South Africa's often nutty racial politics

Had to point you to a must-read comment piece on the phenomenon of “Coconuts” that caused a stir in the twitterverse. If you are not familiar with the term it’s a derogatory label for black people who are thought to have sold out being black by not being black enough. This sounds complicated I know. So I will leave it to Lerato Tshabalala, my former Sunday Times Lifestyle compadre, to explain and tell it like it is.

A fascinating, smart and funny  piece of commentary on South Africa’s post-apartheid generation.

“As I’m sure you’ve noticed, dear reader, I’m black. I know this because my parents are black, both my siblings are black and should I forget that, whenever I turn around, my ATM (African Trade Mark), reminds me that I was definitely at the front of the queue when God was handing out thighs and behinds.

But even with all this strong evidence, it appears that my “blackness” has come into question several times.  It’s baffling. I mean I’ve even gone the extra mile to prove I really am black – dreadlocks and all (putting chemicals in your hair is perceived as a sign that you’ve crossed over to the pale side) – but my efforts have yielded no positive results.

It seems that the evidence pointing towards my “coconut” disposition is quite strong. For one, I not only know what Green Day, Staind and Red Hot Chili Peppers are, I have sinned by actually owning music by Alanis Morissette, Linkin Park and Sting. My misdemeanours have further been exacerbated by the fact that I was one of the 12 black people who went to the U2 concert and one of the eager few to buy tickets to the Coldplay concert on the first day they went on sale… Coconuts of the World Unite (Read the rest here).


You may want to read more from Laurice

Views: 112

Comment by Socratis Avgitidis on June 6, 2011 at 21:47

Very interesting read. Lerato got me thinking about many issues.

One of the fears in Post-Apartheid South Africa is that of losing one’s identity. Unfortunately when we embrace certain aspects of another’s culture we are judged. This applies across the colour bar from black kids enjoying Sting to white kids enjoying 50cent. We must remember however, that the more we embrace that which is outside of our culture, the richer our lives become.

Comment by Shaamila Cassim on June 7, 2011 at 11:48
Is there a term for  the Indian version Of "Coconut" ?
Comment by Laurice Taitz-Buntman on June 7, 2011 at 11:58
Interesting question. i suppose most cultures have an equivalent term that questions whether a person is "authentic".  Such a loaded idea. Anyone have an answer?

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