So my name is Ipeleng. I’m born Tswana, raised in a Setswana-speaking household. Although I suck at history, I love my heritage, my lineage, my language and my family. Flipside. I’m not fully fluent in my mother tongue, I have a lot of stereotypically white interests, I love European languages, and – this pisses people off the most – I’m attracted to white guys. Allow me to spit my thoughts on this race thing.
I’ve always wondered about dealing with black identity in South Africa, especially as a Tswana girl who is predominantly surrounded by and associating with white people. A dilemma I’m often faced with and profoundly bothered by is the question of where one draws the line and calls people out. What can and can’t people say? Obvious racist slurs, names, stereotypes, yes. But what about the subtle stuff? And moreover, what about the rude shit I agree with? In the targeted discussions, sure, a lot comes out and one can only hope that feelings are clarified. But in jest, so much is said that makes me go, “Okay so would you be able to say that to my mother?” because I genuinely wonder why our levels of ‘okay’ vary so widely.
What I often come across, coming from the background that I have and with my personhood, is comparison. “Why aren’t all black people like you?” Or following something that prompts my protest: “No no, not you, bro, you’re different.” Now I’m very non-confrontational, to a fault – if you need me, I’ll have my head in the sand – so often when I hear something like this I’ll roll my eyes and passively admonish. But both in these times and when I come at it strong, I want to know: why in some situations does my race come to (general reference) your mind? Listening to music, sitting and chatting about nothing related, my work ethic – I find my being black pops up. But in that jest is the undertone of a kind of prejudiced curiosity or (for lack of a better word) appreciation? Which I can only interpret as offending on purpose meet the pretense of a joke as opposed to offending by accident through straight asking.
On the flip side, I wonder why in this day, being hateful toward all white people has become a new requirement of being a black person. Without ignoring the obvious prevalence of racism, passive or active, standard or reverse, it feels like a black person who doesn’t treat every single white person defensively is siding with injustice. I’m a happy-go-lucky pessimoptimist (yep, I’m both) who takes people as they come individually as best I can. But it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain this when the world is tangibly polarizing. Love one side, hate another. Call me utopian, but I find it stupid and tiring. Hate the racist, not the race.
Pretty much, I just wanna know when a black person will be a black person and a white person will be a white person. And when they can be astronauts, criminals, priests and prostitutes, without the first thing coming to mind being how well they fit into the racial mould we all carry in our heads. The answer to that is probably never, but a “coconut” can dream, eh?