Sandra Laing (born 1955) is a woman who was born to white parents but reclassified as Coloured during the apartheid era in South Africa as she has dark skin. She is the subject of the 2008 biographical film Skin and is the feature of the documentaries In Search of Sandra Laing (1977), Sandra Laing: A Spiritual Journey (2000) and Skin Deep: The Story of Sandra Laing (2009).
Sandra was born in Piet Retief, a small conservative town in apartheid South Africa. Both Sandra's parents and all her grandparents were white. Her older brother was also white but Sandra and her younger brother had African features. Sandra's parents were both members of the National Party and supporters of the Apartheid system.
During apartheid, schools were segregated; however, since both her parents were white, she was sent to an all-white school. Her parents hoped that as she got older she would get lighter; however, instead she grew darker and her hair became more tightly coiled.
Sandra was enrolled in school, where children bullied and taunted her because of her hair and complexion. At ten years old, Sandra was escorted from her classroom and asked not to return. Her classmates, their parents and Sandra's teachers had banded to together to have her expelled from the all-white school on the grounds that she was of mixed race. Sandra's mother, distraught, bought her daughter a bottle of hair relaxer that caused patches of Sandra's hair to fall out. Rumors swirled that Sannie had had an affair with a black man and the Laing family was eventually shunned from their church and social circle. Under the country's "Immorality Acts," it was considered illegal -- and, obviously, immoral -- to so much as kiss a member of another race. Sannie's husband was mortified by the suggestion that his wife might have had an affair.
Since she was shunned by the white community, Laing's only friends were the children of black employees. At age 15, she eloped with a black South African to Swaziland. She was jailed for three months for illegal border-crossing. Her father threatened to kill her and broke off contact with her. They never met again and she remained estranged from her family, with the exception of secret trips to visit her mother at times when her father was away from the home. When her parents moved away from Piet Retief, the clandestine visits were no longer possible and Laing lost contact with her family completely.
Years after the death of her father, Laing managed to track down her mother, Sannie, in a nursing home shortly before the woman died in 2001, but a succession of strokes had stolen Sannie's memory. A book called When She Was White by Judith Stone reports that Sannie did remember Sandra and was happy to see her. As of 2009, Sandra Laing's brothers, both of whom were still alive, were maintaining their refusal to have any contact with her, though she said in an interview that she continued to hope they would some day have a change of heart.
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Posted By: Salsita |
4/29/13 1:40 PM
Even after everything she was put through she still had love in her heart.Inspiring!