Friday, May 25, 2007

Colouredness ?

I often hear the statement from, well I don't know what to call them, let's say light-blacks, speaking Afrikaans as their ma-se taal and some English as their status language stating that they are black or now South African, not coloured or bruin. They are often highly offended at conversations and debates on the Coloured, bushy, bruin-issues. For them, it does not exist. Coloured-ness is part and parcel of the apartheid social engineering ( a evil social construction) and as such was denounced in the heyday of black consciousness and later the Charterist circles- because after all: South Africa belongs to those who live in it. Colouredness is as a relic of colonialism has to be discarded, but also within the context of nation-building we need to build a national South Africam identity. This is fair and indeed up to this point I would concur that this type of argumentation makes sense. What it however miss is ( for me at least) two critical points, namely:
1) the fact that the colonialist governments used/appropriated colouredness, in terms of their ideology and strategy of the apartheid regime and consciously, purposefully created a hierarchy of sorts, where the there was levels of preferential treatment and discrimination. Call it 'divide and rule' tacticts or a guilty conscience by fellow white Afrikaners- it was an economic fact that the Coloured sector were given more benefits than, what shall we say now, blacks ? (no we're also blacks!), Bantus (hell no!) Africans (what are 'we' then ?). Anyway, you have my point. We ( who ever) will have to own up to the fact that there was a category of people ( created or procreated) that were better off then another category of people (who ever). It seems to me that government it currently acknowledging this as historical fact and also as the basis for the application of affirmative action. The categories 'African', 'coloured' and 'Indian' remained...
2) The history and origin of colouredness predates National Party rule and can be located in the history of slavery, with the import of slaves from the East and elsewhere and what some call the genocide of the first peoples here at the tip of Africa. We, decendants of these peoples and heirs of this messy history, would struggle to go back to a primordial essence on terms of ethnicity- but we cannot deny this history. Hence we create, in terms of social and political raw material, some key fragments of our memory, but aometimes also our religious fantacies, our social identity. This cannot be denied. What however is evident is that some would choose not to be identified in terms of a Coloured in terms of the Population Registration Act (me included) - but I for one, cannot deny a social identity created in the context our marred history.
So, in terms of the postcolonial discourse- we construct our hybrid identities- but do that within a common history, but also current social configurations-we cannot at will jump over our dark shadows. So undeniably, we become South African- through a Coloured experience and history and became black through an struggle choice. ( Maybe this is why some don't underdstand how Luke Watson - a white boy, can be black in Rasool's eyes- it was a choice). Coloured-ness cannot be denied.