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Blackness is defined very differently from place to place. One of the reasons I know that is because a person born of, say, a white mother and black father would be treated entirely different based on the perceptions of a particular society.

A person (let’s call him Kiko) born of ‘mixed’ parents is racialised as coloured in South Africa, black in the USA and Britain, Carioca in Brazil and in the West Indies a ‘high-coloured’.

If you move to other parts of Africa let’s say, North Africa, Kiko can pass as brown-skinned Amazigh while the dark-skinned people are regularly referred to as Abeed, meaning slave. Kiko wouldn’t be considered Abeed because of his skin colour.


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It is interesting to note that a large number of black American revolutionary icons are lighter-skinned. The iconic Martin Luther King, the brilliant Malcolm X, the great Muhammad Ali and her highness Angela Davis were all light-skinned.

This, to my mind, is reflective of the ‘one-drop rule’ which according to, means that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person a black. It is also known as the “one black ancestor rule,” while some courts in the USA have called it the “traceable amount rule,” and anthropologists call it the “hypo-descent rule,” meaning that racially mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group.

I digress.

In America for example, if those who are very ‘light’ had been born in the West Indies, their skin tone and the history behind it would have almost certainly meant that they were at least middle class and would have been seen as such.

If Malcolm X and Angela Davis had been born in South Africa, they’d have been referred to as ‘coloured’ and thus had an entirely different life experience than they would have had in America based simply on the color of their skin and the perceptions that surround it in different places.

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Was part of Bob Marley’s ‘marketability’ due to his light skin? Would Barack Obama have made it as the president of the United States of America if he was jet-black with nappy hair? I highly doubt it.

With all that said, the most unusual way of setting the boundaries of blackness is found in Australia. There are people that, to me, look white and certainly would be perceived as white in many countries yet they see themselves as ‘blackfellas’.

Aboriginal people normally call themselves ‘blackfellas’. The intensity with which they speak about their blackness is palpable and will let you know that they have lived through, what I call, ‘black experiences’.

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How is it possible that people with a ‘white’ complexion (but of Aboriginal origin) came to be seen as black? There’s a long history about this and you can look it up for yourself. Very interesting.

The definition of blackness differs from place to place, and the way blackness is perceived also differs.

Also read: The Racist Socialisation of Africa and Its Insidious Effects

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Author: The Broken Native

The Broken Native is a social runner, a budding poet, loves football, and basketball, reading, music (all things Indie and flirts with a bit of Jazz), and Philosophy.

And, er…ahem…he appreciates a glass of cold gin and tonic.


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