When I was in primary school my dark complexion was a problem. I was teased relentlessly because of the dark colour of my skin. Dark skinned girls like me were seen to be ugly, that was in 1994 when the first black president of this republic was elected. One would think we would have been proud to be black but we were not. Even as young children who didn’t really understand apartheid there was a air of resentment towards being born black, light skinned children were considered to be beautiful so they ridiculed darker children with an air of superiority.
Today, twenty years later the struggle with our blackness has re-morphed itself into the contemporary yellow bone syndrome. It’s effects seem more devastating because the media is spreading this narrative, perpetuating the idea that light skinned people are more attractive than dark skinned people. If colonialism still occupies our sub conscious minds and shapes our perceptions how can we ever be proud of our heritage, cultures and communities when we find ways to create channels of division among ourselves?
The yellow bone syndrome and the rate at which men and women are bleaching their skins cements the idea that we consider ourselves inferior, ugly, slaves to the world and it’s definition of beauty. It seems we are not proud of our existence and we lack confident in the skin we were born in. This is a scary affirmation especially because our people fought and died to reclaim their dignity in a world that rejected them because of the colour of their skin. Our image plays a large part of who we are, the media plants seeds in our heads that we need to be beautiful, slender and light skinned. Beauty has been packaged into make-up products and slimming products. We consume these ideas, obsess over our looks and never pass up an opportunity to point out each other’s flaws.
How we view ourselves is more than skin deep, it affects how we carry ourselves and relate to the world. The question for me becomes, “What do we really think or believe about ourselves as black people?” and “Why do we go all out to become something we are truly not?” I am a dark skinned woman, I have been told that I am ugly and I have been denied the attention I deserve because of the dark shade of my skin. I live with the knowledge that I cannot rely on my looks to be acknowledged for the true judgement of who I am should begin when I open my mouth.