A goldfish… a red herring… a black panther… a white lion…

Who said colour doesn’t matter?

Tell me it doesn’t matter when you stare out over a blue lake and can only see in black and white. Or when you look at a beautiful sunset and only see grey. Or maybe when you look at the traffic lights and they’re all a dull blue. Tell me colour doesn’t matter then. 

Don’t tell me that colour doesn’t matter when you’ve never been pushed around in the corridors because you’re black, or laughed at in class because you’re white. 

Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter. Tell it to that little girl who was beat with a clothes hanger just so they could watch her skin turn red, or when they stuck a comb in her hair and pulled on it to see how thick and curly it was. Tell her it didn’t matter when kids at school ostracised her because her skin tone was “too light to play in the sun”, or when she wasn’t in the school play because she was “too dark for the part”

Tell her colour didn’t matter when she couldn’t hang out with the black folk cos she’s “Oyinbo” and couldn’t chill with the white folk because she’s a “Nigga” and she had to eat her meals all alone or spend her free time buried under a pile of books. And she grew up not ever knowing where she fit in because her “colour” didn’t belong anywhere. Tell her it didn’t really matter when she spent her whole life searching for where she belonged and never found it, never truly fitted in because of the colour of her skin. Because she’s too tanned to be white and too pale to be black. Because her hair is too curly to be Caucasian and too straight to be Negro. Because she looks like both but doesn’t belong to any. 

Tell her it doesn’t matter when she’s known more by her colour and not by her name, carrying the stereotypes of both the black and the white woman while having the sympathy of none. Her struggles are multiplied and helping hands halved just because of the colour of her skin. To the white woman, she’s seen as a mistake and the the black woman, she’s seen as a threat and therefore never accepted by any because of the colour of her skin. 

Being black has always had its challenges, but we have a community which has our backs. And being white in a black mans community is never easy, but we have family, and systems tailored to our needs in order to help us cope. It’s all well an good when you’re one colour or the other, but when you’re a mixture of both you end up belonging to none. 

So the next time you look in the mirror and tell yourself that colour doesn’t matter, remember that it doesn’t matter to you because you actually have one, because you actually belong to a colour, to a race. Because you belong somewhere. Because no matter what I gain my identity from, be it achievement, possession or religion, I have to deal with people. People who all think I should act more black or be more white, or “suck it up like a black bitch” or “let it out like a white chick”. Who keep screwing with my head because I don’t praise black enough or I don’t pray white and I don’t study like a black girl but I don’t learn like a white girl and I don’t socialise like the black kids but I never party like white kids. And although I “dress like a white girl,” I “wear it like a black girl.” 

So I decided to carve out my own path, wear my hair and clothes my own way, study and learn my own way, eat what I like and cry if I want to, knowing that I’d never fit in because my real identity isn’t in the colour of my passport but in the colour of my skin and what that means to me and those around me. Because although I may be the lightest person in my church group, I’m still the darkest person in my study group and even though I may be the smartest of all my friends because I simply study more, it’s attributed to the colour of my skin cos apparently “white people always know that kind of stuff”. I decided, rather than fight my identity as an unidentifiable individual, I would embrace the hurt and the rejection that comes with not belonging. I would never again try to fit in, or be surprised by the difficulties I encounter because of the colour of my skin, and I would make it, whether the world liked it or not. 

And now, every time I wake up in a nice home, with a great life and great achievements, I look in the mirror and see that scared, lost little girl who never belonged, and I tell her “it’s okay honey, your colour never really mattered in the end. Look how far you’ve come, look who you’ve become. Look at the obstacles you’ve overcome. You’ve done so great, your colour never really mattered.” 

“No sweetie,” she would respond with tears in her little brown eyes, “it’s your colour that brought you this far, that made you become who you are today, that challenged you to overcome those obstacles. You’ve done so great because your colour really did matter. It really did.” 

Your colour does matter, but the difference it makes depends on what it means to you. 


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