i asked me friend Terence if he would share some thoughts about the concept of ‘The Better Coloured’ and he came up with these:
“Yeah, but you’re one of the good ones”
My friend and I were standing under a tree trying to escape the summer heat during break-time. He had been talking about those “gangsters” and “kak okes” of the school – the Coloureds.
Luckily for me, I, with my meekness and my white accent cultivated over a decade of previous Model C schooling, managed to achieve the one thing that all coloureds aspire to: being accepted by a pimply, D-team rugby playing, C-average-achieving, weekend alcoholic teenager.
What a freaking relief. Of course, by his standard the “good ones” didn’t include my family, my friends, or any other person of colour I knew. My pass didn’t extend that far.
It meant that I was invited to all my white friends’ homes – even the rich private school girls we knew. It was a point of pride that every mother commented on how I “spoke so well” while their eyes lingered over my pool-boy skin tone. It was only later, after the warm blanket of naivety fell, that I realized what those looks meant and why I got extra-long hugs.
I thought I had achieved the ultimate in white acceptance, until in my matric year, when I was just starting to begin to work out what it means to be a coloured who doesn’t “sound” coloured, when I was given an honour fair greater than “being one of the good ones”:
“Honestly, I don’t think of you as a coloured”
Now, I have been told that I have to explain why this is insulting. Seriously? I seriously have to do that? Still?
It’s like you people aren’t trying to act right.
Frankly, I don’t know where to begin. I know I want to begin with a middle finger, but that’s not going to help anyone. So let me start by telling you what I hear when you, a white person, say these things:
1) You speak so well
Did I just come off a stage after giving an award-winning and inspiration speech that brought you to tears? No? Then what you are saying is that I speak better than what you expected. And what you expected is a stereotypical coloured way of speaking. And that the way a stereotypical coloured speaks is less than the way YOU speak.
So hey, you’ve just managed to insult my entire family and race in four words. Good job.
2) You’re one of the good ones
Are the vast majority of coloured people “bad” (whatever that means)? If you are white person, I probably know more coloured people than you do so let me use my expertise to answer that: No. Differentiating me from other coloureds says the opposite.
3) I don’t think of you as a coloured
Okay. Surely I don’t have to explain this one. Seriously?
I am not ashamed of being coloured. Actually, it’s a part of my heritage that I am quite proud of, thanks. So please hold off telling me I’m not one.
All of this boils down to one simple fact. When you tell me that I’m a better coloured, what you’re really saying is that I’m almost, almost, almost good enough to be white. And that’s what we should all be striving for, right?
Now…about that middle finger.