Khaya Dlanga

Mshoza: The dark side of being light

2011-11-10 09:49

Let me jump on the Mshoza bandwagon here for a minute. For those of you who don’t know her (that would be many of you here), Mshoza had a massive hit song many years ago. It was a Kwaito song. It had to do with her liking a guy wearing a hat.

Now she’s famous again. But this time for bleaching her skin. In her case it has nothing to do with the disease that Michael Jackson had which literally turned him white –, a condition that causes depigmentation of sections of skin. It happens when melanin, which is responsible for skin pigmentation, die. The patches become bigger as one gets older on some people.

Mshoza does not have this condition. It is a choice that she made. She just wanted to be light-skinned.

A lot of people have issues with their appearance. Some don’t like their noses, lips, jaws or any other parts of their bodies for that matter. So they will go for plastic surgery and other body altering treatments and no one has a problem. I suppose this is the question Mshoza is asking: If people can have boob jobs, ass jobs, or any other jobs, what’s wrong with changing the complexion of her skin? What’s wrong with changing from a Kelly Roland to a yellow bone?

For those of you who might not know, the term yellow bone was popularised by the cartoon series, Boondocks, and has come to mean light-skinned black person.

Since the arrival of Europeans, there has been a long held belief that if you’re a light-skinned black person you are automatically beautiful. Just as it has been thought that blonds have more fun.

I suppose it is a fair question Mshoza is asking. Why allow other forms of body alteration but have a huge uproar when she alters her skin colour? No one says anything when some white folk darken their skins. Do we have issues as black people?

The fundamental difference between having a boob job and changing the colour of your skin really goes to core of what black people have been fighting for. That being black is equal to any other race; that there is nothing inferior about being black. When a black person changes the colour of their skin to make it lighter, it seems to be a rejection of one’s blackness.

But how can one be rejecting their blackness when they will remain black despite being light-skinned? One may erase their black on the outside, but the black inside that wants umqusho can’t be erased.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good. There is everything wrong with thinking that you will be a better person because you look better. There is no plastic surgery for insecurity.

It is good to look good. It is even better to be a good person. Having said that, we must not confuse wanting to look good with feelings of insecurity. Those two can be separate. One can simply want to look good because they want to, another may want to look good because of they want to be seen. To quote myself in my column, Better to ugly or beautiful?: “One thing that can be said about beauty is that it doesn’t last, ugly on the other hand does. Beauty is the sprinter, ugly is the marathon.”

Mshoza is being vilified for doing what some people are probably too afraid to do. Why do I say this? The long held belief that light-skinned people are better looking still prevails and hasn’t gone away. One sees it on the social networks and can hear it in hip-hop.  Men are probably largely responsible for this. Therefore women want to be light-skinned because they know that they increase their chances of being hit on. So men cannot sit on their high horses and say women want to be light-skinned.

Perhaps we should blame ourselves as men for this.

If we build our women, we build the nation. Our women are beautiful in their shades. No shade is better or more beautiful than another.

We must teach little black girls that they're beautiful so that they don't think they need to look like someone else to be liked. In fact we should teach this to all little girls. They have to grow up knowing that if people like them simply because of what they look like and nothing more, then those people are not worthy of their affections nor attention.

I do not condone skin bleaching. We live in a free country though. My personal view is that bleaching one's skin is a form of self-oppression. And there is no greater oppression than self-oppression.

If you think that being lighter means you are more attractive, it's time you fixed your thinking. Being attractive makes you attractive, not the colour of your skin.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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