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Original Research

Being black in a white skin: Beliefs and stereotypes around albinism at a South African university

Relebohile Phatoli, Nontembeko Bila, Eleanor Ross

African Journal of Disability; Vol 4, No 1 (2015), 10 pages. doi: 10.4102/ajod.v4i1.106

Submitted: 13 December 2013
Published:  22 May 2015

Abstract

Background: Partly because of the legacy of apartheid, and despite being a constitutional democracy, South Africa continues to be a deeply divided society, particularly along racial lines. In this context many people with albinism do not fit neatly into black and white categories and are likely to experience social discrimination and marginalisation.

Objectives: The study endeavoured to explore the beliefs and practices regarding albinism within a South African university, and the availability of support services.

Method: The research was located within an interpretive qualitative paradigm and was framed within the theories of stigma, discrimination and ‘othering’. Interviews were conducted with five students with albinism and 10 students without albinism.

Results: Findings confirmed the existence of myths and stereotypes regarding albinism. Students with albinism tended to exclude themselves from the rest of the student community to avoid discrimination and stereotypes around their condition.

Conclusion: People with albinism can teach us about social constructions of race, colour and relations between minority groups and the majority culture. Results have implications for schools, disability units at universities, and albinism societies in terms of opening up channels of communication between people with albinism and the general public and fostering knowledge and awareness thereof.


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Author affiliations

Relebohile Phatoli, Department of Social Development, Gauteng Government, South Africa
Nontembeko Bila, Department of Criminology and Social Work, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Eleanor Ross, Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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ISSN: 2223-9170 (print) | ISSN: 2226-7220 (online)

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