Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)
As we change colour over time, there is only one race – human
WHEN you are filling in forms that request your personal details, how do you respond to the race question? Do you instinctively specify “white, black, Indian or coloured”, as the apartheid handbooks once prescribed, or do you leave the column blank as an act of silent protest about the country’s obsession with race?
I ask because many South Africans remain fixated with race, despite us having slain the apartheid dragon 24 years ago.
We might be rid of offensive signs on park benches and beaches but we remain haunted by the race bogey whenever we push for racial quotas in sport; argue about who’s entitled to benefit from BEE and whether white and Indian undertakers should be allowed to bury black deceased.
Some say it’s because we failed to deal decisively with the race issue post-1994. After a political settlement was reached, South Africans appeared to take their foot off the pedal and naively assumed all issues pertaining to race would automatically resolve themselves.
Well, they didn’t. Our problems with race and colour will only be resolved when we realise that race is not a biological concept, that people we often categorise as belonging to a race group are not genetically homogeneous.
If you don’t believe me, take the example of Britain – the heart and ancestral home of many white people around the world.
Groundbreaking DNA tests have now revealed the first modern Britons, who lived about 10 000 years ago, did not have pale skin and fair hair. They had blue eyes, a dark brown to black complexion and dark, curly hair. Scientists say they only became lighter skinned over time – having originated in Africa, the cradle of humankind, and moved to the Middle East before heading west to Europe and Britain.
The genes for lighter skin only became widespread in European populations much later than originally thought, confounding the connection that is often made between Europeans and whiteness.
So, stop demonising each other – we are all descendants of immigrants anyway.
South Africans could be heading for some interesting times. When our white compatriots begin to turn dark, how will the government stop them demanding rights under BEE and affirmative action?
Will white monopoly capital be rendered redundant? How will the government identify white-owned land to expropriate?
Will quotas in sport teams and medical school admissions be permissible?
Once we’re all different shades of black, can we declare South Africa a truly non-racial country?
I suggest the next time you complete a form asking about your race, simply write “human race”.