I ended off my last article by stating that we are currently searching for our racial identities with our eyes wide shut. Feeling through the darkness and hoping that we grasp a profound meaning for what it means to be black. It is through a failure of adequate critique of black consciousness that we have found ourselves in a society that is constantly evolving around the idea of what it means to be black in a post-1994 South Africa. We have not challenged the idea of whether untamed sporadic self-identification as a black individual is better than controlled systemic change based on founding principles of what it entails to be a black person in South Africa.
In fact, I always find it odd when black females say that they are a “proud black woman”. By not considering the proud woman part in order to avoid a feminist vs post-feminist debate that will most likely occur; I want to focus on what it really means to be proudly black when we have so many variations that we self-identify with. Is there a central canon of what it means to be black? An archetype figure that all other versions of blackness emanates from? Even if there was, do we really even need it? Do we need to live in a society in where the colour of our skin is constantly aligned with our culture and history as if they are one in the same? A society where our skin colour determines and creates the character of being we want to be? Should our skin pigmentation dictate our actions and reactions to either situations or other people?
Would you look down on me if I were to say I don’t want to be a proud black person and just want to be proudly me? People will probably say I’m abandoning my race and therefore my culture. But to those people I would say I’m transcending race and embracing my culture. I’m embracing the way I relate to my culture in a changing world. I don’t want to be the right type of black person in the right type of situation. I want to be the right type of person that I am proud of in any situation I find myself in.
Steve Biko will probably turn in his grave if he were to hear that I no longer believe in the concept of black consciousness. Not because of my lack of belief in it but because I don’t believe the black consciousness movement has evolved enough to deal with the complexities of our society. Black consciousness is based on a foundation of a canon-like type of black or rather an origin black and how one needs to free their mind in order to free their black identity.
But in a country in which more and more black people are freeing themselves or are born free from the shackles of mental oppression based on race, this central blackness has begun to lose its relevance. I say this because, in the context of South Africa, even though I acknowledge I have been disadvantaged by Apartheid, the decisions I make don’t reflect it. If they did I would constantly be reflecting on the idea of whether I am disadvantaged because I’m black or I’m black because I’m disadvantaged. I believe I’ve been made disadvantaged because of a system and not because I’m black and because I think like that I believe I’m transcending race and racial constructs.
I don’t identify as the token black at Tiger Tiger but my presence there does not mean I’m any less black. Eating olives and sushi doesn’t make me any less of a person in any sort of way. In fact this train of thought extends to my vote this year which won’t be determined by the colour of my skin, but will be determined by the will I have to vote beyond that barrier (and whoever you have mentally decided I’m voting for will tell you a lot about your own racial thinking).This transcendence leads me to acknowledge that my admission into UCT was certainly determined by an application system that favours my race but that by no means indicates that it will be an application that defines me.
So I have decided that maybe it’s best to move away from race being the defining feature of my life because society says it should be.
Our society will become richer by moving away from race as a contextualizing instrument that determines who we are and what we do with our lives. I believe as time goes this shift from race is inevitable, but that shift will require enough black people to step up to the plate. We need to become a modern day version of W.E.B Dubois’ “Talented Tenth” (ironic as it may sound). I don’t want to be the right kind of black person in the right situation. I want to be the kind of black person who is relevant to me and my surrounds. I want to be comfortable in my skin and not dictated by it. I want to be searching for my identity with my eyes wide open and critiquing myself unashamedly in order to continue growing and creating an identity created by me. I want to live a life free from my racial cage.
Transcending my racial cage by Rekgotsofetse Chikane