Coloured/Mixed Race/Black

28 Sep

There has been a lot of noise on my Twitter timeline about identity in South Africa especially around the borders of Coloured, Mixed Race and Black identity.

One idea thrown around vociferously and emotionally was that in 2015, people identifying as Coloured were somehow definitely still trapped in apartheid mindset and should identify as Black. Identifying as Coloured is supposedly antiBlackness at play.

Other is that people of mixed racial heritage post apartheid must identify as mixed race, as they are clearly not Black and do not share a heritage with Coloureds so also clearly not Coloured.

Some of this trouble seems to have started with a form. The kind of form we use to track race in order to ensure we address the racial inequities of the past and present.

For some reason, the box you tick on the form is what defines your identity. Forgotten is that race is a fluid and imprecise construct.

For a mixed race identifying person, the choice seems problematic as mixed race was not commonly used during Apartheid South Africa. My suggestion is to use the racial identity of the parent from a historically disadvantaged background. If both are pick one. The form is not really you.

The problem here is that Black, Coloured, Mixed race originally came from the system of white supremacy so posturing that one is superior form of identification is somewhat disingenuous.

The other problem is that Apartheid actually did happen. People were classified according to race, have lived experiences of being that race, have cultures that now form part of that race.

To erase Coloured identity is to subsume and thus partially erase that history and its differences from the mainstream Black experience.

To tell someone their identity is unacceptable like @kaysexwale did is an act of power not liberation. It projects the insecurities of a mixed race parentage post 94 onto the Coloured community. It is also an act of othering another human being. These insecurities are best dealt with on a personal level and not projected onto others.

People also choose to ignore that identity Black changes meaning depending on context.

Generally Black means of mainly African descent.
Under Black Economic Empowerment, Black legally means African, Coloured, Indian and Chinese.
Under Black Consciousness Black means African, Coloured and Indian. I guess Biko would not really quibble with post-94 addition of Chinese..

The question that arises is whether Indian, Coloured and Chinese people really identify as Black? Some do, some don’t.

It does not matter, because the question is a disguised accusation that these groups practice AntiBlackness. The question is slightly unfair as all groups even those who identify as Black/African practice antiBlackness. #IamStellenbosch shows the smiling monsters of antiBlackness at work and all race groups are represented.

Insisting on erasing people’s identity is not a particularly effective way to build respect between groups or to combat antiBlackness. The most likely outcome is increased animosity and we already have enough of that between Coloureds and Black/Africans.

In “Black Souls in White Skins”, https://franknatter.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/white-skins-black-souls-highly-recommended-critique-of-white-liberals-steve-biko/ Biko suggests that true integration between Whites and Blacks, can only take place when there is mutual respect.

Perhaps the first step in achieving Black Consciousness is to cultivate mutual respect between the Black/Africans, Coloureds and Indians.

There are no shortcuts to mutual respect. Listening rather than demanding erasure is a good place to start though.

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