When first moving to the UK I experienced a lot of racism and stereotyping of people trying to put me in a box, and I realized that racism is everywhere, it was back in South Africa and it was here where people claimed not to be racist.
It is my first day of school, I am drawing a picture of my family: Mom and dad and Ben and Stephanie our maid and Rex our dog and me.
I ask the girl next to me if I can use the skin colour crayon.
In the year 1999 many companies are still owned by white people, one in particular, the biggest crayons company.
The girl next to me hands me a peach wax crayon.
“No,” I say, “Not that one. I meant the darker one.”
She hands me a salmon orange.
“Never mind,” I say handing it back to her, “I’ll get one from the box.”
On returning, the girl looks at me strangely. She calls me stupid. I say that I’m not stupid. She says I am because I said I wanted the skin colour crayon and I went and fetched a brown one. I say that I have got the dark skin colour. The girl laughs at me and calls on the teacher.
The girl holds up the pink/peach/orange colours and asks the teacher if she could read the colour label. “skin-colour” the teacher responds. The girl snatches up my crayon and asks for its label to be read. “brown” she says. The teacher smiles and walks away.
The girl says that I am stupid. She holds the crayon to my face. “See?” she says, “Skin colour.”
I hold the “brown” up to my best friend’s face. Her dark honey skin is like Stephanie’s and the crayon looks similar. Stephanie is darker than hers so I press the crayon into the paper hard to get the right colour.
“See?” I say, holding up my page. “Skin colour.”
The girl shakes her head. “You are stupid.” She says.
She says that my friend is “Black” and that that means Stephanie is “Black”. She says that I am “White” that she is “White”
I hold up the crayon that I used to draw the clouds. I have never seen anything that colour that was alive. I have only seen clouds that colour and paint and other dead things. I hold up the crayon I used for outlines, the lines that separates the bricks of the house in my picture. I have seen only charcoal this colour. Not even the dead of night is this dark. I shake my head. “I am not White. Stephanie is not Black.
I do not like wax crayons, you can’t mix the colours. I have tried starting with white or pink or orange and then adding brown to try and make the picture have skin like mine but the colours won’t mix. I like art. We get to use paints that mix and pastels that mix. But the teacher doesn’t like us mixing the paints, he says it makes a mess, he says that when we mix the colours we ruin them for the next people who want them.