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Judge me by character, not race

By Bojosi Morule | May 27, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

PHILOSOPHERS have for ages grappled with the question: If a tree falls in a wood and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

PHILOSOPHERS have for ages grappled with the question: If a tree falls in a wood and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Well, let's update this existential question to reflect present-day South Africa: If a black South African has a top-notch education, speaks flawless English and lives in an affluent neighbourhood, is that person still black?

Decades ago Steve Biko led the Black Consciousness Movement, which advocated the psychological liberation of Africans. Biko believed psychological liberation was more important than physical liberation.

If you are indoctrinated with the concept of inferiority atbirth, that is what you will believe for the rest of your life.

Today, black people are still in psychological chains. I encounter it everywhere I go. I have been told by people of all races that I am not black, that I am not black enough or that I am a coconut.

Proficiency in English counts against one, as does receiving quality education and living in the suburbs. Basically, anything associated with success. So, being black is mutually exclusive of being successful.

From a white perspective this sentiment is pre-empted by: "Don't take this the wrong way, but you're clever and you speak well. You seem more ... white."

Is there any other way to take it?


I find it ironic that the struggle, and ultimate freedom, has culminated in the blind ambition for everything that is non-African. Just think of the stigma attached to traditional black customs, such as:

l A black man's rite of passage through circumcision is seen as being barbaric;

l The ritualistic slaughter of animals being misconstrued for cruelty to animals; and

l The belief in our ancestors being labelled outmoded and superstitious.

Seemingly, one cannot be African and enlightened in the same breath. So, what is being black?

Is it about skin pigmentation, language, culture, socio-economic status, or all of the above - or none of the above?

I don't know. And, more importantly, I don't care. The boundaries are shifting. Definition escapes us. And coconuts are just hairy fruits which grow on palm trees. American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr said: "I have a dream ... that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character."

I am a child of that dream.

l Bojosi is among the top three winners from the Free State leg of the Sowetan and Anglo American Young Communicators Awards.


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