Black skin white mask
The skin is the body’s largest organ, covering the entire body. In addition to serving as a protective shield against heat, light, injury, and infection, the skin also serves to differentiate between different people based on its colour. Listening to radio discussion about colored people in South Africa on heritage day, I realized that skin colour is such an important part of our being and the colour of our skin almost determines who and what we become. Colored people are neither black nor white and at times struggle to fit into society because they are neither black nor white. While colored people are stuck in the middle, the Black people also face the dilemma of not really measuring up. Even here in Africa, black people are still trying to be like the “superior white people”. I believe that I am not a racist but I have experienced racism. A friend of mine moved to Scotland and each day after school her young daughter would scrub herself so that she could be like the other kids. Even at a tender age, the difference in skin colour can affect and cause damage to a child. Parents cultivate insecurity at times by portraying black skin and black people as being inferior. Often we see black people looking down on other black people because of where they grew up, the school they went to and their accent and so on. “One avoids Creolisms. Some families completely forbid Creole and mothers ridicule their children for speaking it.” ― Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
This is why we now find African children living in Africa who cannot speak their mother language. African languages are beautiful, most of them anyhow, but to deny the next generation the ability to converse in their mother tongue takes away from their culture and heritage. We now consider that speaking only English is admirable, yet children have the ability to learn many languages at the same time. It might be simplistic, but accepting ourselves as we are and being confident in whom we are a more appealing character trait than trying to be something we’re not.
No one has the power to choose where they are born and the circumstances we are born into. These things are dealt to us and we have to be content with what we receive and make the best of the situation. There is nothing wrong with being the best black IT person on the block. Your gift makes room for you. Colour may restrain you for a while, but it is impossible to keep a good man down. Barak Obama showed that black men can emerge from under the shadows and they do not have to compromise themselves to get to the top. I believe that when we find peace with our skin colour and our continent, we will be able to achieve more.
If we continue to focus on the limitations of black skin and Africa, we suppress the potential that we have. Africa has something to give to the world and so do black people. The Chinese have stamped themselves onto the global stage because of their achievements yet they also face similar struggles to those faced by Africans and Africa as a whole. It is not an easy thing to comprehend, but colour is only skin deep, everything else below the skin is relatively the same, so we should find value in our rich skin tones.
As I was searching for meaning on skin colour I came across the writings of Frantz Fanon in his 1953 book Black Skin, White Masks (French: Peau noire, masques blancs) In this study, Fanon uses psychoanalysis and psychoanalytical theory to explain the feelings of dependency and inadequacy that Black people experience in a White world. He speaks of the divided self-perception of the Black Subject who has lost his native cultural originality and embraced the culture of the mother country. As a result of the inferiority complex engendered in the mind of the Black Subject, he will try to appropriate and imitate the cultural code of the colonizer. The behavior, Fanon argues, is even more evident in upwardly mobile and educated Black people who can afford to acquire status symbols. Originally formulated to combat the oppression of black people, Fanon’s insights are still influential today, being utilized by various groups such as the Palestinians, the Tamils, African Americans and others, in their struggle for cultural and political autonomy. Fanon presents both historical interpretation and underlying social indictment.
It is time to accept and love our rich black skin and Africa the continent of our birth. These insights can be utilized today by African in Africa and abroad. There is no need to be like the white man. Be the man that you were created to be. We all have different finger prints because we are all created different. The greatest love of all.
- Self- Perception of the African American Race in American Society (theafricanwriter.wordpress.com)
- Black Woman, White Mask? (theafricanwriter.wordpress.com)