People who think that certain races are naturally more violent, more intelligent, racist, cheat, or more creative, have clearly never seen a Jamaican Chinese saying “Ja Maan”, a white Indian saying “Namaste”, or a Pearl Thusi saying “Mamela Sisi, UNGA-NGI-JWA-YELI”, writes Sipho Mda.
I am sure you can guess by my name and surname that I am probably black, I am. Now, am I proud of being black? To be honest, it’s neither here nor there! What exactly do we mean when we say we are proud of our skin colour? I will add; I only hear this from my fellow black people. I have never heard a Chinese person saying “I am a proud Chinese”, or a coloured, white or Indian. Please don’t get me wrong, I understand we stress our pride mostly because we have lived and we still live in a world that puts very little value on our skin pigmentation. Hence an outcry such as “black lives matter”, because they do, like all lives.
Where am going with this? Personally, I place absolutely no value on race, mine or any other person’s race for that matter. All it is to me is part of my appearance; it is no different to my height nor my size (weight). A huge problem with our world is that we tend to place way too much value a person’s skin colour. People actually believe we are different human beings by virtue of the colour of our skin. I am convinced there are people who believe there is blue blood, yellow blood and red.
Does my skin colour really mean anything about the person I am inside? Do some people really believe I might be far sighted, more intelligent, more polite, and kind, all because of my skin colour? The recent protests against a black principal at a school are a great example, how can his skin colour be a point that deserves a mention on the list of reasons why he may not qualify for this job? A school teacher telling black students they are only intelligent because they sit next to white students? It is mind boggling! My skin colour and your skin colour is nothing but a description of what you look like.
I once discussed interracial dating with a guy I had met on a plane. His view was that he had no problem with interracial dating at all; his only problem was the kids being a mixed race. I ask myself, so what?! So what if their kids are a mixed race? Does it mean they will be different people even though they are raised by the same parents? The answer is a straight no. All else equal! Michael Jackson did not become any less or more intelligent, and not any less or more polite after he changed from being black to being white. People criticize some girls for bleaching their skin. So what?! Making my skin lighter or darker is all cosmetic; it is my preferred appearance. Thanks to modern medicine I now can decide if want to live with the ample lips I inherited from my parents, I can also choose if I want my skin to be darker or lighter. White people do it all the time, they tan, and no one judges them for altering their APPEARANCE! Most importantly, it says nothing about the people they are.
Yes it is true that people of a certain area or a certain race may sometimes have common traits. However those traits have absolutely nothing to do with their appearance, their skin colour. They mainly talk to the culture that is created in those communities, or by people of that skin colour in those areas, culture! Culture is learnt! Any stereotypes you may have about people of certain races, some of them true, are all influenced by the society around us. We are not born with certain traits by virtue of our appearance. The Chinese are a great example, the Chinese are generally known to be a very intelligent race, again it has absolutely nothing to do with their skin colour, it is cultural – it is learnt.
The Chinese language, Mandarin, is an extremely difficult language to learn and write, Chinese kids get to learn this from a very young age. The mandarin letters have their own logic altogether, and, while the English language has 26 letters of the alphabet, mandarin has over 3000 letters. They are not born intelligent by virtue of their skin colour; it is a trait that is learnt. It is also true that as the black race we have a lot of ground to cover from past injustices; we come from a world where we were intentionally and systematically denied an education. We are, in fact, a wonderful illustration of my point, now that we are granted SOME ACCESSES to education, we are moving and shaking the spaces we touch.
The day we stop seeing a difference and making assumptions about people by virtue of their skin colour, will be the day I call International Freedom Day. We are the people we are not because of our skin colour, but our upbringing and our surroundings. There is only one race in this world, and that is the human race. We have way more in common than our little differences, yet we treat each other as different species. Men and women of different races from different places all around the world, have the exact same insecurities and fears. Right now, as I write this, there is a couple in Qwaqwa and a couple in Mumbai, fighting over the exact same issue just in different circumstances. There is a mother and a child in Qumbu, and another mother and a child in Berlin, fighting over the exact same issue in this one moment, we are all the same. Our skin colour is just a description of what we look like.
People who think that certain races are naturally more violent, more intelligent, racist, cheat, or more creative, have clearly never seen a Jamaican Chinese saying “Ja Maan”, a white Indian saying “Namaste”, or a Pearl Thusi saying “Mamela Sisi, UNGA-NGI-JWA-YELI!!”. These traits are all learnt! Your skin colour has as much of an influence on the person you are, as your height. Personally, I am proud of my race only as much as I am proud of being a South African, or simply being a human being. I am a human being before I am a man, I am a human being before I am a South African, and I am a human being before I am black. We are all human beings, and for all of us, our blood is red!
Sipho Mda is a staunch feminist. Also an activist of equality across gender, sexual orientation, race and nationality.