14 June 2017

Calling out colourism and light skin privilege

I remember being called out for being a "yellow bone", and how I couldn't relate to the struggles of my dark skin peers. Our levels of "black" just weren't the same.
 
Naturally, my first instinct was to get defensive because all I heard from that remark was 'your melanin is only skin deep'. To me, this was a personal attack.
 
We were a group of opinionated and passionate black creatives, discussing what being black faces in white spaces means. I'd mentioned how I was tired of feeling like I'm being accommodated in my own country, and although most people nodded in agreement - there had to be that one person.
 
"You have light skin privilege. You'll never truly understand what it's like to feel less human because your skin has a darker pigmentation."
 
"I'm still BLACK", I retorted. "You can't dismiss my experiences because you feel my skin exempts me from the full wrath of the system. The fact remains, it's unjust to us both."
 
"You don't get it", was the response I received before the individual left.
 
What was that supposed to mean?
 
It means that in the black community, colourism is still a thing. Because of that, being inadvertently part of #TeamLightSkin gives me certain privileges that are not accessible to #TeamDarkSkin. It means this conditioning continues to be perpetuated, even in Pop Culture (think, "passenger seat ihlala iOccupied. Ng'pheth'umtwan' o Yellow").
 
It means society sees nothing wrong with some of our local celebrities suddenly becoming lighter than they were when they started in the industry. Instead, they justify it with statements such as "Yah, no. Imali imugezile", which is loosely translated to 'money has made them more attractive'.
 
It means there continues to be a significant underrepresentation of dark skin women, unless they're there to satisfy some Black girl fetish. But that's a topic for another day.
 
In 2017, you'd think my light skin wouldn't matter; but it does because of its perceived proximity to whiteness. My choosing to be oblivious doesn't make this less true.
 
Paballo Molahlehi