|Africa, Articles, Autobiography, History, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2015-01-10 23:25Z by Steven|
Not black, not African: One man says it’s not easy being “Coloured” in South Africa.
Editor’s note: The spelling of the ethnic term “Coloured,” used within the context of South African history and culture, reflects the writer’s preference.
(The Root) — I know what you’re probably thinking, and to be honest, I don’t blame you. You probably took one look at the title of this piece and thought to yourself, “Hmmm, what kind of misguided individual, brainwashed by self-hate into a feeble attempt at reclaiming the oppressor’s language, would write a thing like that?” Regressive. Jarring. Distasteful, even. A deliberately provocative throwback to the demeaning racial abuse of the Jim Crow era, painfully evocative of segregated water fountains, restaurants, the backs of buses and despicable “Colored Only” signage.
Let me swiftly disabuse you of any such notion. Yes, you read the title correctly. Coloured and proud is what I am. And what’s more, I didn’t put my hands up to make inverted comma signs around the word, as if asking for special dispensation for the benefit of the politically correct brigade, whose knee-jerk reaction is to see it as an intrinsically bad word, without wholly understanding its usage or history in a broader, global context. I’m certainly not trying to be needlessly provocative but instead am trying to make a serious point. Just hear me out before you rush to judge or, worse still, take offense.
Let me make it very clear. I know full well that in an American or a British context, the term “colored” (or “coloured”) is an outdated and undeniably pejorative epithet. On that we are in wholehearted agreement. So you’ll be relieved to hear that I’m not using it in that context; nor would I ever.
My family are Coloured from Cape Town in South Africa. And here’s the rub: In a South African context, “Coloured” is a wholly acceptable word. But, pray tell, I hear you ask, what exactly do I mean by “Coloured”? I can almost hear the confusion in your voice. That’s another word for “black,” right? Or do I mean “light-skinned”? Or does it mean “mixed-race”? In fact, it can mean all and none of the above…
Read the entire article here.