The Handshake – An intentional African

Upon entering the church yesterday morning, the steward at the door shook my hand. But the handshake was not the “normal” or “traditional” handshake, instead, he gave me an African handshake.

So what? Well, the guy was White and I am a Coloured. What makes that interesting is that the guy did not take it for granted that I subscribe to a “western” way of doing things, although he assumed that I shake hands the African way. My point is, it was good to experience that there was an intentionality in his actions. Whilst culturally, I do not shake hands that way, I also recognised that I am African and we have to begin doing things the African way and not attempt to replicate what is done according to the West. Whilst a handshake does not make you an African, but at that point, the white man was more of an African than I was (I’m sure that would be way too simplistic and naive for many people). In this beautiful country of ours, we have to be intentional about our actions and know that every small gesture matters.

While I do believe that God is sovereign and can be trusted with everything, I believe that God is an intentional God who has created humans also to be intentional. What would the implications be for our young people in South Africa?

I have to intentionally know that the colour of one’s skin does not make the person.

Whilst there may be lots of truth in that statement, in a place like South Africa, we have to talk through our history and work our way constructively and critically through racial matters. It is only once we are able to do that can the colour of our skin not matter. I am proudly Coloured, while being a Coloured does not make or unmake me as a person (I know that there are those who reject colourdeness politically), however, it is who I am. I can only be okay with me and others when I accept all of me, warts and all.

I have to live life intentionally.

Whilst one does not want to be a killjoy and plan everything in life and risk killing spontaneity, one has to be intentional about life. Intentionality in life does not necessarily imply that life should be boring, instead, an intentional life could be so much more fulfilling. As a Coloured guy, growing up could not always be intentional. I had to learn to survive and survival is usually instinctual and spontaneous, grabbing opportunities as they arise. There are too many young people that do not have the luxury to live their lives intentionally, and ultimately, we can only have ourselves as adults to blame for a generation that lives a knee-jerk reaction.

We should intentionally create our meanings in the midst of discovery.

I’m not always one for experience trumps all. As a matter of fact, I always argue that it is not necessary to experience everything in life as one merely has to look around at the many lives lived and know what the outcome of certain actions may be. But, in South Africa, we need to re-create meaning as citizens of this country. As adults, we need to create opportunities for our young people that will allow them to experience life that is different to what we have had. There are too many defensive adults standing in the way of our youth. We need to re-write our narrative, yet, being cognizant of our past. Like the saying goes, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

The decisions I make as an adult today shapes the future my daughter has to face tomorrow.

On Colouredness

Disclaimer: This is no new conversation. In fact, race and identity politics classification to ensure superiority and “humanness” goes against the very nature of God and what it means to be human. It does not, however, mean we cannot and should not engage in this debate. Recently the concept of Colouredness has been brought to the discussion. Here’s my brief thoughts at the moment.

I am a South African. I am a proud citizen of where we are as a country in relation to where we were as a country, yet I recognise that there is still quite some distance before we arrive at the point where we can all openly say we have arrived, if ever. South Africa’s history, not just the contemporary/modern history but the entire history of South Africa, is one that is complicated. While I’m no historian nor expert on Colouredness, but as a Coloured and citizen of this country, I am acutely aware of the violent and oppressive history of this country. But it’s not just an awareness of the historic conditions within this country but also the present struggles and challenges we all face.

To ignore identity politics in South Africa, is to be naive and irresponsible. When one discusses race according to identity politics, it does not automatically mean that one is a racist. Race and identity politics, often is a point of departure, of identifying with one’s history and fellow South Africans, but more importantly, it’s about constructing identity. By embracing a racial identity does not demean or undermine one as an individual nor does it label one from another race as inferior or superior. In a country like South Africa, to deny one’s race is to deny one’s culture and ultimately one’s identity. Yet, one’s identity is not dictated by one’s race.

Politically, there is no Coloured. Politically, there is only black and white. But if you live in South Africa, you know that Colourdeness is also an ideology. In the daily lives and lived realities of Coloured people, we are not Black. We are not White. We are not Indian. We are Coloured. Yet, we are also Black, and White, and Indian, and Coloured. We are indigenous African and yet we are not indigenous African (who can make claim to this in any case?).

Colourdeness is oppression. Colouredness is liberation. Colouredness is history. It’s race. It’s culture. It’s attitude. It’s language. It’s food. It’s clothing. It’s a way of life. It’s a choice.

But what does it mean to be Coloured?