racist expressions are considered normal and that there’s nothing shameful about them to the extent that some people keep telling me ‘Don’t be so sensitive, this is normal, don’t make it a big issue.’ That is because these people are used to considering such expressions as normal. Please, be better and make more effort to teach children good behaviors in the right way.”
Vogue Arabia spoke to the boundary-breaking blogger about this heartbreaking childhood experience with racism, how she began her empowering journey toward self-love and acceptance, and the steps each of us can take to be actively anti-racist.
Would you say you have fully recovered from that incident? If yes, what did it take for you to recover?
Yes, I definitely did. I think that my perspective changed. I found my self worth and learned to love me just the way I am. Self-love is a journey that doesn’t look the same for everyone. Seeing some representation of gorgeous dark-skinned black women on Western media definitely helped me realize my own unique beauty and feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. I used to feel bad when I heard racist and anti-black comments—now I feel bad for the person who thinks this way.
Why do you think it is important for black people, and specifically black women, to tell their stories?
Telling stories has a way to empower and inspire people. Vulnerability is strength and by telling a story, you can change someone’s life and, in this case, someone’s behavior. What I hope to do is to inspire little black girls to find their self-worth and love themselves from a young age, and for non-black people to be more cautious about their actions and words.
What advice would you give to young black girls such as your past self?
Know you are beautiful. Our dark skin is kissed by the sun and it’s a gift. Every one of us is beautiful, no matter what they look like or what skin color they have, so never feel less than anyone else and be strong and confident.
What steps can non-black people take to help eradicate racism on a systemic, as well as on a personal level?
They need to take on the responsibility of educating themselves and their family and friends about anti-black or racist behavior, be conscious of what to choose to teach their children, and actively adopt anti-racist acts. Racism is everyone’s problem, not just black people’s.