Thu Oct 27 07:12:37 SAST 2016

I t's too soon for us to forget that black is beautiful

By unknown | Dec 15, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

I knew it would happen sooner than later. My five-year-old daughter wants a Barbie doll for Jesus' birthday.

I knew it would happen sooner than later. My five-year-old daughter wants a Barbie doll for Jesus' birthday.

You could say that she is a reasonable girl. But that is not the point.

You see, I am all for little girls playing with girlish toys. My gripe is that I cannot understand why a country like the United States, where blacks are a minority, can afford to market and sell black Barbies and we in South Africa, where blacks far outnumber whites, cannot or will not. When I did find a black Barbie, she was part of a set going with a blue-eyed and blonde Ken.

My wife believes that I am politicising a trivial point and that dolls are dolls and little girls could not really be bothered by the blackness or otherwise of these dolls.

I love my wife but I believe she misses the point, which is that whiteness has become "natural" and blackness acquired.

If it is indeed the case that the blonde-haired and blue-eyed dolls are the same as any other doll, why then don't the marketers of dolls simply make dolls that look like our daughters and their mothers?

Why should we continue to believe the lie that white is standard? It is too soon to have forgotten that black is beautiful.

It is not so long ago that a company manufacturing some women's underwear boldly told us that their garments came in two colours - black and natural. Only when a furore was kicked up did they change natural to tan.

Now I have been waiting with bated breath for two movies released in the US earlier this year - Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys and Spike Lee's The Miracle of Santa Anna.

From anecdotal evidence, Perry seems to have a following among many black movie watchers. He should. For a change, Perry does not present us with a picture where blacks are either gangsters, single parents or dysfunctional. Though he does not portray blacks as angels, we love him because we can relate to life in all its complexities including being rich, successful and still black.

The Miracle of Santa Anna is about a group of African-American soldiers who fought for the US in World War 2 at a time that they were by law second-class citizens. It's a story of courage under fire and the futility of the ideology of race superiority.

I had hoped these two movies would be on circuit now for people to see a movie where black people don't just go about killing each other and calling themselves niggers. But I was wrong.

I know there are some, like Sandile Memela who wrote a column in this paper two weeks ago, saying we should stop calling ourselves black and simply embrace the new SA. I assume Memela says we should simply call ourselves "human beings".

But as with the movie and doll distributors, Steve Biko's caution that just like Jews who forget they are Jewish will have Gentiles remind them, black people are constantly reminded by white power that they are black.

In fact, Memela wrote a hard-hitting blog agreeing with former president Thabo Mbeki that black journalists were counter-revolutionary sell-outs. Maybe Memela has since seen the light and no longer thinks there is a distinction to be made with regard to white or black.

Well, there are still some of us who see ourselves as black.


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