Living in South Africa is like living in a prison with no security, you get half the privilege. You can now sit anywhere on the bus and go to any beach, but you cannot avoid the looks and the cold shoulders you get on those buses and beaches.
South Africa has an unavoidable hierarchy from white to black and as my entire life goes, I have always been trapped in the middle. Being in the middle of a racial battlefield is no better than being one of the players- I can vouch for that.
I am a 25-year-old coloured woman, however I cannot recall how many times I have been asked: “Are you white or coloured?” due to my fair complexion. My answer has always been: “What does it matter?” and “If only you could see past my face.”
My mother raised me never to see colour, only people. I remember getting black dolls from her at Christmas time as a toddler and wondering why my friends got dolls that looked like us. Today, I completely understand why she did that. She was simply thinking of the bigger picture. Still, I have always felt ambivalent about her teachings. I’m thankful for the advantage she instilled in me, however I wish I was never raised that way because maybe I would not feel the racism of this country as intensely as I do.
When I say I feel racism intensely, I cannot begin to describe just how bad it is. I am not an emotional person, I cry once a year if I’m lucky, but if there is any racist activity around me or I see someone being disrespected based on class or colour, let me tell you, I cry. This would explain why I am obsessed with movies based on true events of injustice and fighting against the quota we got dealt. I spend my time reading about the heroes who fought for the freedom of our country, however when I step out of my house, I look like nothing more than a descendent of Verwoerd.
I live in Heathfield, which has long been known as a coloured community. Over the last few years, black people have settled in and the fact that there is a distinction gets under my skin. Heathfield natives in the community shudder and say how Heathfield is “going down”. They complain about security, and suddenly break-ins and hijackings are because of “them” (the blacks).
In my opinion it was always this way, but where would they dare blame their own race.
I fell in love with a black man two years ago and allowing me into his world with no restrictions, made me realise even more, the need for equality, freedom and respect. Our relationship has not been easy, but I like to think love will prevail.
His family and friends think he is with a white girl when they see our pictures, and when I accompany him to ‘young black creative seminars’, where poetry, song, rap and dance is showcased, I feel out of place. The poetry is mostly written against enslavement by the white man and for the black youth to find solace in their land at last. I like to go to support, not to show face or gain followers, but because that is truly where my heart is and what I am passionate about. I feel eyes on me though like: “How could she understand, she’s white.” They have no idea just how much I understand.
My grandmother is 74 years old, and uncouthly racist. You would think her anger would be directed at white people for kicking her out of District Six during the Apartheid era but, instead she directs all her anger to black people because once again, there is that annoying distinction. She says ruthless things about them and it makes my heart physically ache.
She told me how disappointed she was in me for dating a black man, and refused to shake his hand when she met him. I wish I could make her see the bigger picture and the path to freedom, but over and over it has been proven to me that she will leave this earth that way. Do not get me wrong, I love my grandmother like she’s a vital organ of mine. I wish she would one day have an epiphany but until then, I respect her wishes.
All I can do is write and write some more until a few people read and acknowledge that they have been living wrong all this time. I believe there is hope. I believe there is a way to heal this country and put a stop to the hatred. I want to live for the change.
[This article was written by Andrea Chothia in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Young Independents or Independent Media.]