Where do I belong? That’s something I have asked myself many times. I’m too black to be white but too white to be black. So what’s left?
Since my mother is Ghanaian and my dad was Dutch, I am a halfcast, biracial, mixed, or whatever you want to call it. Bottom line: the colour of my skin is lighter than most Ghanaians but darker than that of Dutch people. Though my father is white, I am black. I might be partially white, yes. But one of them? Nah-ah, I’ve been told I am black for all my life. So seven months ago, when I hopped on a plane to my motherland Ghana, I had a very clear vision: I was going home. Now, however, I have experienced that here too, I am not one of “them”. I do feel more at home, but slick comments here and there make me aware of the fact that I am not of pure race.
I can’t really explain the unsettling feeling I get when somebody tries to tell me that I am attractive purely because of my complexion. That’s actually an insult, you know? The idea that one is socially more acceptable the more you resemble a white person, is where the lightskin vs darskskin debate originates. It hurts my soul when I think about the institutional racism and social harassment our black kings and queens have had to endure. The simple fact that some of my friends in Ghana didn’t want to go out when the sun was too bright or opted to buy their foundation one or two shades lighter shows just how far this has gone. Most of them have either felt inferior or were made to believe that they are. This is something that cannot be denied because it happens on the foreground. Since forever, black people have had to fight for everything they rightfully deserve. Fast forward to 2017, there is a rise in appreciation for melanin kings and queens all over. Yes! This is revolutionary to say the least. We are paving the way. More and more women are going natural, embracing their beauty for what it is: unequivocally magnificent. The black man is strong and mighty powerful, the black woman is strength, love and hope. But does having lighter skin, though being black, now mean you don’t qualify for black excellence?
The pedestal one half of the population is putting light-skinned people on, is forcing others to feel some type of way. My complexion has subjected me to preconceptions as being self-centred, arrogant and an easy catch. Ouch. Black babes would tell me that their dark skin is so much more beautiful than my pale one. But don’t these comments come from the same place as labeling people as sophisticated or ratchet depending on one’s complexion? Now more than ever, we are being pitted against one another within the black community. Do we ever stop to think that to “them”, there is no lightskin or darkskin; black is black? I too have been subjected to the “you have to smile, otherwise we can’t see you” comment when I found myself in a dark room. I too have been called a cottonpicker and n*gger countless times. As a fully black person, you might roll your eyes right now because, yes, I’m sure you’ve heard it all, and worse, more often than me. But that something is of a lesser issue to someone else than you, does not mean that it is not an issue. Although colourism has divided the black community according to complexion, racism doesn’t differentiate. Your pain is my pain, and mine is yours.
As much as I would like it to be the case, the experiences of a light-skinned and a dark-skinned person in life are not the same. So to admit that colorism and lightskin privilege exists is a no-brainer, it does. But it seems like we have gone from branding one part of the community as inferior to not eradicating the issue, but simply making a new selection. We keep telling the world that they can’t longer deny us and that they can’t lift themselves up by tearing us down; but isn’t this exactly what we are doing to ourselves..?