Thando Hopa: I’m a Black Woman Who Refuses to See My Albinism as a ‘Deficiency’

While I aim to carve a cultural environment that contributes to inclusion and equity, the necessity to remedy the history of several kinds of harmful representations, prejudices, and inequities that bruised my blackness, my African-ness, and my albinism respectively, continues to mold an indescribable amount of tension. My media experiences require the management of various kinds of racial discrimination — my albinism based on color in addition to being a Black African based on race and nation. In trying to address or convey these complexities, the exhausting struggle of language dawns on me. For instance, there isn’t a word to describe the particular kind of intersectional prejudice Black people with albinism face, similar to how misogynoir notes prejudice specifically against Black women. The violence, attacks, persecution, myths, name-calling, racist theories, and negative stereotypes that have been promulgated specifically against Black albinism overwhelms one’s sense of optimism. Although this is the reality of being a woman in a highly racialized group, it also gifted me with an expansive intersectional lens that groomed my activism.

When I saw myself on the cover of Vogue Portugal making history with my blonde Afro hair, thick lips, golden-blonde brows and lashes, and my broad nose, adding my mother’s Zulu earrings in one of the pictures — having worked to gain more control over my representation and my story — I took a deep sigh of relief and felt the temporary dying of tension. I realized how much of a struggle it is to allow all the identities within me to build an alliance, for my gender, my nation, my race, and my albinism to feel safe, secure, beautiful, complete, and at ease inside the body that holds them.

Albinism has taught me the diverse politics of color and how a person can be hypervisible yet have their humanness largely unseen. When I move from magazine covers to policy discussions and global leadership platforms, I try to remember the essence of what my mother gave me on the day of my birth: she granted me independence, sovereignty, and agency over my experience, the authority to see the world for myself. If the good doctor only knew that I do see color, and even though the world can be dim, we find allies, tribes, solidarity, and collaborations that help us re-inscribe narratives that fill rainbows back onto the life force of our bodies until we burst with variants of color.

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Now, listen to another woman’s story of life with albinism:

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