By Eunice Aber
Once again, Queen Bey drops a number that does not just turn ears, but hearts too. And it comes at an opportune time for me.
Of late, I realised discrimination was far more complicated than black and white, or woman and man. I have since resigned to the possibility that humans are inherently segregative. And it is apparent that the only solution to this epidemic is to encourage those at the receiving end of discrimination. Something, Queen Bey’s “Brown skin girl” achieved excellently. I am very particular about the music I listen to, and only take to songs that speak to my reality. When I say “Brown skin girl” came at an opportune time, I mean it came just weeks after I had lashed back at two WhatsApp status updates, of people who had been to my side of the country, and had mockingly commented on how “Black/ Dark” the place was. One even went ahead to call-out to a popular light skinned socialite, to visit the place and give it some “light”. Despite having one of the “kindest” phone contact lists among many of my friends and family, it happened. I worry at how, those with insensitive friends [both real and virtual] feel when they finally turn off the lights to sleep, and remember all the ugly things that were said about them.
My problem wasn’t really with their observation. It is a well known fact, that the North of Uganda has more dark skinned people, than any other place in country. My problem was with the tone of their posts. With the message written between the lines, which they hoped everyone would “get”, but defended with the usual dismissive line; “don’t take everything I post seriously”. If you do not want me to take you seriously, try Stand Up Comedy. My mind goes back to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk about the “Danger of a single story”. My phone contacts, had generalized one place, based on the one encounter they had; one visit. I on the other hand, had lived in that very same place, and had seen people of all skin tones; some as light as the the lightest people I had seen from other parts of the country.
For me, “Brown Skin Girl” is more than a song. It is an anthem for the girl who loves and is proud of her chocolate dark skin. But, it is also an encouragement for the girl who just bought a bleaching agent and is contemplating whether or not to go down that deceitful road of, a fairer skin means more beautiful. Colorism is a complex and subtle kind of discrimination among people of the same ethnic or racial group. The underlining prejudice of it, paints those with a lighter complexion beautiful, and dark as ugly; to the extent that a beautiful dark skinned person is labelled, a black beauty. I used this term for a long time, until I realised that calling a dark[er] person “black beauty”, meant that I saw them as not inherently beautiful, hence my finding another word to qualify their beauty.
Because of this thinking, many people – especially women expose themselves to cancer inducing chemicals in the hope of becoming “beautiful”. So, how do we change a culture that is subtle and yet very destructive? How do we stand up to an ideology that divides the world into a spectrum of beauty, and sees others as less worthy – because of something they did not choose? I believe it begins with each of us consciously adjusting our mindsets and passing it on to the next generation; hoping that one day it will be ingrained in our subconscious; that beauty and worth transcend skin color.