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.
Yet, 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!
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?