I do not seek scraps from ta­bles of the vic­to­ri­ous

Cape Argus - - OPINION -

RAI­SON D’ÊTRE. Much of what is writ­ten by peo­ple like me gets la­belled very quickly. Be­sides at­tach­ing racial la­bels, our work is either slated as the chronicle of noth­ing­ness or the pa­thetic an­nals of the poor.

It is la­belled as “in­dige­nous” and this is a po­lite eu­phemism for hurt­ful terms like “mixed” or “coloured”.

It is ironic that the new South Africa, con­scious of its own com­plex­i­ties, and rig­or­ously com­mit­ted to cel­e­brat­ing its own di­ver­si­ties, has no so­lu­tion for a con­di­tion that is univer­sal.

The eth­nic in-be­tween­ers are ev­ery­where, and we re­main out­casts. Our ex­is­tence elic­its either vo­cif­er­ous de­nial or hot em­bar­rass­ment.

Ralph El­li­son moved the black Amer­i­can out of in­vis­i­bil­ity with his great epony­mous novel.

Who will make the coloureds vis­i­ble? Who will write our story?

There are coloured peo­ple ev­ery­where, racial pu­rity is a myth main­tained only by ex­trem­ists who tie their lies to ex­treme ideals, whether they are re­li­gious, racial or po­lit­i­cal.

We must surely see the irony of equal­ity – when it is al­lowed, it en­gen­ders, in its very ap­pli­ca­tion, that sec­tion of any com­mu­nity which can­not be eth­ni­cally pure by def­i­ni­tion; and that such a peo­ple can­not be forced to ac­cept an ex­treme eth­nic iden­tity as the only cur­rency for a du­bi­ous le­git­i­macy.

I choose to ac­cept the la­bel of “coloured” be­cause I am sus­pi­cious of po­lit­i­cally cor­rect ges­tures that re­quire me to state un­equiv­o­cally that I am black. By the same to­ken, I can­not claim to be white.

My dilemma is not one of def­i­ni­tion, but of recog­ni­tion.

I do not seek the scraps from the ta­bles of the vic­to­ri­ous; nor do I wish to ab­di­cate my be­lief in my­self in or­der to align for rea­sons of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ence to the plight of the op­pressed.

I do not seek an easy com­fort by adopt­ing a side which will cater to my needs. Such a po­si­tion will vac­il­late with changes in power shifts and can­not pro­vide a last­ing sta­bil­ity.

I want to state my own needs and achieve my own sat­is­fac­tions in a process driven by pro­duc­tiv­ity. I want to be given a chance to even fail, with­out in­her­it­ing the judge­ment of a harsh pa­tron­age.

I want to state my con­di­tion as nascent and prob­lem­atic, not fad­ing and hope­less.

I need re­lief from the anath­ema that claims that my achieve­ments were not suf­fi­ciently great, nor my suf­fer­ings suit­ably hor­ri­fy­ing.

I want to re­as­sure the doubters that in­clu­sion, which im­plies the no­tions of ac­cep­tance and recog­ni­tion, could help in the pon­der­ous task of re­con­struc­tion and a re­defin­ing of rel­e­vance, as re­quired by Njab­ulo Nde­bele in 1983.

I do not ask what my coun­try can do for me. I merely plead for a chance to show what I can do for my coun­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.