Your brown skin was meant to be admired for its rich golden tones, its ageless beauty, its natural, sun-kissed look.
Instead, being the only brown girl among some white people is like travelling across harsh desert terrain, while the sun relentlessly beats down on you and all you want is an oasis; an oasis to pause, drink water and feel human again.
The Brown girl experience:
The sudden silence as they heard your name, assumed you were white until you walked in. The awkward, shifting of their eyes as they look at everything except your eyes. Your eyes do not meet across the room because they are still assessing and wondering if you are going to be friendly or whip out a knife screaming, “what the F are you looking at?”
The wariness from black people when you meet them stems from years of abuse by people who look like me and who have metered untold hurt onto what is in effect, family. Some of them immediately dislike you while some treat you as if you are special. Either way, it’s wrong because there’s nothing different about you. The hurt you feel is palpable and you give up silent pleas and beg for eye contact so they can see who you are. You know it will take a long time before black people trust you, especially in the Western Cape, but you understand the importance of building trust even if you weren’t the one to sever it.
Being objectified by white men in a business environment, who think that just because you married “one of them,” you will spread your legs for them. You’re a woman of “easy virtue,” even if they don’t know you or because the media and movies often portray “your kind,” as shameless, easy, lacking morals. The shock in their eyes when you refuse is almost comical. Almost! Some ignore you, leaving you in no doubt that they do not discuss business with women, let alone a brown woman. You spend the first parts of a meeting pulling out, “all the stops,” getting out, “the big guns,” in your pursuit to convince them, even subconsciously that you have a brain, that you understand the work. Still, a few talk down to you, then deep inside you, you become annoyed; the annoyance pushing up inside you, ready to reveal itself on your face.
You decide to go to the shops in a primarily white-owned suburb and immediately your face stands out, not because you are the brown one but because you are being stared at. Security personnel instantly follow you around, trying to remain discreet but you can feel their eyes on you as they hover close by with what they feel is discretion. You purchase your items, always ensuring that all of it is paid for, lest you get branded as a thief. As you approach the exit and pass the anti-theft security device, for a second your mind wonders what would happen if the alarm went off? Would they listen to you or automatically assume you tried to steal their goods. Each time, on various occasions your heart skips a beat and you hold your breath when you pass through those anti-theft devices. Your anxiety levels increase if only for a moment because black and brown people are viewed with suspicion.
Your brown skin is enthusiastically welcomed in liberal circles until you fall in love with “one of them.” Then you’re asked the whys and the wherefores because any white man who falls in love with you, has married “beneath his station,” as he could get much better or so you are told. You become the outcast or the one to “look out for,” in case you transgress. You feel sorry for Meghan Markle because you understand a tiny fraction of what she is going through. You are often stared at as if you have a booger hanging from your nose, spinach on your front teeth or toilet paper stuck to your shoe. At times you want to scream and say, “stop, just stop staring,” but you know deep down if you did, you would be judged as “typical.”
You are like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between black and white people, with black people understandably being wary of you based on their lived experiences and white people expecting you to act and be like the brown people that are negatively portrayed in movies.
You’re the brown girl in the ring, with people looking and staring at you and all you want is to be accepted as human, as part of the human race as it should be without the burden of proof on your shoulders for something you haven’t done.