Monthly Archives: March 2015

A coloured kid: a child of the in-between

This is a journey of exploration that began in earnest in June 2013, and is one that is ongoing. I do not have many answers, because in many ways the questions themselves are still unfolding.
But I take courage from Rainer Maria Rilke, who wrote,

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

I also take courage in the belief that I am not alone on this journey, and am curious to hear and engage with others asking similar questions.
Yesterday my mom asked me why I wanted to write about this stuff, and my reply was that I wanted to start a conversation. I want to engage with others in my community who are asking the same questions, and who are wanting to participate in creating a South Africa where all can flourish.
And so I wrote this post. hard as it was. I was scared to put these thoughts out in the public domain, because I was afraid of the response, or lack of response, that this kind of post could generate. But I do not want fear to silence me. So I wrote this for me, and for those who want to engage in this journey with me.
Here is my offering, my jumbled up thoughts that have come from months of reflection and a short, but life-changing, conversation with my mom, who began to pass on aspects of my oral history.

I am a child of the in-between,
A child whose story includes a mixed bag of ancestry
Some known, some unknown
Ancient identities owned, other identities silenced;
A German great grandfather and a great grandmother who came from St Helena
That accounts for the
caramel-colour skin,
a kind-of cream colour skin
And chocolate brown skin of my dad and his sisters;
An Irish great great grandfather
And a descendant of an affair between a French nobleman,
one of the French Hugenots,
and one of his maids,
A child of their descendants that took on the surname “Noble”.
I am a child
Of a community
That lost
And gained;
Where some siblings were classified white, the others coloured;
Families torn apart, sometimes willingly, sometimes not
Where family visits could happen only after dark;
Whose people were displaced from their land by those of fairer skin
And where some of these communities
were resettled in places
from which those of darker skins
were displaced to areas of lesser value.
I am a child of a people
Whose career options were restricted by their skin colour
But were still offered better options than those relegated to working as maids or miners.
I am a child
Of an education system that was designed to produce only semi-skilled labour
A system that was in between one
that enabled a people to develop in superior ways
and another that was designed for those deemed good enough only for unskilled labour.
I am a child
Of a community who used to be
Not white enough
And now are not black enough;
A child of a people
who were thought not to experience emotions like white people do,
But also a child of a people
who look(ed) down on those
whose skin was much darker than ours
and whose hair was not as straight as ours,
A child of a people who lamented their lack of equality with whites
but felt that at least they were better than blacks.
I am a coloured woman
Who grew up in a middle class community,
Who had access to good nutrition, sanitation, indoor plumbing, good education,
Whose parents encouraged critical thinking,
Whose mother attained Masters degree and a dad whose intelligence did not rely on university qualifications,
Who was surrounded by family and friends who nurtured and encouraged me to become the best that I can be.
And yet
I am also a child that is only now beginning to own my in-between identity,
Is only now beginning to earnestly explore the fact that
I am a child
Of a people that were both oppressed and oppressor,
And with that understanding
To explore what that means
For me
And for my people
And our role in bringing about a South Africa that is characterized by reconciliation, restitution, justice and equality.