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Skin – The story of mixed ‘outcast’ Sandra Laing

by Chris Ezeh

Sandra Laing was a black baby born to white parents at the height of apartheid in South Africa. The hatred, rejection and heartache she suffered at the hands of the authorities, her teachers and her family sent shock waves across the world. On the timesonline a story was published about her life, the racial implications of being stuck in the racial middle during the apartheid in South Africa, and about the movie Skin.


“The story goes beyond race. It’s about a need to belong, a need to be loved and accepted. There’s a moment when her father lovingly puts skin-bleaching cream on her face to lighten her skin. It burns and he blows on it. Fabian (Producer and director of the film Skin) describes Laing as like a peach. “The skin easily bruises, but there is a hard core, a big stone of strength.

The one thing that haunts Laing is her relationship with her brothers. Neither of them speaks to her. When Adriaan was a baby she used to cradle him and feed him. “Leon told me that if Adriaan’s wife finds out that he has been talking to me she is going to divorce him.” Is it because Adriaan, himself quite dark-coloured, is ashamed of his even darker sister and the way it might interrupt his nice white life? “I don’t know what colour his children turned out to be. People say they are white. He must remember me, how close we were. Maybe he is scared of his wife.” Read the full story here.

In a book review bi-racial author Rebecca Walker wrote about laing’s story. ” Laing’s story is similar to that of many who straddle racial designations that have more to do with social engineering than with actual differences among human beings. Shame, alienation from family members, memory loss and difficulty in sustaining a stable home are a few of the possible effects of belonging to more than one racial category. Ironically, Laing eventually seems to have found some peace with help from members of the same media that once took part in her objectification.

Two journalists in particular helped to fit the pieces of Laing’s life together, and as a result of their work to reunite Laing with her estranged mother, she finally felt unburdened. In a moving passage, one of those journalists, Judith Stone, tells of Laing dreaming that she was “laughing and laughing”; she felt “a new space open up in her heart.” The sad part is that one of her parents has black roots, but ended up being a pro-white nationalist.

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