It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Harare when a classmate, Hillary, walked up to me and said, “You’d be a lot handsome if you were a little bit lighter.” At the time, I didn’t make anything of it because ever since I can remember, friends made fun of me because I was (and still am) dark chocolate in complexion. However, at the time I saw it as a compliment because he’d indirectly called me handsome.
Thinking about those experiences, specifically in relation to the colour of my skin, I remember how difficult it was growing up believing that there was something wrong with my chocolatie-ness (and yes, it’s a word).
From my studies of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS), I’ve learned a lot from Dr. Joy DeGruy and many of my thoughts around this topic have been shaped by her work – big up to the OG, it is not uncommon for oppressed people to take on the views and attitudes of their oppressors. One of the most sinister results of colonialism and oppression of Africa is our adoption of the colonialist’s value system.
At the heart of this value system is the fundamental belief that white, and all things associated with whiteness, are superior. And black and everything associated with blackness is the antithesis. This is manifested in several ways, including those of beauty. For many Africans, from the time of their birth, they saw white people as strong, rich, secure, intelligent and healthy. They, on the other side, weak, powerless and daft. Let’s take for example the pursuit of the white model of beauty.
It is my understanding that during colonialism when white men had children by their black mistresses, they would allow the offspring to work and sometimes live in their homes. Naturally, the offspring had lighter skin and straighter hair. This reinforced the “good-haired”, light skin power structure. What this meant was light skin and straight hair became associated with an improved quality of life. This began the socialisation of Africans to believe that dark skin and kinky hair were attributes to be loathed.
Another indication of Africa’s racist socialisation can be seen in our general failure to celebrate the accomplishments of fellow Africans. When looked at from a historical viewpoint, it’s understandable why Africans tend to feel threatened by the accomplishments of one another. The oppressor perpetuated feelings of separation and distrust by sometimes ordering some black people to beat or otherwise punish other black people.
These black overseers were often more brutal compared to the white oppressors because they did not want to be perceived as being compassionate and thus lose their position. They were also rewarded handsomely for their brutality. This meant that the black people in positions of power were hated by those “beneath” them and that culture became a behavior over many years.
Another thing to consider is the influence movies have on anyone’s psyche. When movies became popular in Africa, blacks were constantly cast in roles of servants and clowns. It was an exception when a black person was depicted as an honorable, knowledgeable and caring human being.
Hollywood plays a huge part in poisoning our minds
It’s 2019 and there are movies that demote Africans to slaves, for example, Exodus: Gods and Kings. I didn’t watch the movie (I am not in the habit of watching propaganda), but I was told that the kings of ancient Egypt (as portrayed in the movie) were people that looked like Christian Bale.
If you know anything about ancient Egypt, you’d know that’s not true. That begs the question, why would a Casting Agent pick someone like Christian Bale to play the role of ancient Moses? I’ll leave you to take an educated guess.
One of the vehicles at the heart of the racist socialisation of Africa is media. Media is a powerful tool in shaping the public’s opinions on specific racial groups. The media provide the lens through which we view others, whether black, white, brown, poor, politician, or terrorist. The media also provide a lens through which people see themselves.
Africa has been socialised not see any value in itself. Despite the “awakening” sweeping through the continent at the moment, some of us still see ourselves as inferior and the same applies to people from other continents – some of them see Africans as daft and inferior. I don’t think that’s a fault of their own because, if you look at it, we’re all victims of socialisation. That has to change. There’s nothing wrong with being jet-black and having kinky and nappy hair. There’s nothing superior about straight hair and light skin.
Be very careful about what you consume through Hollywood movies and media in general. Keep a close eye on what our children are consuming on the Internet about themselves. You may be telling them that they can be, do anything they want to be. However, they are confronted daily with images and experiences that tell them the contrary.
Also read: What Can We To Fight Racism
Segun is a budding, freelance writer for Newslibre. He loves football, basketball, books, music (all things Birdie and flirts with a bit of Jazz), Philosophy and is an ultra-marathon runner.