I’m proudly coloured, but I want to tick the Asian and black boxes too
Whenever I encounter those compulsory race category boxes you have to tick on official documents I’m tempted to tick three boxes: coloured, Asian, black. But inevitably, because I know that is how the world sees me, I tick coloured.
The issue was rammed home last weekend when Ashwin Willemse walked off the set of the SuperSport studio.
The coloured identity was raised on my Twitter timeline in the wake of Ashwin’s walkout.
One Twitter user posted how proud she was of her coloured identity, while another said he hated the name because it was one given to him by Verwoerd.
Then a few black tweeters asked what these people, who are defined by the law as coloured, should call themselves.
Among black people there was disagreement too: some believe coloured people are black and others believe they’re not.
I’ve had this experience too. A black colleague once laughed in my face when I told him that I regard myself as culturally coloured but politically black.
As my friend Robin Adams so aptly puts it in situations like these: “What can must happen now?”
But am I entitled to tick all three of those boxes? Is it okay for me to be all of these things?
Firstly, I am proud of my coloured identity. I jol with the klopse, eat gatsbys, speak in a special dialect when I’m with my own, and participate in many other practices that are unmistakably coloured.
Secondly, I am a descendant of Asian slaves who were brought to Cape Town by Dutch oppressors.
That part of my ancestry gave me my religious identity as a Muslim and my family still uses words like tramakassie (thank you) from those days.
To say I am exceptionally proud of this heritage would be an understatement, and I work hard to preserve it in my household.
Thirdly, I am black. Well, I certainly am not white.
I identify politically as black because I subscribe to the ideologies of Steve Biko, as well as identify with the oppressed nations of black people here and all over the world.
But apartheid was so evil in its intent that it was designed to tear people’s identities apart like this.
It has to be acknowledged that there were varying degrees of privilege too - from no privilege for blacks, a few scraps of privilege for coloureds, and absolute privilege for whites - and thus deliberately creating resentment and animosity between different groups.
Political parties, particularly here in the Western Cape, still exploit that because they bank on such voting blocs being defined by race groups.
What have successful political parties and movements achieved to bring coloured and black people together in Cape Town and the broader Western Cape? The sum total of nothing.
In Cape Town, Jakes Gerwel Drive separates Langa and Bonteheuwel.
The people of these suburbs hardly talk to each other. The same can be said for Gugulethu and Manenberg, divided by Duinefontein Road. So, too, for Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, which are divided by Spine Road.
It gets even worse when you leave the city and enter the rural towns of the Western Cape. Take Kleinmond for example.
When you enter the town you find the most beautiful properties where white people live. As you drive further along you find a little CBD and the first signs that black and coloured people also live there.
On either side of the shops is the RDP suburb, where the coloureds live. Further still is an informal settlement where black people live.
It is the apartheid era’s Group Areas Act in living colour - in 2018.
My own existence is further enriched by my white Muslim spouse and my Christian in-laws. Yes, our children truly are coloured, multi-cultural and interfaith.
And really, is that such a bad thing?
I was wondering about Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan Markle, at the weekend.
Has the royal family fully considered that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will have coloured children?
How lekker that makes me laugh!
* Follow more of Abarder’s musings on Twitter - @GasantAbarder.