Colourism in the coloured community

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Now, I know that I said I wouldn’t comment on coloured community issues without getting paid. But this needs to be spoken about, by all of us.

There have been plenty of hot takes on coloured issues in the last few months. Talking about a multi-faceted minority group is a complex topic, but this issue has to be acknowledged, especially by people within the community.

Growing up there was an equation:

Light eyes + perfect curls + “caramel” skintone = pretty

Brown eyes + straight hair + light skin = pretty 

Dark skin tone + straight hair = acceptable (barely)

Light skin tone + kroes hair = acceptable (barely)

Anything other than that? Well, shame for you.

I recently saw some commentary on the internet about the lack of coloured faces in SA media.

I was shook, because the kind of representation we get in the beauty sphere is usually a very fair coloured woman with brown skin and hella straight hair. And the person complaining about the lack of representation looked like this too.

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The other wild ideal is corkscrew curls (long hair only) with light skin and nice eyes. Nothing in between. You see it with make-up brand campaigns, even.

That time, coloured people are some of the most genetically diverse people in the world but we literally only ever two versions in mainstream media. And we’re told constantly that this is the only standard we should hold ourselves to.

It also doesn’t help to remain quiet about these issues, it is part and parcel of why so many brown and black women have such horrid issues with beauty ideals. We only see the applauded versions of our community, never the people who fall outside these parameters.

I have to acknowledge my own privilege in these cases. You cannot be about talking the community yet shun the diversity within it. This also extends to xenophobia within our community too.

There is a reason why we like Jo-Ann Strauss but make fun of Vanessa Meintjies on 7de Laan. You can’t want to claim Khoi roots but chastise those who literally look like indigenous people. It actually doesn’t work like that.

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Young girls go to great lengths to get straight hair or have lighter eyes by wearing colour contacts. Yet when they do that, they’re shunned for not looking “natural” enough. Because somehow we must maintain this standard without changing who we are.

Check your colourism and acknowledge your white-passing privilege. Whether you didn’t know before, now you damn well know.

And speak out about it, speak to your family members and friends who make crass anti-black comments about women who look “too dark” and the like.

Your silence isn’t helping and changing the narrative begins with us.




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