The Pencil Test

I was looking through different websites talking about the system of Apartheid and came across this image. It is the image of a black woman, with very curly hair, and pencils sticking out of her head. For someone that may not be as aware of the cruel system that developed in South Africa they might move past it. Yet this image speaks levels of power regarding the Bantu Education Act of 1953 imposed on the people of color during Apartheid. The Bantu Education Act which later became known as the law that allowed whites to receive a better education that blacks, who were only good for work as the Prime Minister, Henfrick Verwoerd described them.

What the pencil test was essential was a means of measurement to help the government decide who was white enough to be profiled as white and who was black or nonwhite. The pencil test was part of a series of unofficial tests when one challenged the classification of their race. The way it work was by placing a pencil in one’s hair. They would then proceed to ask them to shake their head. If the pencil placed in the head fell out, he or she was categorized as white. If it did not or had trouble falling smoothly then they were classified as colored. The issue with this is that it was not a successful test because it caused for many members of an extended family be placed in different categories.

A persons way of life hanged on the ability of the pencil to fall out of the hair.

In a story presented in one of the many articles I shuffled through and found this picture it talked about a woman named Ms. Laing born to white parents. Yet she held the appearance of a mixed light skin colored person. After her racial classification was challenged at school by her peers she mas ultimately kicked out. This caused for her father to take a paternity test proving her whiteness. Eventually her family helped her with her reclassification as a white student. Regardless of, Ms. Laing chose to marry a black man and caused for the continuing of her ostracization by the white community and her family.

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