i was chatting to a black grade six girl yesterday afternoon as we struggled through some Afrikaans homework together about Vasco de Gama.

It was all going pretty well until she turned to me and asked me, “Do you like being umlungu [white person]?”

“Why do you ask?” i inquired.

“Well you know, all the umlungus have the nice cars and lots of money.”

My heart dropped. i decided to deflect the question a little.

“Well, what do you like about being a Xhosa? [she had referred to herself as “a Xhosa” so i reflected that back to her]

She responded with a negative thing.

i pushed the question back to her, “No, no, i asked what is one thing that you like about being a Xhosa?”

She gave me a positive answer.

i looked at her and answered her original question, “The things you like about umlungus are one of the things that make me not like it so much. Which is why i prefer to see myself as African, because if we are all African then hopefully we can work together to make sure that everyone has enough.”

We returned to our struggling Afrikaans and something about “neutmuskaat en kaneel”.

Oh for the day when a young Xhosa girl will not look to an umlungu as a standard to be aimed at or desired.