Sandra Laing (born 1955) is a South African woman born to white parents but reclassified as "coloured" during the apartheid era due to her skin colour. She was the subject of the 2008 biographical film Skin as well as the documentaries In Search of Sandra Laing (1977), Sandra Laing: A Spiritual Journey (2000) and Skin Deep: The Story of Sandra Laing (2009)
Laing was born in Piet Retief, a small conservative town in South Africa during apartheid. Her parents and grandparents were all white. Her older brother was also light-skinned but Sandra and her younger brother had darker skin.[clarification needed]
She was escorted home by two police officers who refused to tell her what she had done wrong. Her parents fought several legal battles to have her declared white. Her father underwent a blood typing test for paternity in the 1960s, as DNA tests were not yet available. The results were compatible with him being her biological father.
Shunned by the white community, her 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 Sannie's death in 2001, but a succession of strokes had apparently dimmed Sannie's cognition and memory. A book, When She Was White, written by Judith Stone claims Sannie did remember Sandra and was happy to see her. As of 2009, Laing's brothers were maintaining their refusal to have any contact with her, although she said in an interview that she continued to hope they would some day have a change of heart.
- Skin movie official website
- Skin film review
- "Black Afrikaner" story to become film
- Kim Hawkey (10 January 2010). "Apartheid got under her skin". Sunday Times.
- Rory Carroll (17 March 2003). "The black woman - with white parents". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2003.
- "The Tragic Story of How a White Girl Being Born Black Tore a Family Apart". London: The Daily Mail. 19 December 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- Sandra Laing profile and photo, littlewhitelies.co.uk