I always refuted being called Black. Once, I posted on Facebook that I do not approve to being called a black person, simply because I am not. I was asked what I mean by that, and I explained that it is simply because when I look in the mirror I fail to see anything black except for my hair, and I am sure just about anybody with black hair is not called a black person.
That is, I refute the label on the basis of my looks – my complexion, yes. I have no problem with the colour black, which I think it is beautiful. Just, why call me by a label that has to do with a colour which is different from my complexion? One could argue that, other race(s) are being called with labels that do not look like the colour of their completion. Quite frankly, they had rather decided what they like to be called.
One friend would ask me, following my Facebook post: “If you claim to not be Black, what do you select on forms when you apply for jobs, for example?” (Which just happens to be something problematic, but a subject for another day). This is somewhat a valid question, but it misses some point. The scenario given forgets who put the racial classification on the form.
If it were me, this would be a question carrying a lot of weight, I reckon. But because I live in a dispensation where I am already labelled a Black person, it is assumed that everybody is okay with it.
Therefore such forms, which I may have no choice but to use as they are, often force me to opt for something I am against. However, whenever I use a printed form, and I have space left for commenting, I usually make a remark indicating that I reject the label Black as it is unsuitable label for me, and I would be happy to have African on the list as an option, rather.
I find the label Black problematic, because even its usage is not consistent. We have, for instance, a system called Black Economic Empowerment, for instance. In this case, Black refers to people of African descent, Coloureds, Indians, and Chinese who arrived before 1994.
However, there are forms which would ask for one to choose between Black, Colourd, White or Asian, which just goes to show how confused is this label. I do recognise the challenge this brings, but do not condone the lack of attempt to clarify this.
The common, simple assertion is that, if one claims to be Asian or European there seems to be no need to debate what they mean. A further clarification may require just citizenship on the said related continent.
And then again, there are those who say that even though they do not look like they are of African descent, say a person of European descent, they are African because they were born in Africa.
I do not deny that this questions warrant some debate and those who feel they are being mislabelled may go ahead and make their assertions. What’s important to me is that I get called exactly who I am – an African, of South African citizenship.
- News 24