So a couple of days ago I got thinking about Mandela Day and the meaning behind the call to action for 67 minutes as a gesture of solidarity as a global movement…
I found that the call to action is for people to “recognize their individual power to make an imprint and help change the world around them for the better.”
I have found myself in a space with many other people in my surroundings being tired and exhausted of trying to explain why being a person of colour is so tiring and ways in which that needs to change.
I am 27 years old and I feel like I still need to fight everyday against discrimination of my skin colour in my social surroundings, my own indoctrination of who I am, educational institutions, in my career and even my 6 year old’s experience with biases around her skin colour and socio-economic status.
I am not naive that we have a young democracy and that racism is still alive all over the world. I am not trying to solve hundreds of years of issues – my problem is more around the exhausting fight and effort to try and explain to my white counterparts why I am marginalized.
Why I need to make them conscious of their unconscious bias.
Why do people of colour need to start a diversity group for example in a work place, to take up time, effort and tears to try and explain to the rest of an organization that racism can exist not only in a bloody outright manner but that there are modern day tactics that exist that cause people of colour to feel marginalised in a way that we cannot exactly finger point on.
There is a whole internet that can educate people on this, and I am tired of people claiming diversity and non-racism but not making every effort to understand it and have the right representations to accommodate for it.
We go through an entire effort of a fight, a struggle and plot to be treated fairly and equally – something that we are by default entitled to. It angers me that people of colour need to spend their time coming up with emotionally draining explanations for this, where one has to prepare an explanation for days and have a well thought out way of explaining in a way that doesn’t cause white fragility to cry white tears – or get responses like these for example “well that’s shocking, I don’t see any of that being an issue… its probably more of just a “person” thing and not really anything to do with your race.”
(Side note -I just read the paragraph above again and realize that I feel like I am explaining a modern day apartheid of a struggle to justify fair treatment.)
Just because something doesn’t affect them, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And in the words of Eusebius McKaiser – “the idea that we shouldn’t always assume that in any typical South African scenario, that race is not a factor – is to assume that you live in some non-racial nirvana.” In my skin, I am always conscious of it, how is this surprising when all your previous ancestary did was make us conscious of who we are and why we are different to you and why you deserve better?
I have a voice and an eagerness to speak up, but this doesn’t always mean that I am heard without an assumption that I am an angry colored woman, jealous of a white successor (not that I feel treated unfairly but that it MUST be jealousy), that I am far too emotional and should not speak to loud or I’ll get into trouble.
We can choose to ignore it all, pretend that we don’t hear comments or feel treated differently.
Or we can choose to risk it all and speak up for the greater good and fairness, and exhaust ourselves at the same time fighting yet another struggle.
Have we not struggled enough for generations?
So point is, it got me thinking, I could do a lot with that 67 mins for Mandela Day, and more so every other day. But I chose to spend some time and tears to try and write an article of a contribution of a 167 reasons why the born free generation still feels marginalized in everyday situations, where I’ll use my voice to be loud about my consciousness because my heart completely broke when discussing this with my black friend and where her frustrations ended in tears and her telling me “Lisa, I HATE, being black” (and I’ve named this post in honour of your feelings, my friend).
I opened up on a public platform to ask POCs to contribute.
If the purpose of Mandela Day as Nelson said was “it is time for new hands to lift the burdens, it is in your hands now” lets stop being afraid to lose friends over racism or discrimination, lose a job because you’re treated unfairly, be the outcast, or upset your families closed off mindsets.
I aimed for 167 reasons to start waking up consciousness and received 147, but I’ll leave the comments section open to contribute to a couple of thousand more, but lets start here:
- When your white friends say but you’re not really colored coloured so we get along so well.
- When you call out racism but get thrown the ol’ ‘that happened so long ago why you still going on about it’ response
- When the white people you’re in a cooking class with says Woodstock is becoming such a nice environment and they never would have lived there before but it’s becoming so high-class – I live here n hear that a lot
- Not able to mention that I’m coloured or speak about it to certain people because it makes them feel uncomfortable
- When you’re walking in the street with your white colleague who claims they aren’t racist, and there is a black woman who stops and says “excuse me” and your colleague immediately responds – “sorry we don’t have”, but your follow-up reaction was saying how can I help you, and all this black nun wanted to ask was which way a place was.
- “I would date her if she wasn’t coloured”
- “You’re dating a coloured person? No you need a real man” – That is f*cken ridiculous
- When you’re in a meeting and everyone is on their laptops, but only you get thrown with a marker because you’re also looking at your laptop. But you can’t mention that everyone else is white and is not eligible to be treated like a dog, because you’re too scared you won’t get a raise.
- When the pastor asks the choir to sing Happy Birthday, but the choir is black, so they sing it in their native tongue, so the pastor asks them to “sing it properly” when they’re done.
- When you can’t wear your hair curly as it is naturally because then you look coloured
- When you have to wipe your white friends tears and distraught because she was racist to a person of colour, so the person calls her out on it, then you try to explain to her why and she is sad because everyone is just being so insensitive to her feelings.
- When you meet up with a white friend and they start speaking differently to you with a coloured accent, “Awe laaitie”
- When media campaigns are predominantly filled with white faces.
- Getting told by your white male friend “why don’t you get a weave. Then you would have such nice hair. If I was coloured i would do it”
- When you say something and no one pays attention, then the white male in the room says the exact same thing and gets applauded for it
- When you get told not to be too loud about diversity and inclusivity because then people won’t take you seriously at the work place
- (White person) – Getting shut down for trying to make small improvements to making marginalised people feel more included because “it doesn’t solve the whole problem”. So nobody wants to do the work because it’s really hard, but simultaneously viewing it as ‘not real work’. </screams>
- exactly or when they’re too scared to come to the meetings.
- when not being white means you protest because you are lazy
- when white people don’t join the protests because it doesn’t affect them, so they don’t have to…
- unless it’s Zuma Must Fall
- When your kids are playing with a white a kid and the white kid says…Ek speel so lekker met die Kleurlinge…she’s about 3 years old… what does she know about Kleurlinge
- When you’re afraid to speak up because you fear you’ll lose your job
- When you do speak up but get told you’re being insensitive to their feelings
- Or maybe not lose your job, but the person you have an issue with is the same person who affects your leave days, your salary increase your next promotion that you won’t get.
- When you know your white counterparts get paid more than you do, and there are immaterial reasons for that i.e experience, education…which you also have.
- When your white male counterpart with less experience and no qualifications gets paid more than you
- (White person) When you’re discouraged from speaking about your salary because you’ll realize how unfairly people are paid, and people who are paid better don’t want to talk about it because they’re embarrassed even though it will help you. And this trap is difficult to escape from because companies want to make you an offer based on your previous salary to save themselves having to pay everyone fairly.
- When you are black, just black.
- When your white friend doesn’t understand how and why you have “black tax”
- When your white friend doesn’t understand why the cleaner is always late…because public transport.
- When you are actually hired for BEE points…Lol!
- “The blacks shouldn’t sit together in the office, they are planning a strike or something”
- Don’t speak in your home language to each other, speak English. But Afrikaans is allowed in the office.
- When you just can’t prove that you are being discriminated against, because you know, we always pull the race card even when unnecessary.
- Whenever you speak to your coloured colleague someone always comments saying you two look like you are up to something always
- Planning a strike, because that’s what you darkies do
- When your white leads tell you there is no pay gap. Sure, i’ll take your word for it
- I have ‘friends’ who insist the gender pay gap is a myth, I don’t even understand how they arrive at that conclusion
- Show me the payslips!!!!!
- When your white seniors will not defend you, even though they know you put your blood, sweat and tears in everything you do
- When your 7 year old kid doesn’t want to go to Spur anymore, mommy might be attacked by a big white man.
- Because, white privilege. Period.
- When even the black HR person is powerless! Whoooooo!
- When I’m asked why I don’t have a weave and a blesser, I look like the type.
- When you go to a church that says they are having a “local” day, so they have a bunch of white people greeting you in front saying “Awe” and a poster of a coloured guy with “Aweh”. Because that is not cultural appropriation and every coloured person culturally says Awe.
- Uh.. remind me again why i should come home? Haha these comments make my chest hurt..
- Being marginalized by your own mind due to the lack of growth in rural areas in the Western Cape and, many societies being kept back by supremacist movements like the DA( ruling party in WC) keeping a working nation backward by still payments done on.
- This made me cry, I can’t.
- Those poor communities are kept back and nobody blinks an eye……
- “You went to a public school, oh wow, I wouldn’t have thought”
- “you don’t sound coloured”
- When you’re sitting there awkward as your white colleague explains to a non-white client that their husband’s job is “making furniture for the blacks”.
- When there have been strikes the whole year for institutional racism, fees must fall, gentrification, racist based rapes and murders, but you only get a day off to go march for Zuma Must Fall because white money is in trouble.
- When you have to delete comments on a Facebook post because you’re scared
- When you’re at CT Airport walking through security, with white people behind and in front you but you must step aside for a random security check. Only you. And nobody wants to stand close to you after that.
- When your fellow white colleague wants to explain how much she advocates for feminism and feels like she can relate to your adversity as a woman, but doesn’t see the intersectionality that makes my adversity absolutely foreign to her. Because she’s still more superior, but hey thanks for understanding how marginalized I am, kinda.
- When you’ve been working 36 hours overtime for the month and explain that your kid doesn’t know how to speak to you without whispering to you “mommy are you on a call”…. then you get given parenting advice and told to look at your superiors crazy calendar to feel better about your hours. Yet you just can’t explain how condescending and unfair that was.
- All the while not being paid that superiors same salary.
- When your child cannot be accepted at a “white” school because you don’t live in the area, but we say we have moved beyond inequality. So off your child must go to a school that will keep them confined to a box.
- How come you have two children at such a young age, you blacks are “open” hey?
- When you’re a coloured girl and drive a GTI so a white person has to tune you in an Indian accent.
- At a white friends braai “ will you cook pap for us?”
- When you’re a coloured girl and you drive a nice car, so other coloureds ask you are you “smokelling” or is your daddy a “slams” because even we don’t believe that we can achieve having nice things by ourselves.
- When your white friends think that by being friends with a person of colour they are such darling human beings with such open minds because being friend’s with a person of colour is progressive
- and gets used as a token shield so they can say racist things, but think they’re not racist because they have non white friends
- When you date a white afrikaans guy and get told it is against the bible for white people to date someone who is not white
- When you date a white guy and his parents say that you only want to be with him so you can fall pregnant with a white baby
- When you’re eating dinner at (ex) families house and someone says the “that kaffir in the yard must finish cleaning or he will get moered”, then someone responds “shame “hy is net a mens”… and the response is “hy is a kaffir, hy is nie a mens”. And you can’t reason what you should do first, answer your childs questions on mommy what is a kaffir or cut this people out of your life with a butcher’s knife.
- When you date a white guy and his parents tell him you’re uneducated (with a honours in comp sci)
- You can never be too educated then hey, that is sad and funny at the same time
- They were convinced I had a PHD in opening my legs because of the colour of my skin.
- When a 5-year-old coloured boy around you is asked, what he wants to be when is older, and he responds he wants to be married to a white girl with blonde hair. And the parents say it’s just a “preference” it’s not racism. Because they didn’t pre-define for him what is best for him.
- When you’re amongst a group of friends and the conversation is around how they can never bring a coloured person home because they stink and are filthy.
- When you go on a work trip with two other white people, and there are 3 rooms, two of them are amazing and the other one is real crappy. So there isn’t even a discussion on who gets the crappy room – you just go there in any case because you can’t make this about race.
- When you get told by your white friend that you shouldn’t be so hard on white people because where they come from all the non white people are all the bad things
- When you’re the only POC in a meeting, and then get asked a question and while answering you get told to shut up because you want to have an opinion on everything. And you’re not sure if they wanted the answer or just a chance to show everyone else that they love overpowering the same but racially different person in the room.
- When you report a sexual harassment case, and someone harasses you again after but you rather don’t say anything because then they probably think the problem is you.
- when you get told by your white friend that you shouldn’t advocate for black lives matter because it is reverse racism. ha!
- when you yourself as a person of colour grew up with a racist mindset because what was taught to you is that white is right.
- When there is no woman of colour in management
- When you’re pregnant and someone tells you I hope she looks like you so that she won’t be too dark like her daddy.
- when you interested in a black guy and your white friend tells you not to pursue it because they think differently to ‘us’
- When the child in your class tells you that the only reason your family looks so dark is because your mother was raped by a black monkey
- When Jesus gets portrayed as a white male
- When your daughter cries for blonde hair, because that is what princesses look like mommy.
- Dude! My daughter hates her black hair, it’s not like Sarah’s
- this breaks my heart.
- When your gym predominantly hires white people, projects whiteness, protects white interest and only trebles at a heteronormative and white level.
- (Not even our gyms are safe, yet we assume our economy and infrastructure is)
- They’re not racist, they only staring at you cos you’re beautiful.
- “I don’t have inherent power over a woman!” says a white European male.
- “The people in the streets just shout ‘ANC! ANC!’ All the time” – White. Female. German. Narrating her white. Male. South African. colleagues words.
- When you are constantly asked if you can swim.
- When you’re told that diversity groups are just complaining sessions, the workplace is professional and we should just get on with the more important things like the work.
- When you go on a date to a well established fancy restaurant, and the waiter is coloured and conducts himself so professionally to the white people next to you. But comes to your table, and says “awe, what can I get you”.
- When racists see the mention of their racism as an attack rather than an opportunity to learn.
- When you can’t get a reservation at a nice restaurant in Cape Town, over the phone, cos your accent is too plat.
- When you’re a 26 year old, coloured, divorced female. And your uncle tells you that’s what make desperate jintos (translation – prostitutes), thanks Uncle.
- When white people don’t understand their privilege.
- When you’re standing at the bar at Arcade, and the bartender serves all the white females who came after you, first. So you just wait your turn, because otherwise you’ll get kicked out for causing a scene.
- (White person) When you go to the jewellery store with the in-laws and the security guard and shop assistant follow them around and not you, even though they’re way richer, better dressed and look a lot more respectable.
- When marginalized groups have internalized their racism.
- When they increased the tax on those high earners and the only people in your company really upset about the new laws are white males.
- When we, as POC’s are so accustomed to blaming ourselves and pointing the finger our own way, we call ourselves racists.
- When a white person talks about the people of colour in the office as “them” and assumes that because you are also white you 1)know who she’s referring to and 2) shares her generalisations. And you aren’t confused for as long as you should be.
- The second I am in a conversation with another white person and the words they or them come up, I know that conversation is going downhill fast.
- When white people refer to POC’s as “them”.
- When white people think “The Blacks” is an okay term to use around any got damn person.
- When we mention our partners “fair skin”, “straight hair” and “blue/green eyes” as indicators of eligibility.
- When POC’s get a white partner, start hanging out with their white friends… i’ll leave that there. We know what happens next.
- “No i don’t work here” Shopping while black.
- Telling poor folks what they can and cannot spend their money on.
- Telling beggars to “get a job” when we sitting at a 30%+ unemployment and not even skilled folk can catch a break.
- Not understand that “poor” today is as a result of colonialism by the white man. That the welfare system is set up to keep the “underprivileged” oppressed. *understanding
- Thinking Tertiary Education is the only marker of intelligence.
- Wow. Thank you. This post hit home so hard.
- When you live in the ghetto and get told to “get over apartheid and stop being lazy”, even though you work your ass off every day
- When you’re told “back in my day, we bought a house and got a job”, even though money was worth more and houses were cheaper to buy
- When playing in the road leads the neighbour to shout that “you’re making the area look like a township”
- When someone you’ve recently met and have barely spoken to asks “so, like, what are you?” Uh a human
- When people think that’s a compliment to be asked that
- When you are quiet in a meeting not because you have nothing to say but because your accent sounds embarrassingly flat in contrast to everyone else’s
- Internalizing the idea that my flat accent comes across as uneducated and therefore a cause for shame
- And when you feel you need to change the way that you speak for people to take you seriously. Speak more white, means you’re an educated coloured.
- When your child doesn’t get into schools you stay about 10km or less from. But those schools are filled with white kids that stay in Fish-hoek
- And the schools will never expose their actual selection criteria because that is where institutionalized racism is at its worst. We will never grow past it because they keep our kids limited.
- When you overhear mother’s talking about the conduct of kids (all playing together, climbing on the play apparel, throwing the balls at each other) in a play pen these moms refer to their kids as “energetic” and “active” however all the kids of colour are referred to as “unruly”, ” wild” and “undisciplined”
- When you tell people you’re from Africa and they don’t understand why you’re not black. Alternatively, when people hear you’re African and automatically think you’re unruly, wild and uneducated.
- When I get told “you’re not really coloured though”
- When tourists can buy our land and we don’t even own our own homes
- When you’re wearing a SuperDry jacket and your white colleague asks if its a fake.
- When you report your racist colleague and then get told something will be done about it, but never hear about it again.
- When you wondering if you didn’t get a decent raise because the person you reported was your manager.
- When you get told you’re too emotional whenever you respond to a question, because no coloured woman can speak with passion, we must always be perceived as aggressive and angry.
- When you get asked to show your new white male colleague on your team how to do things, then a few months later he becomes your superior.
- When you have to call your white friends to explain to your white racist friends, why they are racist, because they can’t receive it from you.
- When your family celebrates your cousins girlfriend because she has straight hair.
- When you hear coloured and black students complaining about the fees must fall movement as an annoyance, and they do not understand it.
- When you’re out clubbing and you know that as a coloured girl the if a white guy hits on you, he is most likely foreign, because chances are low with South African white guys.
- When you hear your foreign colleague tells your coloured colleague that your child is a Munt. (Translation Kaffir)
- When you feel more guilty when there is a white beggar at the robot, like you need to apologize to him or something.
- When your white colleague tries to comfort you for no reason by always talking about their black friend, like okay I know you have a POC friend, why do you need to whisper each time “you know she’s black, right?”
- When your white colleague makes you feel bad for talking about race because “they’re on their own journey” with racism.
- When you have already bought 6 copies of Eusebius Mc Kaiser’s “Run Racist, Run” for people close to you to understand modern-day racism.
- When white people equate privilege to money, and tell you they didn’t grow up rich so how are they more privileged than you are but they don’t understand that just by being born, they are privileged because of their skin.
147. When you’re shit scared about posting this blog post.
Thanks to everyone who contributed.