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Culture, Reality

Seek the White Man

by Siyabonga Andre Dennis / Illustration by Nolan Dennis / 15.08.2011

I hate the term coloured, what the fuck does it mean? In my two decades on this planet I’ve come to realise that it refers to anyone whose yellow is more caramel than butter. Everyone thinks of Cape Town, of missing teeth and gangsters with odd fixations with numbers and sodomy. What identity can you prescribe? I’m not coloured (people call me that but no way fucking José), my rationale is that “coloured” doesn’t exist, how can it? Coloured people have no history, no culture, and no language, nothing to claim as their own except what has been imposed on them by a regime that only wanted them to be mechanics and builders. I fully support the people in the many Capes of this country who want to move towards the Khoisan identity, I wish I could join them, I was a cultural schizophrenic, I didn’t know what was mine, I didn’t know what I could claim as my history.

Growing up in a family that was now basically part of the new “black” elite, I’ve always identified myself as a black person. I thought it was natural. Most of the faces around me were black (well degrees of brown). My hair only vaguely looked straightish when it was short, I mean come on I fucking love Chicken Licken. However, I was dealt a severe cultural shift when I was designated as coloured in school and then I started to notice it generally, in everyday life. Everyone decided I was from Cape Town, that my favourite word was “ekse” and that my family had regular meetings where we would pull everyone’s front teeth out and then party to the tune of “tik tik”. Visiting Cape Town was equally weird, as a bruinou who couldn’t speak Afrikaans. I was heckled on every taxi ride. Every time I uttered the excuse, “sorry, I’m from Joburg,” it felt as if I was the Republic’s fool.

I thought that Black Consciousness would save me, but I was wrong, it seemed for me that entry into the Black Kingdom is just as hard as entry is into the White Kingdom (ask the Portuguese, Greeks and Jews). The fact that I couldn’t speak Zulu, despite my pitiful assurances that I was Zulu, condemned me to more jokes. I remember the albino digs and the, “hey Tom does your dad call you a kaffir?” Insanity and self loathing are often the only solace. Maybe it was because I couldn’t describe my feelings in Zulu, my maternal tongue, that I never knew the peace of my people. I couldn’t find a piece of me that fitted into the puzzle.

So I sulked back to the Mixed Race identity. “Ja bru, my dad’s like whiteish and my mum’s a black hey”. The few other people who were in the same boat as me, the sons and daughters of Nazis and Sotho slave women, at first glance would always say, “yeah my dad’s white and my mum’s black” after some prodding they would identify themselves as Mixed Race. Perhaps anything’s better than just being black…

I’ve given up trying to be accepted into a race. I’m going to gatecrash AWB conventions in Parys, I’m going to high five all the other WASP’s at their regular Melrose Arch meetings. And then, fuck it, I’m going to be black. I identify with the inherent blackness of myself, that my lips make botoxed MILF’s sigh with jealousy, that I never have to brush my hair out of face, that I can stay out in the sun an hour longer than white people.

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