Dark skin is not a badge of shame!

THEY say we must always move on. I say that we can only move out in order to move on. 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 anyone in Africa’s most diversified economy based on scrutiny and anger I had towards other African countries, especially my own homeland of Angola.

I am not proud of being African! Please do not assume that my shame towards my continent is related to the standard understatements: our colour, hair, facial features and traditional values and so on. I do not fit in with the common “European wannabe” stereotype. 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 my strong features allow me to smell, taste and feel the treasures of this life.

What makes me deny my African roots is our weakness, ignorance and stupidity. Are we weak because of what our ancestors went through or are we just naturally cowards? When are we going to see ourselves clearly without shame and excuses? When are we going to stop apologising for being black?

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, which once again was fine with me. However, coming to South Africa I became a dark-skinned black girl.

Travelling and meeting new cultures has allowed me to study people, their habits, behaviour and their language. Among these languages, I have always found English resourceful to me wherever I went. Besides being valuable, this international language is a confirmation of a promising future for me. I am passionate about it, how it brings people together and this has inspired me to be vulnerable and express my pain in a profound way.

It is interesting to find words that literally give life to my feelings in another language. 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 to it, 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. Most of the times I find how the word “light” in the Bible is associated with hope and faith. This complex term also takes pleasure of the definition of “not (being) dark”. In English and any other language, we learn the universal true meaning that light is good and dark is bad. I guess South Africans learnt it very well until the point they put that into practice.

Being educated and having travelled around the world, I have faced discrimination. I was always open to be discriminated against because my country also prepared me for it. However, I never imagined I would feel prejudiced in an African land. I could have never imagined that different shades, skin tones and so on could make you feel inferior somehow.

Racism is hate towards other races; discrimination within your own race is ignorance. We are hating our own kind and starting another apartheid. This new system is based on separating people based on their complexion, a racial segregation allocated by a rainbow.

This kind of mindset is as a result of damaged souls. But when are we going to stop blaming our flaws on slavery, social disparity, corruption and so on? 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.

Let us resign from the victim card; we are not slaves anymore; the only thing that controls us is our thoughts and, sadly, they have become our handcuffs. We need to be released from the psychological tragedy of the consequences of racism. The demons that we must face now are not those that are in the world, but those that are within us. There is no enemy out there but we are battling ourselves and I am afraid we will win.

We are not colours but humans; there is no “royal blue”, “sky blue” or “turquoise blue” but we are just blue. 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 the dirty. 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 favorite colour but one day you'll need me to complete your picture.”

by Lunga Izata

ps. You can find this piece on SPI's (Sol Plaatje Institute) newsletter of 2017.

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  1. Sabano Blessed PeaceJanuary 14, 2018

    Awesome article lunga,you are so inspiring my dear,am glad i met you,Speaking the truth about about everything,I believe Africans should love and cherish who they are because we are very special people

    Love you dear...Keep it up,Much love from Uganda

    1. Thanks so much love...only seeing this today...love you...say hi to everyone for me