In case you were not aware, the white nation is dead in South Africa. It does not exist, not anymore.

In fact, there has not been a time in over three centuries when so-called white people have been so on the defensive and their superiority complex shattered. After all, the only thing that made most of them arrogant or think they were superior was their supposed “whiteness” or skin colour. I know you will want to lecture me about unfair generalisation but, hey, just wait.

It would seem that in the so-called New South Africa there is no white person who is proud of being “white”, whatever that means. In fact, the notion of whiteness has always been a myth. Whites are not and have never been a homogeneous group.

Over the last two decades of democracy and freedom, far too few of them define themselves in terms of their race, language group or even the much vaunted Afrikaner tribe. If truth be told, the Afrikaner nation is dead. It had to die for a more inclusive and all-embracing society to emerge.

According to Development Indicators, less than 9% of people in South Africa use race as a self-descriptor. Presumably, the number of whites who gleefully gloat in their whiteness must be very low. Instead, together with so-called black counterparts who had to fight, suffer imprisonment, exile and murder, there are now over 52% of the national population that identifies itself as South African citizens above all else. No matter how we want to look at it, this signals the death of the white race.

Thus the hurling of accusations and allegations against white people in this New South Africa – a favourite past-time among bitter and angry blacks – is aimed at a dying or non-existent group. If whites continued to exist in this country, millions of them would have come forward to plead guilty for economic inequality, dispossession and land loss in the country. Many more would have come forward to confess to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

So, this notion of whiteness is, largely, based on assumptions. We do need to critically re-examine what we mean by white, if that notion is still applicable in a non-racial society.

For a very long time, “white” people were recognised by their physical appearance. But this has radically changed in this new society in transition as it has been proven, for instance, that many whites have African DNA. This makes them … er, black or African, if you like.

I don’t believe that whites are attracted to each other because of their skin colour. Presumably, just like other human beings, it is more about interpersonal chemistry or shared values. But we cannot overlook factors like geographical proximity and fear of the unknown among them. Also, many are still afraid of venturing outside the self-imposed laager. The fact is, many people who consider themselves “whites” are self-delusional and living in the laager in their heads. They find the New South Africa quite bewildering, confusing and frightening. It is something that whites, especially in this country, have not been prepared for.

In our efforts at nation building and social cohesion, it would be most appropriate to see so-called whites as South Africans, first. Everything else is secondary. What this means is that if you are a South African citizen who owes allegiance to the country you can go on to be anything else that you choose to be. This is a free country. Also, there is absolutely nothing special about being so-called white.

The last 20 years have further splintered the heterogeneous classes or groups of so-called white identity. If you think about it, whites have always been divided and disunited on the basis of language, religion, regionalism, origin, class, educational status, material accumulation, geographical location and many other attributes. Even the Afrikaner nation comprised of the Dutch, French, German and other little European groups, if you will.

What we need to acknowledge and recognise is that there are no longer any group rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. As a result, the fragmentation of the white community has been brought to the fore. Okay, if this so-called whiteness has ever existed, it has always been different, diverse and multiple.

The new forms or identities of whiteness espoused by Solidarity or Freedom Front Plus, for example, are not exhaustive. They are an example of the diversity and complexity of whiteness. There is not one but many white identities, if we must entertain the false notion.

To put it more strongly, there is no single individual – including FW de Klerk, Pieter Mulder, Helen Zille or anyone who considers themselves a white leader – who can tell us what whiteness is or how it is to be represented. In fact, blackness has ceased to exist. Or, at least, it has splintered into diverse categories that do not necessarily meet.

For the most part, the last two decades have witnessed the absorption of so-called whites into a New South African nation that is grappling with its new identity. As a result, whites have integrated into the global village with new and innovative lifestyles, outlooks and values. This simply discourages the determination of whiteness based on race or skin colour.

Needless to say, in a non-racial country it is backward and primitive to hold on to and promote identity based on race or ethnicity. Yet much of the inability of so-called whites to take their rightful place in a non-racial society, that which prevents them from cultivating and promoting human identity is this misguided importance place on racial or ethnic identity. But that is dead.

It is time that we acknowledge, recognise and reassert that whites are not and have never been a homogeneous group. This was merely Hendrik Verwoerd’s delusional political strategy inspired by Hitlerite tendencies to organise whites against an imaginary “swaart gevaar”. It is so primitive, backward, outdated and not quite practical in today’s world for anyone to think of themselves as “white”.

If you thought you were white, liberate yourself, now. You can choose to be anything else you want to be but white. Whites belong to the 1900s. We are moving towards African Agenda 2063. You can be part of it or left behind.



Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic, columnist and civil servant. He lives in Midrand.

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