Saturday, May 9

Winifred Adebayo: Changing The Coloured World

I was at my dental appointment a few weeks ago. The dental assistant seemed like she was having the best day of her life; she was smiling every minute. She tried to start up a conversation while she set things up for my teeth cleaning. "Where are you from?" she asked with a broad smile; it's a question I'm asked regularly. I didn't think much of it and I replied "Nigeria" barely looking at her face; nothing prepared me for the next comment from her. She blurted with excitement "Oh! my African sister". It was at this point she got my attention. I looked at her silk-flowing hair, blue eyes, and her 'white' skin; I thought she had cracked a joke and I missed it.

She spent the next few minutes with so much intensity and excitement explaining how we were sisters. It turns out, she is from Morocco and indeed we both are Africans. She added she gets stares and weird looks when she tells people she is African. But what struck me the most was how intensely she was convinced we were 'sisters', even when the both of us were night and day in the way we looked. Throughout my appointment, she treated me like I was a member of her family.
Maybe she gets paid to be friendly; maybe she really believed we are sisters. Either way, she left me really challenged as I pondered on the word 'sister'. It wasn't the title, it was the idea.
I'm really amazed when I remember that appointment, seeing that skin color is one of the biggest issues of our time. You don't need to search far; you will see first-hand what skin-color has done to the world we live in. It's not a western problem as many will like to believe. The light-skin vs dark-skin is a tale as old as time, present in every country. The only difference and why it's not as detrimental for every country is that some countries have wealth and power attached to skin-color variation while others do not. The big question is: what will happen if we see ourselves as 'sisters' and 'brothers'?
As unreal as that idea might seem, it starts with the changes you and I can make in the way we treat people at the bus-station, at the grocery store, in the restroom, etc. It sounds really funny but we are all the same. What we see as differences between sexes and looks are barely tweaks in our chromosomes: just a tiny little segment. At the basics, we all come into this world and leave the exact way we came: with nothing. I looked up the words 'sister' and 'brother': it's simply someone you share something in common with. Although it's used mainly for blood relationships, the concept is the same if we chose to apply it to any other area of life.
Take a moment and look at the person beside you; you'll at least see one thing you share in common. For me and the dental assistant, we had different skin colors, different hair textures, and so many other differences in our looks, but we are Africans, and as she put it 'African-sister'. What stops us from having, work-sister, natural-hair-sister, running-sister, bus-station-sister, etc?
It's not the title; it's the idea that you share something in common with someone else which makes you see yourself in the person and it in turn influences how you treat that person.
I look forward to a future, where our children will not suffer and fight like we are doing today. It doesn't depend on the government or these abstract figures we have created in our mind expecting them to perform magic. Change starts with you and I. As Sidney Sheldon said, let us leave this world a better place than when we arrived.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Diana Koryakovtseva

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