Alex Tabisher used the Cape Argus as learning material when he was a teacher. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures
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.

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* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher.

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

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