Dark skin is not a badge of shame

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By Lunga Izata

Moving to another country is an opportunity to escape and run away from all your problems and all the hurt from the place you call home. Sometimes we need a brand new start, where we are allowed to make new mistakes and be hurt in another language. I wanted South Africa to give me a new chance and I opened my heart to this country. I had high expectations and I tried so much not to judge individuals in Africa’s most diverse economy based on my experiences and opinions of my homeland Angola.

Sometimes I am reluctantly African. Please do not assume this is related to the standard arguments of our colour, hair, facial features and traditional values and so on. I am very truthful to what I am and what my race has given me. I am a black woman with Afro hair, chocolate skin tone, and I am proud of how these features allow me to smell, taste and feel the treasures of this life. What makes me reluctant when it comes to my African roots is how sometimes through issues such as racism and colourism, we are programmed to take minimal pride in our skin.

When I was younger, I did not know I was black because I did not realise there was something else other than black. When I started to see the world and understand life, I knew we were all different and I was fine with that. Growing up in Angola, I was just a girl. Travelling around this world, I became a black girl. When I came to South Africa I became a dark-skinned black girl.

Travelling and meeting new cultures has allowed me to study other peoples, habits, behaviour and language. Among these languages, I have always found English resourceful to me wherever I have gone. Besides being valuable, this international language is a confirmation of a promising future for me. I am passionate about it, as I feel it brings people together and allows me to express myself in a profound way.

It is a joy to play with words, meanings, and they provide my suffering a wider audience. For instance, English has taught me that brightness has a positive connotation such as the quality of being intelligent, cheerful, lively, successful and happy. It can also be the quality or state of giving out or reflecting light, and light continues to bring positive definitions such as illumination, radiance and brilliance. In English and any other language, we learn the universal true meaning that light is good and dark is bad. I guess this applies to societies such as South Africans where social and economic hierarchy is dependent on one’s skin colour.

Being educated and having travelled around the world, I have faced discrimination. However, I never imagined I would feel prejudice in an African country. I could have never imagined that someone would be made to feel inferior due to their skin tone.

Racism is hate towards other races; discrimination within your own race based on skin colour is ignorance.  Today, we have the opportunity to make better choices but we still fail ourselves. Our race is seen as powerful because we have endured pain and injustice for so long but this power is failing to unite us. Instead, it is creating egos and distancing us from our sense of worth.

I understand that this pursuit of brightness was caused by xenophobia and deprivation and so on, but I also believe that the “yellow bonisation” (from yellow bones — a popular culture term used to describe lighter skinned Africans) will take us back to negative times. Let us embrace our natural beauty, which brings light to our hearts. If “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, it’s our duty to educate the beholder to be free from prejudice.

As American songwriter and rapper Lauryn Hill aptly puts it: “I consider myself a crayon. I might not be your favourite colour but one day you’ll need me to complete your picture.” – The Best of Africa

 

 

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