We are only ‘all one race’ in Africa

2011-01-22 13:51

The “who is African” debate is an essential one in South Africa’s efforts to discard its lingering vestiges of apartheid rule.

The apartheid regime may have been alone in officially defining which of the indigenous populace is African.

However, the rest of the world dwells in that habit.

On the streets of Arabic North Africa, “African” refers to the darker peoples from the South, not the Tunisians, Algerians Moroccans, Egyptians or Libyans.

It’s the same in Spain, Italy and other European states. “African” is not seen as geographical, but racial.

Blacks have merely fallen into the greater scheme of things.

They have learnt to define themselves as African because that is what they were called by the settling Europeans.

Europeans and others now wanting to define themselves as Africans have a battle because for many an African, like Sentletse Diakanyo, that quest translates into the question “how can a white person be black?”

From that puzzle arises the question: is this out of convenience or conviction?

Another question will be: do these prospective Africans identify with Africa?

The latter could be answered by manifesting a knowledge of, as well as concern for, the continent.

You can’t have an African who knows where Brisbane is, but doesn’t know where Nairobi or Lilongwe are.

European states are at the forefront of asking prospective citizens general knowledge questions about their prospective homeland.

African states don’t.

If we are to assume “African” as a mere geographical identity, as Khaya Dlanga may want, it will be interesting to note that Europeans have never called themselves by the geographical identity of the place they are dominating unless they have ­annihilated the locals.

It was only after the Native Americans had been decimated to insignificance that Europeans started calling themselves Americans.

The same happened in Australia and New Zealand.

Despite having stayed in India, Hong Kong and Africa for centuries, Europeans never called themselves Indians, Chinese or Africans.

I have rarely heard the “we are all one race” statement outside of Africa.

Perhaps because the rest of the human race does not believe in it.

Even in Africa, Khaya Dlanga is in a lonely club.

Race is non-existent in science but our societies continue to define each other as blacks, whites Indian, Caucasoid, negroid or mongoloid because discrimination arises out of our inherent skin-deep (pun intended) desire for dissociation.

This is perhaps out of the need to distance ­ourselves from what we perceive as negative aspects of a ­grouping that we can identify as different from us.

Thus Jews were scared of Gentiles, Arabs were scared of infidels, and thus the Eurasian Indian invented untouchables out of Proto-Dravidians.

It becomes convenient if the grouping of people you want to distance yourself from can be physically, therefore easily, ­identified.

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