Shadeism-Shuttered confidence : Nokwethemba Sibiya

We live in a world of a color-coded spectrum. The lighter you are, the beautiful you are, the advantage you have. We cannot talk about colourism and not reflect back to racism. The eager to eradicate discrimination is powerful up to a certain limit -Racism, Why slack on the marginalised group? Colourism has much impact to people in parallel to racism. Today I had a chat with Nokwethemba about an issue that’s still a nightmare to her even Today, Shadeism.

Ever felt like an outsider as an insider in your society due to your skin tone? Amanda Nokwethemba Sibiya is a fun talented young female who loves reading and writing. She grew up in a small village called Njomelwane that is 20km away from a town called Melmoth in KZN. She a local radio producer. 

What is shadeism to you?

 “I think I can only define colourism as the dictionary says coz as someone who has experienced it. It is so unfair to the point whereby the word it’s self makes you mad so colourism is a discrimination based on one’s skin tone.” 

Please share your experience of shadeism throughout your years of being at school

” One of the saddest moments that shuttered me was when I was doing grade 1, I won Miss Junior at a primary school and instead of that being a moment I can be happy and jolly about as a child, the remarks broke me… ”  uwine ngoba othisha bayamthanda ngenxa yokuthi uhlakaniphile, uwine kanjani emnyama kanjane. ” and that is when I learned that just because I am dark skinned I am not beautiful. 

That broke my self confidence when it comes to beauty and stuff, I figured the only reason people like me is that I am smart and that is the only thing I need to focus on to the point where when I was not no. 1 in class I’ll hate myself and don’t engage with people because I understood they gain nothing from me so I am just wasting my time by trying to fit in or stand out.

Grade 9 in high school also I was bullied just because of my skin tone, the teachers whenever I report they would brush it away… I remember it got to the point where by I would not participate in class coz I don’t wanna be seen coz if I am, the bullies in class would make remarks the class would laugh at me. 

At home most of us are dark skinned so the only thing that bothered me was that I was the darkest. My family is a fun family so home was my safest place as my mom was the one person I would everyday cry to if something or someone teased me. 

Regarding school it made it difficult for me to be keen to meet new people as I in my mind all they see is ” OMG she is so dark or she is so ugly ” luckily I did not change schools that much and as much as sometimes when getting teased I would wish to ask my mom to change me I couldn’t because there was no where to go, the school I was in was what she can afford and being in the ‘bunduz’ there is only one school in the village and other schools in town. 

With friends I always believed the only reason they would befriend me is because I am the smart kid in class and so did the most of the boys who approached me in high school. I say that because I had no one to stand up for me when being teased, they would laugh along and roll with the joke as I am being broken. 

Varsity life was thee worst, remember I am new in the city, I wanna make friends and have the best life but no I did not kick of my life Varsity life like that. First week of the class I was made fun of on the school whatsaApp group. There was this meme that circulated in the group written  along the lines of dark is beautiful but don’t be an after 8 and then another female in class posted my picture in the group and then it started with one guy laughing at how dark I am and the rest was history as I woke up the next morning with tears in my eyes straight to the management’s office and to the police station to open a case.”

One thing you wish perpetrators must know about their behavior? 

“Colourism break hearts, souls and shut down dreams. One with a low self esteem and confidence cannot shine his or her inner light to the fullest.”

What keeps you going, regardless? 

“Lucky for me I have a supportive mother who is also dark skinned so whenever I would come crying she motivated me and assured me that how people think of me is not true and not important, Told me to walk with my head high no matter what. I try and do that most times.”

What can you tell a kid who is going through the same situation? 

“I really don’t know because with all the support I got. People got to me so I guess they’ll have to be brave and parents should be there for their kids.Always support and let them know they are beautiful beyond measure… And they need to work on their kids confidence all the time.”

You think schools should consider teaching people about it? 

“Not only at schools but also at homes… Everywhere this needs to be talked about and solved so as to grow as black people as a whole. “

So far the conversation about shadeism is burgeoning and we see a number of dark skinned people taking pride though it’s not easy. We hope people will no longer see it as an intra-community issue but as a shade and treat it like racism.



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