“Someone can spit on me, another might throw something at me, and I can hear other comments right up to my face like “Eh el Leyl El Hagam Dah”, which roughly translates to darkness of the night.”
This is how model and writer Fatima Ali described her experience with some racist comments on Egyptian streets. The former Miss Sudan at the Miss Arab World Pageant in 2010 moved with her family to Egypt, when she was just nine-months-old to look after her Egyptian grandmother. As soon as she got older, she started to grasp where all this is coming from.
“In Egypt, and the region generally, when someone has darker skin, they’re perceived as someone who doesn’t fit within the beauty standards. Accordingly, you’re considered ugly and, hence, deserve to be bullied –even for something that is completely out of your hands,” Fatima says.
Despite Fatima’s frustration –and her angry responses to bullies– she expressed her sympathy towards the bullies, explaining that they probably have someone who also bullies them in a way or another. “It’s a big cycle that we’re stuck in. We’re in a community where we hurt each other as a relief to our own pain, because we have no other form of healthy escapism,” she adds.
The intelligent and beautiful model is now an inspiration to all the younger generations, proving that beauty comes in all forms, colors and shapes. “As long as you believe that you’re beautiful, people will start seeing it too. We’re all beautiful despite all these set standards. At the end of the day, we don’t know who installed them and we certainly do not have to stick to them”
Aiming to voice the issue of the struggles of dark-skinned girls in Egypt, Fatima started sharing her stories through a friend’s website before it shut down. Since some people might not have the energy for fighting, and a lot are going through the same experiences, she felt obliged to tackle the issue. “Some people might not get out of their homes just because of the racism and bullying they face. I felt like someone needed to talk about it. Anyone with any communal problem that impacts him on a personal level should talk about it, because nobody is going to deliver the message better than the hurt themselves,” she adds.
Fatima originally wanted to turn her writings into a book named Diaries of a Black Girl in Egypt, but she’s still not sure about where to start. “The thing is to make people understand that this is not okay. There are a lot of factors in the equation –not just racism– like bullying, the community’s culture and more. I feel like I’m exhausted from complaining without a solution,” Fatima states.
For Fatima, the issue needs to be tackled from different angles to really impact the community –and reshape mentalities. She stresses on the vitality of awareness campaigns and education about racism, bullying, classism, sexism and so forth. For her, critical thinking and altering our own perceptions is key to abolish this issue once and for all.
We’re all beautiful despite all these set standards. At the end of the day, we don’t know who installed them and we certainly do not have to stick to them