Am I Light-Skinned?

I understand the title of this post probably looks ridiculous but it’s a genuine question I’ve asked myself since moving to Nigeria. Here’s why:

I was born and bred in beautiful Barnet, North London. Unfortunately, some of the characters I came across were not as pleasant as my home-town. I vividly remember being called a Paki by loud-mouthed idiots that were not brave enough to leave the cars they hurled racist words from and say it to my face. My Pakistani friend at university didn’t believe me when I later told him about this because let’s face it, you would have to be more foolish than a fool to call a black person a Pakistani.

Being racist is stupid — no doubt about it. Some racists, like the ones I unfortunately encountered growing up, reserved that special type of foolishness that still amazes me. I read an interesting article today about the secret double life of Nicky Crane — a gay neo-Nazi that organised and participated in many unprovoked violent attacks in London against ethnic minorities. In a television interview in 1992 Crane said,

“Adolf Hitler was my God…He was sort of like my Fuhrer, my leader. And everything I done was, like, for Adolf Hitler.”

During Adolf Hitler’s regime, historians say 50,000 homosexuals were branded criminals and degenerates and as many as 15,000 died in concentration camps. Like I said, being racist is stupid.

20131205-173859.jpgYet, despite the confusion displayed by the people mistaking me for being from South Asia, I was very aware that I was black. I went to a secondary school with few black people and I don’t remember anyone ever saying anything about the shade of my skin colour. Black was black. Even when I moved to a new secondary school with lots more black people, black people’s skin shade was hardly brought up in discussions.

I’m the darkest in my family so I didn’t for a second ever consider myself fair-skinned. I remember years ago meeting my little sister near school and my friend saw her and said,

“Man, your sister is so pretty! She’s so light! What the hell happened to you?!”

I kid you not.

So, you should by now understand why I’m confused about this recently new notion that I’m light-skinned.

Since moving back to Nigeria a few months ago, I’ve been hearing left, right and centre things along the line of:

Kai, you’re so fair!
Yellow pawpaw!
Afin (Yoruba for albino)


While waiting for my colleague to get money from the cash machine yesterday, a lady approached me and asked me to stand in the shade. My other colleague with me said that if she was in the sun without me, the lady wouldn’t tell her to move to the shade. She said the only reason the lady was concerned was because of my skin colour! I remember constantly being told in a previous job here in Nigeria to stop making calls under the sun and move to the shade before I turn dark…again, I kid you not.

I’m forever telling people that I don’t care what colour I am. I like when I get tanned because my skin looks fresher and more golden. I can not imagine what would possess me to ever think about damaging my skin just to make it lighter. I told another colleague (check out her blog here) the title of this post and asked if she thought I should include the fact that I don’t bleach my skin at all. She said the first thing everyone reading in Nigeria would say is that I probably do bleach! Argh!

I’m still surprised when I’m called light-skinned because I’ve never seen myself as anything but black. I’m obsessed with my skin being smooth, not the shade. So although I’ve asked you if I’m light-skinned in the title, the truth is, I don’t actually care. Do you?


9 responses to “Am I Light-Skinned?

  1. love love love

  2. The whole thing is so stupid. But I find when I express that opinion people look at me like “we’ll it’s easy for you to say that!”
    Like a skinny person saying size doesn’t matter.
    Unfortunately, we do live in a world where fairer skinned black people are considered by the west to be more attractive. That’s just how it is. Many black people ignorantly have this view too… Does it stem from the days of field and house slaves? Is it the media? Who knows… Go on to twitter and everywhere there is this nonsense #teamdarkskin and #teamlightskin talk. This thing runs so deep and raises so many questions not only about Western ideals of beauty but also the black community and how we constantly find new ways to put eachother down, this skin stuff being a prime example.
    Soooooo, in answer to your questions, yes you are light skinned, no I don’t care, but I think the world always will.

    • I think I’ve used #TeamDarkSkin before on Twitter — don’t judge me! I used it to just ridicule the hashtag — it’s stupid but #TeamNeitherDarkOrLightSkin isn’t as catchy as it should be.

      Well, considering you would definitely be a house-slave, I can understand why people that obsess over their skin-colour will not want your take on the issue. Woe is my soul for them.

      P.S. I love the way you write Ekaete…

  3. I’m in a world of my own. Ever since I was a child I always thought black skin was so much more beautiful than (my boring old) white. But that was it, it was just ‘looks’. It still didn’t dictate how I felt about the person, either way.

    When I grew up I got that rude awakening that I’m pretty unusual in that. There are a lot of people – not just people, but *industries* – who push lighter is prettier. But I still feel the same way. I think black skin is beautiful (light or dark, brown or truly *black*), – the “dark skin” picture above is just gorgeous – and it still doesn’t negatively affect how I feel about the person.

    • I grew up not wanting to be a lighter shade of brown but white! Surrounded by white people at school, I at times secretly wished I had been born a Sarah with long, blonde hair and freckles. I guess because I saw black as black, I didn’t care what shade of black I was.

      Now I see beauty in all skin colours. There are fuggly looking people of all shades and beautiful looking people of all shades too. I just wish people and the media could realise this too.

  4. I too don’t care what shade i am and have dated across the spectrum too. But now that i have two children, it is funny because people see my daughter and assume if i am not with my husband that she must be mixed race as she is significantly fairer than me and has light eyes. one friend actually said she looked so white as a newborn that they questioned whether i had been given the right child…vexation is not the word!!! I also don’t know why it matters much….our people are beautiful, i only wish that they would not make themselves so ugly with this constant comparison of bigger, better, best. i’m not sure that fairer skin is more prized in the western world as such as most mixed race couples where the woman is black, i have noticed that she is nearly always of ‘darker’ skin but i would say that genuiness and authenticity is more prized in the west whereas among our own race ‘lightest shines brightest’… I don’t have the answer but i hope to raise my kids to not see colour as a criteria but a simple part of human make up like height, eye colour etc…

    • Do you think darker girls get with white guys because they want light skinned children? Funny enough, most of the black girls I know dating white guys are fair skinned….perhaps a lot of white guys are attracted to darker girls more than fair black girls?

      I’m attracted to every shade of black guys but my past relationships have all been with dark skinned guys….Do I have white guy syndrome?! (Just joking).

      A mixed-raced guy at work told me that he wouldn’t marry me because our children would be transparent! Why are people obsessed about what colour their children will be? I believe my children will be beautiful to me whatever their colour turns out to be.

  5. Hiya Bubba. So Black or white huh?! and in Reply i say: Does it really matter! Ehmm.. first off… i think the “craze” to change skin color is the prime cause of why the “yellow Paw Paw Syndrome” is suddenly spreading like wild fire 🙂 and in huge Demand (did i just say suddenly.. ** scratches head.. I take my suddenly back Biko :).. I mean even my amazing Dad’s days had high demand for fair women).. but all in all.. i think its absolutely wrong when people do not accept a lady for WHO she is.. So she is a bit fairer than the usual.. Does that make her better?! So she is a bit darker than average.. Does that make her worse?! To this 24 years 74 days old Young and Confused Child huh.. Its the content that matters Eno.. not the packaging (for lack of a better word).

    Thanks for sharing Bubba.. and I am sorry for the ‘paki’ experience.. Blessings!

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