By Amanda Mothisi
It’s so easy to put people inside a quadrilateral and draw straight lines as if in a kindergarten class,
making sure to create the illusion that each side is equal to the rest. These similar lines create sides,
whether you are us, them, or yourself. The truth of the matter is you can’t just simply be yourself, it’s
either you’re with us, those you feel safe around or you’re with them, those that we are not comfortable
with. There are those we are like and there are those who are just too different from us. Often creating
labels to further outline these differences but why? Is it the unconscious bias? Is it society? Is it religion?
Is it our so-called reconciliation or is it just fear?
Growing up in the era of technology is no easy feat. Being constantly exposed to the grave injustices our
brothers and sisters face, at the hands of other humans with the attributes we have just different skin
colors or even the same skin color as our own. With each scroll to another page, I am exposed to a
different message, some tell me I have to stand up for the rights of my fellow people because the power
is in my hands, while others tell me that the actions of one person are those of our own as they are not
different from us or that I am simply not part of the preferred race. Every day the same message is
regurgitated just in a different way, whether in a song or a comedy snippet. A young child being forced to
think that their differences make them unworthy and a source of political burden. This message is being
pushed by an algorithm that sees no age or color but sees the show and not to show. Who knew that the
melanin I was blessed with would be one of my most accursed traits? Sometimes I miss just being a child,
the innocence, where all I had to worry about was not getting in trouble and having to face the
repercussions, where seeing a person with long hair and a ruddy complexion was not a big deal it was like
seeing a life-sized version of my doll.
My days were once filled with playing with and pretending to nurse my doll, feeding, clothing, and even
changing dirty diapers. The pure love given to an inanimate object now echoes through my hollow heart.
At that time I did not see the difference but now it’s a whole different story. The narrative changed when
I noticed that my baby looked nothing like me, her eyes were as blue as the sky while mine were a lighter
shade of brown, her hair lacked the coil that mine seems to have, and her skin was lighter than mine. I
often wondered why she looked nothing like me while I was her mother. I mean I gave her my love and
fed her, does that not mean anything to her, or perhaps I adopted her? As any rational 5-year-old, I
brushed those thoughts away and continued to play with my doll. Time flew by and I grew out of playing
with dolls and moved on to a much more mature activity, watching cartoons.
My favorite ones to watch were the ones with princesses and a happily ever after. I lived through the
characters and I could see the world with a child’s eyes, it felt and looked like a peaceful wonderful place.
This was when the questions of my childhood resurfaced again and I felt that I was a tad different. I
looked at their eyes, they looked brighter than mine, their hair was longer and straighter and their skin,
looked lighter than mine but why? My curiosity had started to build and I was on a quest to find answers.
Thankfully my teacher was willing to provide me with an answer. She attributed these differences to
something called melanin and that alone. I asked her why we had no children with a ruddy complexion in
my school and she just told me I will find the answer as I get older. With those words, I closed the chapter
of questions I had found the answer to, right?
The school bell signaled the start of my favorite subject Social Sciences, my educator came in with what
looked like a piece of dusty paper written Bob Marley, I could not register what was about to happen as I
knew the man on the paper as a musician and not a part of my textbook. My educator proceeded to
introduce the topic and all I could hear was the start of one of my favorite songs, Buffalo Soldier. The
smile and the pitter-patter of my tiny feet following the rhythm of the music were my initial reactions to
the song, well not until he started to break down the song. He kept speaking and all I could feel was a
knot in my stomach. Now a different question arose, not of the differences I had come to notice but of
the inhumane treatment received because of these differences. An unfamiliar emotion arose every time I
would see those people with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes, and straight hair. Just like that, the seed of
fear was planted in my heart.
Slowly the fears of others became my own, it is very scary to imagine that my fears are someone else’s
reality. Turning on the television once enabled me to live a fantasy to be met with the brutal treatment
my kind receives due to the color of their skin. What offense did they commit to receive such treatment?
What wrong have they done? Have we not read the bible enough? I read Galatians 3:28 somehow hoping
that it would be understood that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is
no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” These words comforted me, to hope that perhaps
one-day humanity and morals will prevail. Waiting on the sidelines for a change to come. Expecting some
sort of change while contributing nothing but having the courage to complain in conversation, saying we
should work on becoming a united front while not practicing that in my own life. This fear shielded my
eyes from the disturbing activities of my kind, the black-on-black violence. While I was so focused on the
other race, I forgot that my own is also not perfect. Imagine walking proudly with your melanin-infused
skin one day and for your brothers to commit an unspeakable crime the next.
Not to take anyone’s side but I understand where they are coming from. In 1994 they were promised a
future with no racism but instead, this racism has rather gotten a new name, Reconciliation. The
government has continued to fail to do right by them and the lack of political will to bring back their land
shows no hope of a way forward. This land is of significance to these people but all they can do now is
express themselves in the only way which seems to work, violence.
“What do you know you are just a child; you have to wait until You’re older.” Well, I can’t wait on the
sidelines anymore and allow for this fear to be passed on to the next generation, where I project these
fears upon my offspring, making them fear challenging the norm and expressing themselves. It breaks my
heart that the new Ariel live-action remake has received so much criticism for casting a black actor. It is
pathetic that adults fuss so much over the skin color of a mermaid who has friends that are talking fish,
and who so happens to be a hoarder.
We can write as many words as we want but if we still allow these messages to be spread openly on
social media to young children then the little progress which was made will be as good as none existent. I
also have not received an answer to most of my questions but one thing that I can do is work on this fear
so that it is not forced on younger children.
Fear is inevitable, the difference we have are a part of life, and harmony is not a surety but I do believe
that someday we will reach a state of not fearing other races but rather embracing them.