What are we going to do about colourism?

While colourism extends to many cultures, this post will focus on colourism within the black (of African descent) community

That Tweet (and all the others that have come before it)
A few days ago, another anti-dark skin black girl tweet from 2012 resurfaced. UK TV personality, Maya Jama (a teenager at the time) girlfriend to Stormzy (a British-Ghanaian), one of the biggest grime artists in the UK, was exposed for tweeting this tweet – a quote from a comedian:

maya jama tweet

To top it off, Maya had to apologise twice because her initial apology was addressed to ‘all women’ and not specifically to dark skin black women.

maya jama apology

Yes, Maya was young when she tweeted this quote from a comedian. However, black women have been brutalised physically and mentally for hundreds of years due to their skin tone, I don’t have sympathy for anyone who encourages this type of abuse (including the comedian who apparently said it initially).

Some were not best please with Maya Jama’s quoted tweet.

emma dab tweet 1

emma dab tweet 2

What also makes it worse is that, Maya has a black fan base and makes money from black culture (she hosted the UK MOBO awards last year). Now she is not the only celebrity ‘of colour’ (apparently, she is of Somali/Swedish descent) that has allied with the abuse of dark skin black women, that is why this post is not about her, but a more pressing problem.

What’s funny about the Maya Jama tweet from 2012 is that, AFRICAN women have been shaving their heads for decades! So, it’s funny that some believe dark skin black women should not wear a hairstyle that has been passed down the generations!

The negative connotations that come with having darker skin (especially as a woman) are palpable.

Stemming from slavery and colonisation the roots of colourism run deep, along with the global narrative that lighter skin (especially for women) = beauty, this isn’t a light-hearted issue and like racism ignites similar emotions.

What’s depressing about this whole colourism issue is that it’s perpetuated by US! Yes, black people. If black people abuse dark skin black women, then the flood gates are open for others to do the same, thinking it’s totally acceptable behaviour. The psychological abuse of dark skin black must stop, and this must start within the black community.

Slavery and colonisation were strategic in their psychological carving away of black self-worth. Many black people have internalised and perpetuate this self-hate as a fierce emotional a weapon.

colourism in the black community, racism, black men, black women

It’s been noted on Twitter that celebrities who get the most attention for speaking out against racial discrimination have a ‘similar look’. Like Beyoncé (who is an amazing singer – #beychella), the perception is they are the ‘acceptable (more palatable) faces of black’.

 Actress, Zendaya recently admitted that ‘light skin privilege’ within the black community does exist, when many choose to be coy about the subject. Zendaya frequently speaks about racial disparities and is applauded for doing so. However, If someone of a darker hue, e.g. Serena Williams were to do the same, more often than not would be crowned with the ‘angry black woman’ slur.

It’s about time we have honest conversations, acknowledging the ‘light skin privilege’ many black and mixed-race people posses. Allowing dark skin women to say how they feel, without being dismissed as jealous and angry of their light skin counterparts is important too.

“Unfortunately, I have a bit of a privilege compared to my darker sisters and brothers”.

“Can I honestly say that I’ve had to face the same racism and struggles as a woman with darker skin? No, I cannot.” – Zendaya in a 2016 Cosmopolitan interview

Even in the black entertainment industry the bias towards dark skin black women is evident. This beauty legacy, means that ‘the struggle’ is harder for dark skin black women. Along with everything else that was great about Black Panther, the concept of having a dark skin love interest (one which had a darker complexion than her male protagonist), played by Lupita N’yongo is not something we are used to, even in 2018.

lupita chad

As confident as she is now, Lupita had insecurities about being dark skin (and was mocked about it by a black NBA star last year). The perpetuation of colourism is equivalent to ‘black on black crime’.


So, what are we going to do about colourism?

Is representation enough?

Having powerful gate keepers like Shonda Rhimes, has given us characters like Anaalise Keating in ‘How to get Away with Murder’, played by Viola Davis. Nate Moore who works for Marvel Studios was instrumental in placing the Dora Milage via Black Panther on the big screen, which definitely had a billion-dollar impact! Despite this (and other exposures of dark skin black women) and hundreds of years post slavery, I’m still here in 2018 writing a post about colourism!

dora milage, black panther, wakanda
Women with shaved heads is a normal part of African culture

Maybe we need more representation in our local communities, professional and creative industries? But I’m not sure if this will shift the negative narrative around dark skin black women either. Are these perceptions actually changing? It’s hard to overcome the battle of the mind and like most psychological illnesses, I guess colourism requires some sort of ‘therapy’. The first step in this process is to admit there is a problem, so maybe we start there?

Any other suggestions on how we can move past colourism? Comment below.

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Featured image credits: Maya Jama (Metro), all others (Instagram). Post: Instagram and Twitter.


Mandela – Finally retired from retirement

With millions of people around the world I watched Nelson (Madiba) Mandela’s funeral on 15th December 2013. Madiba has finally retired from retirement.

I still have his two-part autobiography on my bookshelf which I bought YEARS ago and still haven’t read! I’m ashamed of myself at that fact and of course have been prompted to read it in-light of what happened on 5th December 2013. I won’t finish the book before I watch the film when it’s officially released in the UK; but I’ll still read it as it will be the most accurate version of his life. I’ve had a mixture of feelings over the ’10 days of official mourning’ for Madiba; various channels were showing documentaries about his life, people were reciting snippets of his famous speeches, BBC question time was a special edition live from Johannesburg, at my church the service was dedicated to Madiba with a giant portrait of him on the stage. The world definitely honoured the icon, despite the scandal of the sign language ‘interpreter’ and world leaders taking ‘selfies’ on their mobiles at his memorial service.

I felt inspired when I remembered what his granddaughter Nandi, said at his funeral, ‘he went to school with no shoes on his feet and rose to the highest office in the land’.

I felt inspired because after being deprived 27 years and 6 months of real freedom he wasn’t gripped by the heavy fist of anger.

I felt inspired because while in South Africa’s equivalent to Alcatraz, Madiba continued to learn how to read, write and speak the language of the evil Apartheid regime, Afrikaans, as well as studying their history because he believed If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart’.

I felt inspired because the 466th prisoner to arrive on Robben Island on the Western Cape in 1964 (466/64 – the most famous prison number in the world) didn’t let the cold prison bars of his cell lock down his faith.

I felt inspired when Madiba came to London in 1993 and stood side-by side with the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence  killed by white racists; still fighting for justice at the age of 74.

I felt inspired when Madiba came to Brixton, South London in 1996, infamously known as one of London’s ghettos.

I was a child when Madiba was released from prison, just before Valentine’s Day on 11th February 1990, but thinking of the joyful anticipation that preceded the blind date between Madiba and the world, a world that had not seen him in over 27 years, fills me with pride. Pride because a man from a race of people who were regarded as ‘uncivilized’ forced the most powerful countries in the world to check themselves! Dig deep into their souls and decide if they could continue to skip along with Apartheid down the street of barbarism. On release Madiba reminded the people of South Africa, I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands’.

I felt sad when I realised that until 1994 black people in South Africa couldn’t even vote; when I was running around freely in my school playground.

I felt sad when it was revealed that despite improvements, there are still vast inequalities between blacks and whites in South Africa regarding education, wealth and land ownership.

I felt angry when the numerous documentaries relived the injustice black South Africans experienced including the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960, where unarmed black South Africans where peacefully protesting. The result = 69 dead, gunned down like dogs in the street. Watching Pik Botha on BBC’s question time didn’t really help either, as he is the former Foreign Minister of the Apartheid government. While in office he spent most of his time defending the Apartheid white supremacy ideology, but eventually saw the light, he got there in the end!…Trying to support the release of Madiba; either way when I utter the word Apartheid, it feels like vinegar on my tongue.

Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘the state of being apart’.

In 1976 the United Nations General Assembly declared the actions of Apartheid as a crime against humanity, but apparently no criminal trials have ever taken place, and of course the Apartheid government stayed in power until 1994. When the West waited as long as they could before supporting Madiba, a country (rightly) criticised for its current human rights stance supported Madiba and the ANC ‘financially and morally’ from the beginning; that country was China. Fidel Castro (Cuba) and Muammar al-Gaddafi (Libya) also pledged their support.

After a deep breath I thought, if Nelson Mandela held Pik’s hand while he fought prostate cancer then I should let it go too. It’s more liberating focusing on the triumph of good over evil via the route of forgiveness, than to stay angry. This is not an excuse to forget history or stay silent in the mist of injustice, but an opportunity for me to follow along the path of Madiba’s long walk to freedom. Madiba was not perfect, he was human and made mistakes but they pale in comparison to what he went through and achieved.

I smiled when his ANC comrade Ahmed Kathrada (who also helped Madiba with sections of his autobiography) joked at the funeral that, he got a discount on his prison sentence after serving 26 years compared to Madiba’s 27 years. I feel honoured that I am alive when the greatest freedom fighter of the 20th century walked this earth. Unfortunately the current ANC hasn’t honoured Madiba’s vision, so only time will tell what lies ahead for South Africa, the rainbow nation, a nation where almost a third of citizens live on less than $2 a day. History will judge the current ANC government on what they decide to do with Madiba’s legacy.

2013 is coming to an end and a lot of things have happened this year. When I look back, I’ll always remember it as the year an African warrior finally retired. Rest in peace Madiba, you’ve worked hard, you deserve it!

  ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’

Guess who said that little nugget?!

Note: Pik Botha mentioned above – full name Roelof Frederik “Pik” Botha, should not be confused with Pieter Willem “Pik” Botha a.k.a the Big Crocodile (1916-2006). The latter was the president of South Africa during the height of the Apartheid regime. The two are not related, but served in government together. I’ll let you guess why they called him the Big Crocodile…but will give you a hint. In 1997 he was found guilty by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), for attempting to destroy the anti-apartheid movement during his rule. He didn’t bother to turn up to the hearing where he was handed down a 10,000 rand (around £588) fine and a 12-month suspended jail term. Afterward he did say this, “I have nothing to apologise for. I will never ask for amnesty (from the TRC). Not now, not tomorrow, not after tomorrow.”


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Photo credits – Nelson Mandela Centre of memory

Some things money can’t buy

A 59 year-old woman walks into boutique in Zürich and asks to see a handbag that’s on display. The shop assistant replies “No, it’s too expensive…you won’t be able to afford that”. Like you, I also thought this was a strange response. If a customer asks to see a product you show them, don’t you? Now, I’m no expert on customer service etiquette in Zürich but I thought it would be similar all over the world.

Continue reading Some things money can’t buy

Yeah, you monkey! – Lost the match, losing the battle

2012 was probably quite unprecedented for the football industry in Europe; the non-sporting antics on the pitch are what I remember. Racism seemed to be everywhere, from the English Premiership to the European championships in Poland/Ukraine. I’m sure you are aware of all the other incidents. After this I bet football’s governing body FIFA, was glad to see the end of 2012. So roll on 2013….. unfortunately racism in European football has gone into extra time!

Continue reading Yeah, you monkey! – Lost the match, losing the battle