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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRO-SOUTH AFRICAN " SANDRA LAING " IS A SOUTH AFRICAN WOMAN NOTABL URING THE APARTHEID ERA DUE TO HER SKIN COLOUR: GOES INTO THE " HALL OF BLACK GENIUS "COLOURED BY AUTHORITIES DE FOR APPEARING AS AND GEING CLASSIFED AS
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Sandra Laing (born 1955) is a South African woman notable for appearing as and being classified as "coloured" by authorities during the apartheid era, due to her skin colour and hair texture, although she was the child of at least three generations of white ancestors. At age 10, she was expelled from her all-white school, and the authorities' decisions based on her anomalous appearance disrupted her family and adult life.
Laing is the subject of the 2008 biographical dramatic film Skin, directed by Anthony Fabian, which has won numerous awards. In addition, she is the subject of the documentaries In Search of Sandra Laing (1977), directed by Anthony Thomas for the BBC, which was banned by the apartheid government of the time; Sandra Laing: A Spiritual Journey (2000), and Skin Deep: The Story of Sandra Laing (2009).
Sandra Laing was born in 1955 to Sannie and Abraham Laing, Afrikaners in Piet Retief, a small conservative town in South Africa during the apartheid era, when laws governed officially established social castes of racial classification. The girl had darker skin than others in her family, which seemed to become more obvious as she grew older. Her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were all white, but Sandra apparently was an example of atavism, a genetic throwback to some earlier African ancestor, perhaps as early as the 18th century. Her family treated her as white, the same as their sons Adriaan and Leon, and together they all attended the Dutch Reformed Church.
When Sandra was 10 years old and at an all-white boarding school, the school authorities expelled her  because of complaints by parents of other students, based on her appearance: primarily skin colour and the texture of her hair. They believed she was "coloured", a term for mixed-race people. She was escorted home by two police officers.
Sandra's parents fought several legal battles to have her classified as white, based on her documented ancestry through them. Her father underwent a blood-typing test forpaternity in the 1960's, as DNA tests were not yet available. The results were compatible with his being her biological father.
After the publicity, Sandra found herself shunned by the white community, although her parents gained classification of her as white again in 1966. Her only friends were the children of black employees. At age 16, Laing eloped to Swaziland with Petrus Zwane, a black South African who spoke Zulu. She was jailed for three months for illegal border-crossing. Her father threatened to kill her for the marriage and broke off contact with her. They never met again.
Although she and her husband had two children, who were classified as "coloured", she was threatened with losing them unless she also was classified as "coloured". At the age of 26, she arranged that officially, although her father had refused permission earlier. Except for secret trips to see her mother when her father was out of the house, Laing was estranged from her family and struggling to survive economically. When her parents moved away from Piet Retief, the clandestine visits were no longer possible. Laing lost contact with her family completely.
Laing and her husband separated under the social pressures and she put their children into care for a period. Years later she married again, to Johannes Motloung, a Sotho speaking man. They had three children together and she was able to reclaim her first two; all are now grown and with families of their own. Trying to reconcile with her family in the 1980's, Laing learned that her father had died and her mother Sannie refused to see her.
In 2000 the Johannesburg Times tracked down Laing to learn about her years since the end of apartheid. The newspaper helped her find her mother, and they were able to reconcile. Sannie was then in a nursing home. Sannie and she shared time together before her mother's death in 2001.
The publicity helped Laing, her husband and family gain new housing; they now live in Leachville, new estates east of Johannesburg. As of 2009, Laing's brothers still refused to see her. She has said in interviews with The Guardian and Little White Lies that she continued to hope they would some day have a change of heart. Judy Stone, part of the editorial staff of Oprah! magazine, was writing a biography to be published in 2004, and Miramax had already bought the movie rights.