Trapped, being coloured in a black and white world
WHERE DO I COME FROM? WHO DO I BELONG TO?
I grew up in a little township (community) in Johanesburg, South Africa. My community is west of the infamous SOWETO township, but it is not as popularised.
My community is one of many communities segregated in accordance to race as a result of apartheid spatial planning. Apartheid spatial planning intended to ensure separate development of communities along racial lines, with white communities being the biggest benefiary of the system.
Picture my community as a little area surrounded by a factories and mines, where the main reason for racial segregation was, to feed Labour into the businesses of the white elite. This unfortunately is how many townships, particularly Coloured and Indian communities have been planned in South Africa. We were the labourers of the slave master.
27 years later, these factories and mines have been deserted and disbanded, leaving behind an array of communities defined by race and social creed. Our country has obtained it’s freedom yet, many of our people still live separate lives, a far cry from the multi-racial society that was once envisioned. Today, these communities stand firm, structures of a colonial past. Stubborn, yet relentless, keeping those who belong to it prisoners of a life long sentence.
My community is no different. It is made up of mainly coloured people of lower and upper middle class. By coloured people I don’t mean “black people” as universally accepted in the international arena, but those of mixed ethnitcity. Here people are made up of various ethical backgrounds. I myself identify as a coloured individual, a slave mix. A mixture of the German, Malaysian, Saudi- Arabian and even the Africas. Although my blackness is not evident in my physical disposition.
The term coloured finds it’s roots in the apartheid era. It was a term used by the white-elite to describe people of this ethnic mix. My people. You may think that I am exotic, no? A beautiful mix of ethicities. But this is where my struggle begins, it is the thing I despise the most, especially considering the grief it has brought me and continues to bring me, living in the new South Africa.
Racial stereotypes, racial and gender bias, racial superiority, poverty and the systems of transformation have made me invisible. It turned me into a nobody, a stranger.
Today, I struggle to find my identity in a supposedly democratic South African society. A puzzle piece that does not fit in the elaborate fabric of a supposedly democratic and just society.
It may sound strange considering that I am both a mixture of the black and the white and thus should be accepted and welcomed as part either, or. However in reality this is not so, my racial make up and racial identity has made me an outsider to even those whom I share the most common of thread, genes and blood.
I am loved by white people because I share a liteness in pigmentation that makes me almost near to their ideal view of beauty and standard. This sometimes affirms my intellecual and social value above that of my black peers, even when it is not honourably obtained. I am loved by black people, because I share their struggle and because my ancestors were also victim to the atrocities of the past. This relationship shields me from racial conflics and sometimes gives me passage to more aspects of blackness than that which is afforded to my white peers.
But what more am I to these groups, beyond my skin? Do I hold value in their social circles or am I just merely tolerated because of my likeness and the ethnical binds that we share?
Why do I still not find pure acceptance among these groups? Why does this love hate relationship still exist? Is it because I am an abomination of white superiority or a reminder of black pain and the aspiration of whiteness? I am not white enough to matter and not black enough to make an impact.
I am the mediator and the child of a toxic marriage, stuck in the middle, watching my parents fight for superiority and power in our own home. Both treat me well and I have no choice but to side with either, or, even when I know which of the two is right or wrong. I share a rich perspective of both worlds, which I don’t think my peers are even aware of. This is my advantage. It is why my species have survived for so long.
But what am I, if not the invisible thread, numbing the waging war between black and white. Where do I belong and why am I not seen as part of either, or? I am trapped in the middle of a black and white world and it is not allowing me to be either, or.