Are all coloureds welcome, or only some?

2014-04-01 12:52

They don’t understand you. They don’t care about you. No one loves one loves you like we do.

This is the sentiment that ‘coloured’ or ‘brown’ or ‘mixed race’ parties are punting. The First Nation Liberation Alliance, or FNLA, is one such example. This organisation and others like it, is trying to win votes by tapping into that rampant river of marginalisation within the coloured electorate. Let me say here that despite previous pieces on the matter; for ease of reference I will say coloured. Without inverted commas.

This last statement talks about more than our racial classification. It’s calling out an identity crisis; an identity crisis which is constantly being politicked on. Much like any heterogeneous (diverse, dissimilar or mixed) group – finding common ground can be a very difficult. And we need no lesson about the issues that face the coloured community; as I mentioned in ‘Pagamesa, why hanging out with gangsters saved my life.’

One doesn’t need a sociology degree to see the causal links between marginalisation and deviance. In other words; socio-political and economic exclusion is a cause of crime, for example.

But who is doing the excluding?

It seems like a convenient ‘other’ to say that “‘they’ are excluding us, that is why ‘we’ suffer. But if you vote here, we will change all that.”

Movements like this that are targeted at coloured people are generally racist, with the following narrative: Under Apartheid you weren’t white enough, now you are not black enough. They don’t really care about your interests. They don’t care that your cousin is on tik. They don’t care that your father started out homeless. They don’t care that your grandfather sleeps on a dirty foam mattress in a house with no ceiling; deep in Wesbank. Where hope is more scarce than money and gang violence reigns supreme.

Organisations like FNLA are playing on heterogeneity. They are saying that ‘we’ are different and that is why ‘they’ don’t care about us; while our children suffer. They are saying this difference is racial because it is the first point of call in their pitch.

How can such a racist narrative be constructive in the efforts to strengthen democracy?

What about other race groups who face the same issues? Should they be excluded because they are not coloured?

This sort of organisation is aiming to be the voice of a group of people. This is because they see a need for such. This argument can theoretically go either way. We can say that people who are struggling to attain a standard of living that has been identified as ‘ideal,’ ought to have some body that represents it. A strength-in-numbers approach – if you are into that sort of thing. Alternatively, we could say that group representation necessarily implies misrepresentation.

In other words: how can one body represent the wants and needs of hundreds, thousands or millions of individuals acutely, at all times?

It simply can’t.

For arguments sake, let’s presume they could. And let’s say that this sort of racial exclusionism were acceptable. Wouldn’t that make them and others like them lobbyists? Wouldn’t they be closer to a union than a political party?

That aside, another serious concern is the issue of first nation status. We need only hear the name to know that this is top on the FNLA agenda.

Anyone who knows anything about this issue would know that it is a contentious and sensitive one. I don’t speak for other Khoi, San, Nama Griquas or their descendants when I say this but; I have no interest in first nation status. That said I can sincerely appreciate how people could attach such value to it. It is once issue caused by our colonial history. However, to me, the ‘us-and-them’ alarm bells are ringing here and it’s awakening ethnocentrism.

Here’s how that looks in terms of the aforementioned heterogeneity within the coloured demographic:

The coloured demographic is quite unique because of its ‘intra-racial heterogeneity.’ What I mean here is that because of the array of races, ethnicities and nationalities that gave rise to the race that we today call coloured. The one size fits all approach is even less legitimate.

First nation status refers to the indigenous people of a place.

The Khoi, San and Nama Griquas – among other ‘Bushmen’ cultures are lobbying for this status in South Africa.

The Khoi, San and Nama Griquas – among other ‘Bushmen’ people are considered to be coloured.

The Cape Malay community is also considered coloured.

Let me pose the following question:

Can members of the Cape Malay community join FNLA? Surely they can since they are also coloured?

But they owe their heritage to the slave trade that saw them brought to the Cape from Malaysia…

In that case, the answer is ‘no, they cannot.’

Is this deepening of the intra-racial divides really necessary? It is one thing to be racially aware, as we all need to be in South Africa. It is an entirely different thing to be racist. It is even worse to spur ethnocentrism. Especially when this will lead to dragging what I called ‘intra-racial’ heterogeneity, into racial and ethnic exclusion within one demographic. All of which ignores my individuality. Since because I am coloured, FNLA knows all about me. It knows my wants, needs, fears and most of all; it knows the struggles I face and can therefore speak on my behalf.

No thank you.

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