Thursday, 16 June 2011

Sore Thumb

I don’t know if you know this, but I’m white. I’m pretty used to being a majority.

In Ghana, I’m nowhere close. I stick out like a sore thumb. A sore thumb that’s a different colour than the rest of the hand.

I like being the centre of attention sometimes, but that’s usually because of my antics or my funny hats. Never for what I look like. And now, all of sudden, my appearance defines me.

A few weeks ago, I thought I knew what discrimination and stereotyping was like. I knew that judging people on what they look like was wrong. But I never really understood.

Here in Ghana, everywhere I go, I am just a white girl.

Walking down the road, young kids shout “Obrunyi!” and come running to get a view. Older kids and teens look at me and talk with their friends in Twi. One of the students at the college even asked me for my camera, because apparently I can get it cheap in Canada.

None of this attention demonstrates hatred or anything negative towards me, but what it does do is make assumptions about me based on my skin. It’s funny because even though most of the assumptions are true, it still frustrates me. I am pretty well off, at least in comparison. I will be leaving Ghana after only a short time.  If I left my camera, I probably would get another one. It just sucks that people think this without even talking with me. The attention I’m getting is welcoming in a sense, but it still makes me feel very uneasy. I don’t want to be thought of like every other white person who has walked through here. I want to be judged on my personality, on my own merit.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. - Martin Luther King Jr.

How many times have I made assumptions about people? Too many to count. I’ve judged people on the clothes they wear, how much make-up they use and even the way they cut their hair. Appearance. Whether or not we like it, it does define us. At least for first impressions. I’m not saying it should, but that’s the reality of it.

And you know what; I think we all know that deep down. And that is why we choose to make ourselves look a certain way. Hey, I know I pick the clothes I wear for a reason. I’m sure most of you do too.

But there’s something about being judged on your skin colour that is different from the rest of it. That, is something you have no control over.  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t make me feel good.

If I don’t like being called out in a nice way, imagine how it feels to be looked at negatively and flat out disrespected because of your skin. I can’t even fathom how much that would hurt, and how demotivating that would be. 

What I ask is to do best not to judge people on their skin colour. Actually, try your best not to judge people on their appearance at all. You and I both know that not all white people are rich. Doesn’t it work the same way for every other skin tone?

Later days,


This post does not represent the opinions of any other person or organization. 

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