We have been talking in class about the ascriptive element of race whereby the dominant party assigns race to subservient individuals, maintaining the established hierarchy. We briefly touched upon individuals in minority groups who are able to “pass” as members of the majority group, and the privileged that is afforded to them due to this ability. What would happen if a member of the majority group expressed the the physical characteristics of a minority?
The film Skin takes place in apartheid era South Africa. This story is based on the real life experiences of Sandra, an Afrikaner woman who has the phenotypic characteristics of a Black African, while her parents are both white. As the girl in the film grows into a woman, her struggles with the overt racism and political climate of her country progresses. She is forced to stop attending the White school that her biological brother attends due to complaints from parents of other students.
Apartheid in South Africa was a one sided mechanism that reduced citizens to the lowest possible status. The film itself is relatively simplistic, but it does bring up an interesting situation where the ascriptive element of race can not be ignored; irregardless of her family lineage Sandra is Black. This is similar to the “one drop rule” that was practiced in the US, and to much extent arguably still in effect today.
“In apartheid-era South Africa, a country where race meant everything, Sandra Laing was a poster child for injustice, classified “colored” even though her parents were white.” (http://www.africansuccess.org/visuFiche.php?id=573&lang=en)
I take some issue with the tone of this statement. Why is Sandra the poster child for injustice? Because she was born into the race of privilege, but her life trajectory did not allow her to fulfill that destiny? From my perspective the entire Black population of South Africa is the poster child for injustice. For years they suffered at the hands of the dominant White minority, there is something in the prior statement that suggests we pity the loss of privileged but not the inequity of being born Black to Black parents.
This table demonstrates some of the repressive power that Whites maintained over Blacks for the fifty one years that the racist policies of apartheid were in place. The table shows the disparity in resource allocation that was suffered by Black South Africans, the effects of which are illustrated in the staggering statistics for Infant mortality.
All in all the film is well done and thought provoking. I do question societies fear of loss of privilege as a mechanism for noticing racial and social inequities.