The sky cried and so did I. It was the type of storm that forces self-reflection; the storms that you can’t quite remember when exactly it started, you just look outside and realize that it’s raining. You cringe at the fact that you wore a short sleeved shirt that day —like Flamini— and that you had once again forgotten to pack an umbrella. So you stare outside, pitiful and powerless against the unrelenting weather.
You watch your car get drenched in the rain, thinking that at least it’s getting a wash. You watch till the constant sound of it sends you into a daydream, a beautiful relief interrupted by a ray of light that breaks through the granite sky, and for a few seconds you think the sun will persevere before the drizzle returns like the dreaded Arsenal injury bug. You sigh heavily, the storm and the light, the darkness and hope, allegory of life.
“Do not mock a pain you haven’t endured”
When the Donald Sterling tapes leaked and his racist beliefs were made public (again), there was a tidbit in the exchange between the bigot and his girlfriend that struck a chord with me personally. During their heated exchange, the woman pleads to Sterling, after he had commented that she’s supposed to be a delicate white/Latina girl, that she would change her skin color if she could. To my surprise, a lot of people laughed at this suggestion; calling her a gold-digger who is willing to go to the extreme in order to keep her status and even labeling her as stupid. These people completely miss the deeper issue here and it has little to do with money and even less to do with intelligence. It was especially stunning to see the laughter and criticism from blacks as one of the famous Jim Crow techniques was to create conflict within the black race by turning those of a lighter shade against those of a darker complexion.
Skin-whitening cosmetics are a multi-billion dollar industry pushing the idea that beauty equates with white skin and that lightening dark skin is both achievable and preferable.
I am not sure how to write this without making it personal. I’ve had serious identity issues throughout my short life; displacement from home at an early age meant that I didn’t feel a complete part of my own culture nor the culture that I had come to adopt in the United States. More than that, in my family, I am the darkest one next to my mother. The children in my family range from very light to very dark –me– with my mother being a few shades lighter than I am. The problem with this, and something that I noticed in the States as well as I grew older and more aware, is that lighter skin is always better. There are a few people who generally appreciate dark skin and find it beautiful, but generally, in my experience and I believe the black experience as well, light skin is seen as more attractive and “clean”.
The reasons for that are obvious and would require their own separate post if we are to delve heavily into it but the reality is very clear and has been evident to me personally for a very long time. I had grown to hate my own skin without any conscious awareness till one night when I was holding hands with an ex-girlfriend and she commented on the contrast between our colors. I immediately pulled my hand away and shamefully tried to cover it with the sleeve of my shirt. When this happened, I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach and the presence of a million beetles crawling right under my skin; I wanted to scratch at it till I somehow became lighter. This experience wasn’t isolated but it was the first time that I noticed my own behavior on it. It revealed to me my own language when someone comments on my skin color –I was always quick to deflect or make a statement about how I used to be lighter– and my distaste for summer which started when my own sister laughed and said that I get extremely dark during the summer because I spend my days outside.
I also noticed that I had started to make negative comments on the fact that other members of my family were getting darker as well. These things I hadn’t noticed but I had always done and I would have thought that the feeling of self-hatred was reserved for myself till I discovered skin-lightening products in my own mother’s bedroom. This was shocking since my mother is by far the most confident woman I have ever known but here she was, attempting to lighten her own skin for the same reasons that I wear long sleeve clothing and stare at the mirror every morning wondering if I am becoming lighter during the winter season.
When the news came that skin-lightening products had made their way to Nigeria –one product sold out within 24 hours after its introduction, the dark truth fell upon me. Many dark-skinned people find their own skin color repulsive and from my experience, they do not know exactly why this is, but what they do know is that the lighter they are, the more beautiful they become.
When Sterling’s mistress made those comments, it was as if I had said it. It was as if my own mother had said it, as if millions of women, men and children from India, Africa, the US, Europe and South America had said it. Which is why I felt personally offended when she was laughed at, because there’s a whole industry profiting from the belief that lighter skin is more desirable. It’s a business of self-hatred and the destruction of self-esteem.
Ida chirped bitterly as the two henchmen dragged the pallid body of Jono through the city streets. Her wings flapped vigorously; propelling her small, rotund body sharply through the air as she zipped around the agitated men. A red tornado, she swirled around the two abductors, aiming for eyes with a beak as sharp as it is loud. The men proceeded, using one hand each in attempts to swat away the distraught creature. They were approaching the house of their lord. The man who they brought with them made no sound and was as heavy as a corpse. He made no movements and would otherwise have been thought dead save for the stream of tears that ran down his face. Citizens did not rush out to see the man, as they had before during prosperous times when he would parade through the diagrams of roads in victorious celebration. The people instead watched curiously through creeks of doors and from their windows. Children, wives, husbands, drunkards, widows, merchants and traders all jostled for the tiniest of spaces to peek through, with eyes like torchlights. Ida dropped to the ground, unable to walk or hop but puffing her feathers up and shrieking at her enemies as their images grew distant into the night.
On the verge of collapse, Rahas dared not pray to his god, knowing that it had abandoned him a long time ago. With his mind and body weary, he fell on his hands and knees, crawling towards the old town that stood before him. It was only a few hours prior that he had managed to pull himself out of the ground where he had been buried, the heavy dirt from the grave clinging to his body like past memories. As he came closer to the town, he thought he saw a long-haired boy with horns running towards him but his vision was blurry and he figured that the thirst and hunger had made him too delirious, his senses could no longer be trusted. He felt a presence towering over him, not like the one he felt when he first came alive but similar, strong, too strong as he slipped back into the darkness, the sounds of running footsteps growing distant.
Alugi-56 year old man, recently sentenced to death by injection for war crimes
Anani-His daughter, 22 years old
Dacia-Alugi’s deceased wife
Scene 1: Small Diner on a bone-chilling winter day
ALUGI is sitting at a table alone rubbing his hands together
You’re as pale as death. Did you not bring your coat?
The news says this is the worst winter of our lifetime, you have to be careful or you’ll freeze over.
Alugi [glancing down, embarrassed]
Forgive me, I haven’t been to these parts in a very long time.
I must thank you for coming. When I was informed that you were here, I determined that I must meet you.
All I’ve ever heard of you were the stories from my mother and these days, the stories from the newspapers.
I would like to know for myself, if you could, I would like for you to tell me everything.
[a waitress brings a cup of tea and sets it in front of Alugi, he smiles sheepishly at her]
I enlisted in the army on my 18th birthday, I thought I should finally do something that would make a change. My life up to that point had been carousel of selfish decisions and endless regrets.
My mother begged for me not to go, she wanted all of her children to be as close to her as possible. I imagine that where she is these days, she has my siblings at arm’s length. My father on the other hand thought that it was one of the few decisions that I had ever made. On the day that I was to deploy, he told me that he had never been more proud.
Before this you had never…
Alugi [Raising his head in surprise]
Oh no, I had been in trouble for a lot of things, but I never hurt anyone.
I figured that I would eventually have to kill being in the army but I did everything in my power to prolong it as long as possible. I was a chef, I became an audio engineer, translator, anything to help without having to hurt anyone.
I wasn’t a coward, but I knew these people were sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. I imagined my own parents and my heart would grow too heavy.
The first time, why did you do it?
Alugi [meeting Anani’s eyes]
I was ordered to.
Who ordered you?
It was the Captain, he said that we needed information
Why did he choose you?
I was told that I had to do was rough the man up till he revealed the location of his fellow soldiers.
I was tired of running, I wanted to feel useful.
I wanted to help
One of the biggest problems with the justice system in general is the lack of empathy within it. The written law is often enforced strictly regardless of the circumstances surrounding a case, in a world where we believe that you get what you deserve –unless of course you happen to be incredibly…