I HAVE worn my fair skin like a leaden cloak throughout my life. It has been the cause of beatings, ridicule and ill-judgments, but also of intrigue, insight and laughter … It satisfied nobody. I have often wished that I were dark-skinned like my brother Farouk, or my sister Fairuz. Dark skin is just more beautiful, but I have longed for blacker skin mainly for political and social reasons. I wanted to fit into “my community”. I wanted to “look” Malay or coloured and never wanted to explain why I referred to myself as “black”.
It should not matter. Race, they say, is a social construct, but when you are tied to a tree at 12 and beaten by seven other children because you are the white kid with the green eyes – “that is why the teachers like you, and you get the highest marks” – pain, hurt, humiliation, degradation and embarrassment are physical and emotional pains. They are not social constructs.
It gets worse the next day you have to return, and face the same children, the same teachers, only this time your body is black and blue from the beatings of the day before. That’s when they start again with the taunting, and the mung beans in peashooters...
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