Brendon Shields
Brendon Shields

Black and white: New labels to make South Africans happy

Hell it’s been “black” this and “white” that for the past couple of weeks here on Thought Leader with Gillian Schutte, myself and others jumping on the bandwagon. In fact between Gillian and I have lowered the level of debate to something you’d read on that other much less intelligent riff-raff blog hosted by a big news provider.

We get passionate about race and any form of categorisation in this country and we love to generalise while telling others not to do so. As a result our nation-building project takes a good four steps back every time we sokkie one step forward.

As explained in my first blog I find it increasingly hard these days to care enough to do anything but tweet my outrage at whichever topic. My personal nation-building project is also lying idle as I try to figure out just where this bee in my bonnet is located. Our collective rationale now once more borders on Verwoerdian logic and we have Jacob Zuma as our president. Things are simply not going swimmingly.

To fix this mess I suggest we start anew the project of labelling everyone into little boxes — but this time we do it properly. We chuck out the big boring old black and white boxes and replace it with a few smaller more colourful ones. This way we don’t seem so one-dimensional to others while still being allowed to hold on to our dearest “culture” — you know, that concept behind which we can park our prejudice in the safe knowledge that it’s protected constitutionally.

The Rural-Based Agnostic Afrikaans-Speaking Eur-African Snob: I live in the platteland and fence-sit when it comes to religion. Was brought up knowing Sarie Marais and according to Sentletse Diakanyo and others cannot be called African and also cannot be bothered to fight their argument any more. Lastly I don’t tolerate bad music and I don’t like things being dirty.

Now Rural-Based Agnostic English-Speaking Eur-African Snobs are nothing like me. They live in towns like Clarens and Nottingham Road and know a lot of things about adventure sport. Urban-Based Agnostic Afrikaans-Speaking Eur-African Snobs dress really well but are mostly too effeminate to walk barefoot whereas Urban-Based Religious Afrikaans-Speaking Eur-African Snobs befriend scary people who travel to China to convert perfectly normal people to Christianity.

Now if I tell you that I get along best with Urban-Based Agnostic English-Speaking African Snobs (UAEASs) you might be shocked — but the simple truth is that I can stomach any argument over a religious one. I run a mile when people, no matter what race or culture, bring up their religious beliefs and want to have a boxing match defending it. That’s until the UAEAS proclaims his or her love for Celine Dion — then I quickly look for an even better fit to my “label” as I scupper to get the waiter to bring the tab. So I add another sub-category.

This is a very serious topic. Too serious even to write in a serious manner as the words needed to articulate it is for the most part simply not in my vocabulary. But think about this for a minute:

Who we get along with best no longer is defined by the colour of their skin. There are far more pertinent factors in modern life that ultimately determine who we get along with. I would argue that level of education and class have long since trumped race as deciding factors when we make friends. Very soon language will no longer feature either as most of us realise that English is the perfect roadhouse to meet each other half way for a cultural milkshake while we check out the drag race. Well, I am sure the non-snobs would be into this kind of thing.

The South Africans I meet are a lot more interesting and “grey” than we give ourselves credit for. I now realise that my snobbishness prevented me from making friends with those fellow Yeovillites years back. I simply did not like the loud daft music and the dirt, which coincidentally is why I don’t attend Skouspel and why I feel uncomfortable when I look at Roger Ballen photography.

Take me to Venda right now for a party with a Rural-Based Agnostic English-Speaking African and things will go great until he asks me to sit on a paint tin in the backyard among dogs. In this case my snobbishness will prevent this man from being a BFF.

Do you fit into any of these categories? Are there any suggestions for more sub-categories out there? Or am I just being racist and stupid again?

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    • JK

      I am new in South Africa. I am African. My kid is more American since she grew up there. I almost ran out of town when I read your first blog. Gillian’s blogs also makes me wonder if South Africa is the place to bring up kid’s who have no idea of racial prejudice.

      All said, I find it easier to make friends with white people in SA than my fellow black Africans. The moment I utter the word :Kenyan”, I see tones change – damn foreigner.

      I appreciate the debate though. I do because it is making me really think if I want my kids to grow up here or not. Thanks.

    • Bored Shitless.


    • The gods must be crazy

      another box is doos

    • Momma Cyndi

      Now THOSE are labels that I can associate with.
      Exceptionally well put

    • Occams Razor

      Yah boet, ever ask yourself where are the white bodies on Durban beach over christmas and new year? Nary a libbie or a “moderate” or ANY white skin amongst the lot…

    • Benzo

      “Do you fit into any of these categories? Are there any suggestions for more sub-categories out there? Or am I just being racist and stupid again?”

      Trying to categorize a human being or a group of human beings is a stupid pass time. Decide for yourself where you fit as an answer to your question.

      Nature -and that includes human beings- is subject to change (over time) and can adjust on short notice to circumstances. The more categories you define, the less any person would fit such a category permanently. Even our favourite skin colour based categories (black, white and certainly the shades in between) do not work 100% for categorisation purposes.

      Instant categorisation is OK as long as you can forget about it after 5 beers with the categorised person you just met.

    • Colourless African

      Do away with categories and call everybody South Africans. Your new categories are limited, you focus on geography, religion (Christian it seems), language. There are many very important demographic details that define South Africans-political ideologies, education, etc.

    • L. Mace

      Darn it, how did he know about the chuffed Celine Dion. Its just that the Decade of Hits album, man, eish ja ne. Is there a secret cult following going on here?

    • Afrikan

      Since when are there “black” and African a description of a people. Who are these people? Whose description are these people defined by? For the record, there are and will ways be Afrikans – and Afrikans are historically and culturally Black People like Moshe. There are therefore no “black” Afrikans unless it is insinuated that there are historically and culturally another type of such people. If there are, what are their roots and history, especially with Afrikans, There are only Afrikans . . . Called me Bantu, Negroe, Kaffir, Native, non-white and now “black” what-not. Ke Motswana. Ngingum’Zulu . . . Ngingu m’Afurika. Frankly speaking!

    • ntozakhona

      You may try to reduce our painful experience to frivolity as much as you like but we will not be deterred. We have defeated the legal forms of apartheid, we shall defeat its social and economic forms no matter how long it takes except to say the longernit takes the less forgiving we shall be.

    • Kreef

      Funny thing about SA is that if half the effort wasted on racial debates was put into growing our economy and sorting out education we would actually get somewhere .

    • Brendon Shields

      #kreef – thats true!

      #ntozakhona – trust me, this is a piece aiming to unite, not divide. But go on, wallow in your pain if thats what gets you out of bed in the morning

      #bored shitless – buy a dildo

      #JK – I apologise if I upset you with my first article. I also were a bit upset writing it.

    • Belle

      Honestly, why do we need all these categories. Life is complicated enough. We don’t need more admin.

    • http://newblackwhitelabel armstrong qwele

      The Creator of the universe has never named human race by color. Those who believe that they are white let them take a white cloth hold it next to their face and look at the mirror and those that believe that they are black also take a cloth but a black one hold it next to their face and look at the mirror. The truth for both the so called white and black is what the mirror shows not what they say they are. A place of birth determines who we are and the country of birth is the inheritance of all its inhabitants. The land our forefathers promised is not white, not black,not brown but SOUTH AFRICAN. We have experienced how oppressive a white government could be and now we are witnessing how vindictive and short sighted a black government can be.The truth of the matter is that, the white and black ideology was a system designed to dehumanize and demonize the natives while upgrading the foreigners to a divine kind of human beings. Only a color-blind South African Government can save us from this color obsession mentality.It is clear to all of us that even the rain bow-nation slogan with all its beautiful colors cannot unite us as one nation.It was a compromise based on color obsession,another ideology that has failed to unite us as a nation.In closing I invite all South Africans that are not white, not black, and not brown to join me at Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) (color-blind party) to contest 2014 elections for more sms or call 0848472537.

    • Lisa

      Great piece. Reading all this Dear Black Person, Dear White Person, Listen up White Person, Anaylsis of Whitness etc makes South Africa seem an absolute nightmare. The country is like an abused child that is manic depressive,with a split personality and should be institutionalised. Only your down to earth posts give me hope.

    • Gavin Storrie

      Brendon, you are better than a laxative. Do you really believe that what you write can make any difference to the way humans behave and think? Or are you merely venting your spleen like the oddly silent Dave Harris. Humans add no value to life on Earth. Some humans add economic or possession value to their own lives, usually at the expense of many other humans, but it doesn’t last. 300, 600 or a thousand years of colonialism by whatever group over whatever other group is merely the human way and makes no impression on the planet. Humans are like a malevolent virus that damages every thing it touches. Do what you can. But beware of falling into the “us” versus “them” trap, because we are all shit together.

    • Richard

      @ntozakhona, how about Berbers? They are not what you would call black, but have been around in north Africa for at least ten thousand years that we know of, which is probably longer than blacks have been in southern Africa (before then we know there were Khoi and San, who were a sort of yellow-brown and distinguished themselves from blacks), and predate the Arabs.

    • Roland Postma

      Categorisation is the ultimate excuse to trifle one another, hence individuality triumphs race, yet our patrons on both public and political sphere are deluge to an extent that racialism becomes the centre of their arguments.

      I plea for all to base their arguments on individuals rather than race, as it’s inaccurate and produce hatred among us resolute Africans.

    • ntozakhona

      Richard believe I am also skinny and yellow brown. The San (Basarwa) were an African tribe like any other, with features that reflected their living and mainly inter marrying with each other.

      I could tell a Vhavenda or UmXhosa also by their features although over time these are eroding and we are beginning to, as colonials would say ” look all the same”.

      The false knowledge created by colonialists in their plunder has been discredited by the discovery of the that Mapubhugwe, the Great Zimbabwe amongst others had great civilisations long before the barbarians were able to invade Africa.

      Archeologists and Anthropologists agree that Africans of the South predate all humanity, your statement about Arabs is curious. The Batswana and Basarwa (San) for instance share similar cultural practises than the Batswana tribe share with Amazulu tribes. The Wits University school of Archeology has uncovered in Gauteng the Batswana artefacts that are as old as the Basarwa rock art.

      This more like a debate about who built the pyramids and the removal of noses by colonials from the noses of self potraits and sculptures by ancient Egyptians. Distortions and production of false knowledge by the insanely criminal.

    • ntozakhona

      Brendon if indeed you are trying to unite, your attempts are cosmetic and denialist. How dare you ridicule our pain and humiliation?

      Just imagine an unapolegetic rapist tell the victim that they should forget labels of rapist and victim and telling the latter that she may if she chooses wallow in her own pain if that is what makes her wake up in the morning. Reflect deeply and you will discover that you have lost your humanity.

    • KMS

      THE POINT?
      1) Love God
      2) Love your neighbour

      Who is your neighbour? Guess!
      Who is God? The Confusing Creator who made your infuriating neighbour

    • Mo

      I am Indian. I get along famously with black people from outside SA ( Zimbabwe/ Nigeria/ Mozambique/ Botswana/ Kenya). But I hardly have a black South African friend. Anybody care to tell me why?

    • Brendon Shields

      #gavin storrie – bang on sir! I also believe humans to be by and large a rubbish species in comparison to most others.

      #ntozakhona you have a point RE rapist etc. Truth is my ‘clan’ also endured hardships in history. Show me one that has not. Yet no-one gets rewarded for their victimhood. So just move on because the world does not always want to hear sadarse stories from africa, and this is not even the topic of the article- so you randomly just choose any article to go drape your victimhood over?

    • Richard

      @ntozakhona, the idea that the French removed the nose of the Sphinx is spurious, and has been proven to be false. I recommend you read Roberts’ books on the score, and look at the careful engravings he made. Egypt was long decayed, and its artefacts buried under sand. In fact, huge amounts of damage was caused by Islamic invaders taking exception to what they regarded as pagan artefacts, much like what happened in Afghanistan with the Buddhist statues being destroyed by the Taliban. Apropos Arabs, when Islam erupted from Arabia, the indigenous African Berbers were displaced by colonising Arabs, and are now much reduced in size and range. This is what happend to the San: my peregrinations into the whole of Southern Africa have revealed several rock paintings in which dark Africans, what would be termed Negroid Africans, are shown as having attacked and killed the Khoi and San. The Khoi and San took great pains to represent the people from the north as black in colour, with different physiques, as opposed to their own brown selves, stylised in their art. Later images show whites with guns. In both cases, the narrative of dispossession and obliteration are quite evident. It is important to go to the sources themselves in reaching opinions, and not simply relying on ideologues of whatever hue.

    • onlyoneswann

      Until we have a leader and a “united” ruling party that truly represent ALL South Africans, we will be a bitter nation, slinging sh#t, because it will always be us against them.

    • Brendon Shields

      #onlyoneswan – I dont think its fair to blame social cohesion or the lack of it entirely on a government.

    • onlyoneswann

      We all blame it on the previous one!

    • totius 54

      “what ever rock your boat “. white Afrikaner and proud .None of my family got anything for free . Thus no apology will be fourth coming from me.In stead South Africa should thank me for faithfully paying taxes and being a model citizen.

    • Mr. Direct

      How about tossing all categories out, and just afford everybody equal respect?

    • Brendon Shields

      #Mr. Direct – sure, and I will hug a tree while at it.

      #Totius – Either you are at the wrong blog or you did not understand the article.

      #Nthozakhona – I suggest you have an Xbox version of your revolutionary struggle made – that way you can fight online everyday.

    • Sean

      I assume that this piece was a tongue in cheek ridicule of categorisation, to highlight the bigotry inherent in categorising, but I don’t believe that it achieved its objective.

      There will always be us and them between countries, races, sports team supporters, political party supporters, etc, this is inherent to human nature. When these groups are separated, individuals in each group start to dehumanise the opposite group. This in turn creates the perception that it is more acceptable to treat them badly. Apartheid in SA was an example of an extreme application of this phenomenon. The solution is integration and time spent together in positive pursuits, finding common ground on which to build a relationship and rappore. In other words, make the TV adverts a reality, friends of different racial groups getting together over a beer and braai.

      I lived in Singapore for a while, they experienced race riots in the 70s and 80s, as enclaves of Chinese, Indian and Malay groups had formed in separate areas and friction developed between them. The solution put in place by the Singaporean government (dictators in democratic clothing, but benevolent dictators none the less) was to introduce racial quotas in buildings and housing developments. Today, this racial conflict is a bad memory and Singapore has a peacful, haappy and integrated populace.

    • ntozakhona

      Well said, Sean especially about causes and solutions.