Thursday, March 29, 2012

Skin color, what a funny thing.

I am of the opinion that the “color” of a person’s skin is as superficial as, well, their skin itself. Therefore, it is only natural that some of my opinions about skin color are superficial too. Worth sharing? I think so. Yet, I recognize them as superficial all the same. You’ve been warned.

It really is a funny thing if you think about it. The color of my skin is the reason I can’t walk anywhere without being called Mazungu by men, women, and children. It is the reason why I caught myself pulling the sleeves of my jacket down to cover my fingertips last night as I sat at a restaurant by the highway-I subconsciously tried to hide the fact that a Mazungu was sitting in my seat-I realized almost as soon as I’d done it that my face, neck, and legs would remain white no matter how covered my arms were. My skin color is the reason it hurts (sometimes very badly) when I stand in the sun for too long. My skin color is the reason I didn’t get any “diversity” scholarships in college. It is the reason I shave my legs, even when the locals don’t (if I don’t, my hair is easy to see and kids will actually pet my legs. Ew.) My skin color is probably the reason why I get called “soft” (as in fragile) any time I get a cut or bruise. It is the reason I stand out (sometimes ½ a mile away) when I go anywhere here. Yet, my skin color is also the reason I can “easily blend in” to a crowd back home. It is the reason I look awful in the color orange and lovely in the color purple. My skin is the reason kids like to feel me, even if they have never seen me before. 

In some ways (but not all,) my skin is the reason why local men stare & shout, stores over-charge me, and people always want me to help them financially. 

People really don’t think about these things, and if they think about them, they really can’t understand them until they find themselves in a position where their skin color is in the minority. Otherwise, we just keep living our days never realizing that the people around us look just like us. We see that somebody has a different shaped nose, or different colored eyes and hair. We see a variety of heights and sexes. Those things are given to us just as randomly as the colors of skin…yet, we put a lot more weight on skin color than we do the other “luck of the draw” items in our appearances. If you don’t believe me, read a history book. (*Of course, it should be noted that this idea holds the most weight for areas of the world similar to the one from which I hail...where people who look like me are the majority. I recognize that there are parts of the US and parts of the world that are extremely diverse, but in places that are so diverse you see a different color skin in every direction, you may as well be in a place of entirely one color, because the effect is just not the same. You blend by not blending. Stark contrast is what I'm referencing today.)

I am not ashamed of my skin…but I am also not proud either. Why should I be? I was never given the opportunity to choose which skin color I wanted to wear for life. I don’t recall ever doing anything to “earn” my skin…nor do I really believe my skin color is something worth earning. Yet here I am. Kristen the Mazungu. 

As a so-called, Mazungu, I feel I have certain responsibilities for survival. To name a few of these self-awarded responsibilities: I must always keep smiling (nobody wants the only white lady in town to be grumpy or upset,) I must negotiate/bargain for prices that are somewhere between “not overcharged” and “fair, considering whom I am.” I must always apply sun-block twice a day (when I can remember to reapply,) I must avoid orange clothes, I must keep politely waving to the “nice” gentlemen suitors so that I don’t give all mazungus a bad reputation (however, my internal alternative is to give them a good telling off…a wave is probably more appropriate.) 

Most vitally to my survival, I should probably just get a really nice tan. :) 

Just kidding, the most important thing I must do is absolutely the thing I said about the color orange.

Hey, I warned you this blog would be as superficial as my pasty white-yet slightly burned-Mazungu skin!  

With love and a splash of goofiness today,

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