Okay, so maybe I lied. I'm very proud of my brown skin and all that it represents to me and many others but there's a certain level of truth to what I'm saying. I'll get to my point regarding that shortly, but let's first explore a term I'm beginning to hate: "African".
I find it ridiculous how this term is thrown around, in one way to feel a part of something but in another to criticise and demean a race. I chose that word specifically, race. To be perfectly clear I am a 26 year old black male. Before this I am a human being, an African and then a South African. If Africa is your place of birth, the place you call home and importantly the place you love; you are African. Many of us could trace our lineage to various parts of the world but, and I speak for my opinion here, we are African. So when you claim this as your birth place and home, you claim the "African way". You are as a part of it than any other of our Black/White/Arab/Indian/Coloured/Asian brothers from across the continent who claim the same. To claim to be African but then show decent toward the "African way".
I can't lie, I began writing this article about a week ago and now as I sit at 4:03am having just learnt of the Boston Marathon tragedy I feel worse. In the last days, I have seen our African people tear at all other races and I (personally) was particularly taken back by a comment of "they all look the same". In the light of this tragedy though, some of us found reason to turn to the past and recall events from the apartheid era to further fuel divisions amongst ourselves. We are hearing calls for whites to leave and return to the sea, calls that blacks enjoyed the killing of innocent whites back then, in summation a lot of nonsense.
To address the issue of who belongs here, I could do it in one line: Absolutely everyone who wants to live here. Yes, I have an issue with a lot of illegal foreigners and that should be dealt with but anyone legal has a right to be here. This land belongs to its people and by that I mean each and every South African. To those that want to leave, please do. Whether you are black, white, Indian, coloured or asian it is your right to leave. This applies particularly to those counterproductive individuals who keep dragging us back to the past while complaining about the present and all races are guilty of this.
For those who want to leave but can't for many reasons, we can't be divided at this time. What we need to do is buckle down and fight for the country and livelihood we were all promised. It helps no one to be an armchair expert, complaining from the sidelines but equally not willing to do anything about their complaints.
I guess this now brings me to my main point, the reason I’m sick of being black. To be honest, it's the same reason some should be ashamed to be white, coloured, indian or asian. I hate being Black because from the moment when I walk into any building, store or public area, what I consider my beautiful brown skin, becomes a summation of who I am:
· I become one of those prone to violence
· I become a BEE benefactor
· I become incompetent
· I become illiterate
· I become an ANC supporter
· I become a number of things, almost all of which I am not
The very fact that I am a South African falls into the dark shadow that is my race. I have lost my pride, my intellect, my personality...my identity. A person typecast into a role I neither desire or fit. I'm aligned with a government I didn't vote for or support. My accomplishments in life become diminished on the basis of a policy, one I had nothing to do with. This regardless of the sleepless nights studying followed by the degrees, the 8 hour job interviews or the long hours spent in the office getting the job done properly. I'm no longer the guy who stresses over the future of this country, the guy ashamed of the murder, rape and abuse of ordinary citizens every day. No longer the guy who locks up all the things he owns every night and hopes against hope that no one steals what i have worked so hard for. Hopes that no one takes my life, that of my family or friends, prematurely in any act of violence. An issue that makes me wonder if I should ever bring children into a world and country so cruel and violent.
I am no longer JJ (not my real name for obvious reasons), a 26 year old guy who loves sport, riding his motorcycles and his family. I'm no longer a Wits graduate or a postgraduate. No longer that previously shy boy who in recent years has come out of his shell. Most importantly, I’m not longer a through and through proud South African who only wants the best for his country and its people.
I am only black.
I wish for the day when who I am as South African and an individual matter more than what I am as a black male. The last year and a lot of racial tension in the country have made me sceptical but I still have a belief we can do it. We need each other in these tough times, both economically and in the broader social sense. We can't afford to be at odds when only unity will bring change.
I've thought this many a time over the last few weeks and honestly thinking of printing t-shirts with it applicable every race and for those who will join me:
I'm sick of being black, I just want to be South African.