“I HAVE black friends”: a phrase that some white people wear as armour before entering into a racial battlefield, hoping it will save them from their history. It doesn’t. Instead it reminds us that black people are tokens in the claim for racial neutrality.
Apartheid’s residue left a culture of people struggling to reconcile what it means to be black with the people they really are. Some even reject this compromise, not wanting to identify with blackness because our history is so loaded with injustices. They do not want to wear the trauma of our past.
We can all agree that apartheid should never have happened, but it did and now we are dealing with its ramifications the best way we know how. And that means owning our blackness.
Being black is one of the most magical things you can be. Being aware of your skin colour means having a deep understanding of the injustices that our forebears suffered under apartheid, despite how foreign that time seems to us now. This gives me a greater awareness of the inequalities we face on a day-to-day basis, even in a supposedly non-racial South Africa.
Black Twitter has afforded us a culturally loaded space where black people converge to launch a coup d’ètat against white supremacy and to find humour in the worst situations. This free space to discuss issues is perhaps one of the best things about being black.
Using social media as a platform to express our hurts, fears and anger against racism, we make the decision to claim our struggle, label it and place it accordingly, without the misdirection of white supremacy.
Our melanin gives us the ability to soak in the natural goodness of the sun and colour ourselves with the light of the world, showing off the beauty of our skin tone. Our blackness affords us a space in two different worlds. We are able to go from suburb to township and understand our positions in these two worlds without being restricted by our own blackness.
Admittedly, ours is a society with people from different backgrounds and with different experiences of race and racism. It is part of our diversity that we are able to claim our own identities and celebrate them without judgment or fear.
Being black should therefore not be a default condition where we fear claiming our blackness because it’s loaded by stereotypes. We should rather marvel at this melanin cloak and wear it with pride.
When we deny being black we are in essence rejecting the part of ourselves that affords us the sanctity of knowing.This knowing allows us to see past the hidden agenda of white entitlement which caused disillusioned black people to believe whiteness was something people should aspire to.
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said: “Racism should have never happened and you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.” But race denialism … well, that is an even worse atrocity.