Day 9: My Thoughts on Colourism

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Source: Pinterest

My first realisation that I was not just black, I was a different shade of black, was when I was in high school. It was my first day in Form 1 at an all girls’ school, and when I went up to a few of my classmates, hoping to make new friends, they grouped up, looked at me funny, and asked, “Why are you so light?”

Looking back, I should have given a real clever answer, like, “I don’t know, I applied for the extra melanin, but there was a shortage that day.” I didn’t, I just said my dad is real light. *shrugs shoulders*

I’ve started on Trevor Noah’s book, “Born a Crime” and, without spoiling anything, it has made me realise that the fascination and desire for lighter skin may truly be a construct of colonialism, where anything white or near white was considered good, and desirable. And with it came some form of privilege. White people wanted to be me, because I was apparently the shade they aimed to get to when they were tanning. Darker-skinned black people fawned over me.

There was loads of pressure to be perfect as well. Reason being, there is a proverb in Shona which says “Mukadzi mutsvuku, akasaroya, anoba.” If a light woman is not a witch, she steals. The common stereotype is also that she is dirty, unhygienic. And apparently all those things are because of her skin colour. I’ve come to realise that it is another construct of colonialism, the hatred of white or near white people because of what they did to us as black people.

Colourism will never go away when we continue to feed it. Alek Wek and Nneoma Anosike are just as beautiful as Tracie Ellis Ross and Amandla Stenberg. There is this gorgeous girl, Kheris Rogers, who was bullied because she was dark, and now is a model. How dare we measure a person’s beauty by where they are on the colour spectrum, like they chose to be the colour they are?

I can’t get darker. I burn. Literally. I turn bright red, and peel like an old potato that’s sprouting new sprouts. It’s not sexy. So there’s nothing I can do about this colour. We cannot do anything about our shades of black. They are there to show us that all our complexions are beautiful. Let’s use them to show our glorious melanin rainbow, and not as another tool to divide us as black people. Let’s stop this cycle now.

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The melanin rainbow! Source: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna

I’d love to hear your thoughts on colourism, let’s discuss in the comments!

Until next time… your Quarter Wife.

Clarke Sanders


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