Black in Cape Town? Be yourself

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IOL CA_OPED being Black0 INLSA 140205. Cape Town. Cape Town CBD. Picture Henk Kruger

Kine Dineo Mokwena-Kessi’s experience is not necessarily the experience of every black person in Cape Town, says Faith Ndlela.

Cape Town - Kine Dineo Mokwena-Kessi’s recent article in the Cape Argus, “Black in Cape Town? Brace yourself” (Cape Argus, August 15), describing how unfavourable it is to be black in Cape Town, was her opinion, and her experience of things – but it is not necessarily the experience of every black person in Cape Town, or in the rest South Africa for that matter. A more appropriate title might have been “Being Kine in Cape Town? Brace Yourself…”

What follows is not a personal attack on the 16-year-old, nor is it an attempt to disregard her opinion. These are my views based on my experiences as a 28-year-old woman, who happens to be black, living in Cape Town.

I, too, moved from Joburg to Cape Town two years ago because I love the city. When people ask me why I moved, I always give the same response, regardless of what skin colour they have. Why should I tiptoe around and guard my tongue, or try to give the “right” response based on someone’s skin colour? I won’t change the things I say just because of a fear that they won’t like me or like the way I feel about a subject.

People should stop being so sensitive to everything. You see what you choose to believe and want to believe. I go to a lot of Cape Town events where sometimes there are fewer than a handful of black people, but not once have I felt that people of a different race have given me funny looks, or tried to chase me away with discomforting stares. If I’m friendly rather than defensive, people around me are friendly, open and approachable.

I feel that articles like Kine’s will forever continue to separate us. South Africa will never improve if people like this keep forcing their views into the mass media and vilifying those who don’t agree with them. People should live however they want to live and be themselves, not according to some made-up criteria propagated by prejudice or by race.

I suspect that I must have missed the meeting where certain people were selected to be spokespersons for the entire black race in Cape Town, or where it was decided that “black people should feel this way and not that way”.

These are the same people who have the audacity to tell other black people that they are not black enough when they have different opinions or lifestyles from theirs. What is being black? Isn’t it just a term used to describe colour?

Why is it that we have to subject ourselves to such limitations day in and day out?

Why can’t we just be who we choose to be and live life on our own terms without being limited by the colour of our skin, the cultural rules created by our peers or the limitations we “feel” are put on us by society’s bad habits?

Why should we always make it our business and get worked up about it?

The fact is, not everyone will like you. Yes, some people won’t like you because of the colour of your skin, but others because you dress differently, look better than they do, talk differently or listen to different music, while the rest won’t like you because you’re you.

This happens among people of the same race, too. Someone just gets crappy at you for no apparent reason. Some people are just not nice and won’t pretend liking anyone, period. Not everyone within your race will like you either. And that’s what it’s like living in a world full of choice.

Why should we always see ourselves as victims? Why can’t we just enjoy our lives without having to decide how to behave when with a different race? This is our choice.

I’m not overlooking the fact that there is still racism in this world. It deeply saddens me that it still exists and it’s used by people who are empty, unhappy and shallow, making themselves feel better by inflicting pain on others. But the question is, is this the exception or the rule? I like to think it’s the exception.

Of course there is still a lot of work to be done in this country. Not everyone has access to equal opportunities and most have to struggle 100 percent more than others. But how can we move forward, if all we think about are the things that move us 10 steps back, all races included?

Is it selfish of me to turn a blind eye to someone else’s bad experience? Do I make it my business by being angry about it and start a war? It’s either I let myself get upset by it and then let it go, or hold on to it and continue being angry until the emotion bursts out in violence.

One way or the other I have to do something about the anger. Most of these activists who claim to be fighting against racism do nothing more than give you more reasons to hate another race. Show me a better way of wiping racism from the world and I will be happy to jump on board.

Being hateful to any race is an insult to what Nelson Mandela fought for.

Yes, I too know the experience of being hated for no other reason than my skin colour, but if following Mandela’s principles means being self-interested, then I’ll continue doing so by being the best that I can possibly be and be hopeful that my actions will inspire change in others.

If someone is being hateful to you, isn’t it better to respond by expressing the opposite of their hatred? Being affected by the actions of others gives them a power over you. I’m not going to apologise for being what and who I am. Being black is whatever you choose it to be.

* Faith Ndlela is a blogger and Cape Argus reader.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus



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