Colour blind­ness child’s play com­pared to race re­la­tions

Sowetan - - Time Out Column - Kwanele Ndlovu

Un­like my favourite brother, I am not colour blind. I can ac­tu­ally tell apart even the clos­est hues and pal­lets. Which is why I once re­fused to be dragged in to turn the house up­side down when he wanted all of us to search for his pink shirt.

First of all, he does not have a pink shirt! And even if he did, he would not know that it is pink, and would have been ask­ing ev­ery­body to help search for an orange shirt. Or red.

Hence, I sat and watched the news when the kids went through each hanger look­ing for a pink shirt that was prob­a­bly hang­ing there, look­ing ap­ple green.

Is­sues of colour and colour blind­ness again sprung up this past Sun­day. I wit­nessed a racial quag­mire of ex­treme colour blind­ness when we en­coun­tered those sweet­hearts who hon­estly just “…don’t see colour!”

I re­alised that my brother’s strug­gle is just child’s play when com­pared to race re­la­tions.

On Sun­day, a few friends had cho­sen the most beau­ti­ful venue to meet, re­lax and dis­cuss is­sues af­fect­ing us as blacks in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic dis­pen­sa­tion – an open space out in the green, shaded botany that looks like it grew out of the nearby lake.

The meet ups are de­signed pur­posely for the un­pack­ing of our iden­tity and redefin­ing of our po­si­tion as blacks. It is a congress of all kinds of black beauty. The dark. The woke. The clever. The con­scious. The lit. The ar­tic­u­late….

While we were still gath­er­ing and get­ting ac­quainted with those un­fa­mil­iar to us, a cute cou­ple ap­proached. He wore a twin set of pat­terned silk – a ki­mono type blouse and shorts. He was gor­geous. He looked like he should be in the front row at a fash­ion show.

But it was not his high fash­ion that made him stand out. Nope. He was black like all of us, and had been in­vited by one of the friends there. The only rea­son we were all stunned and star­ing was be­cause his friend was white. Yes. His equally good-look­ing friend had no colour!

Here was a young black man who had been in­vited to join in on a con­ver­sa­tion by blacks, about blacks, with other blacks, and he brought his nice white friend along.

On a god­damn Sun­day, at month end – an op­por­tune time to dis­cuss ‘black tax’. But there we were… hav­ing to re­mind a black brother that “I love be­ing with blacks” and “I love be­ing black” can never be the same thing and that the colour in black peo­ple is not silent!

I will not at­tend a meet­ing for white farm­ers in Ora­nia even if my friend Marieke prom­ises me ev­ery­one will speak Zulu there.

Truth is, I re­ally do not know how to nav­i­gate through a rain­bow na­tion with­out telling apart the dif­fer­ent colours that con­sti­tute it.

And I want to be free to speak about is­sues af­fect­ing me as a black per­son with­out hav­ing to en­dure the priv­i­leged scru­tiny of a ran­dom white per­son, nor the guilt of ex­clud­ing him from a space I want to oc­cupy with my own.

In­ter­est­ing enough, if we all wanted to pre­tend there is no colour in the peo­ple around us – and re­moved colour from the rain­bow na­tion – we will be left with black and white.


Black peo­ple some­times want to un­pack is­sues af­fect­ing black peo­ple, with­out white scru­tiny, the writer ar­gues.

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