Even the law draws race lines

2011-02-03 12:41

It was not surprising to read Saliem Fakir’s emotional ­outburst on the debate about who is African, while ­advancing no new insights.

He is pushing the same tired argument that for black people to ­define themselves as “Africans”, it therefore means the introduction of “race essentialism” and “racial ­exclusivity”.

Fakir appears to suffer from the same “swart gevaar syndrome” that suggests that self-affirmation of ­Africans is an attempt to elevate themselves as a superior race above others.

As to why anyone would be threatened by a black man who needs no affirmation from anyone but himself is beyond me.

Perhaps Fakir is ignorant of the fact that laws clearly draw this very distinction he and others contest.

If he makes an effort to read the Black Economic Empowerment Act and Employment Equity Act he will see a clear distinction between “African, coloureds and Indians”.

He should read the mid-year population estimates by Stats SA which clearly distinguish the population in terms of how it is racially defined: ­Africans, whites, coloureds and Asians (Indians and Chinese).

The emotional fragilities of people like Fakir drive them to view black people with suspicion because they re-affirm what has always been and continues to be: that black people are Africans. Africans are black people.

The deeper meaning of the term “African” refers to racial identity and goes beyond the sentimentality of geographical location of others of different races who appropriate the description for themselves.

These nonsensical arguments about “race essentialism” and ­“racial exclusivity” are born purely from the belief that because racial categorisation was used in the past for nefarious ends, these very same things should be repeated by black people who unapologetically ­re-affirm what defines their being.

This sort of thinking and paranoia serves to confirm the deep mistrust that exists within our society.

There’s recourse for individuals who imagine themselves to be ­victims of racial discrimination. ­Fakir should make use of institutions such as the SA Human Rights Commission.

It cannot be that when Africans have liberated themselves from such historical thuggery and asserted their identity, they can today be blackmailed into watering down what defines them and who they are for mere social expediency. 

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