Perils of a dark skinned Cape Malay Coloured Girl

Originally published: rafiekasfauxpas.tumblr.com
Perils of a dark skinned Cape Malay Coloured Girl Yesterday I posted a picture of myself on facebook wearing a wrapped scarf around my head and a hoodie, I was looking rather glum if I do say so myself and only vaguely interested in whatever I was listening to. The picture was taken during a photojournalism class and my colleague Reuven was experimenting with depth of field. I posted the picture because I thought it most effectively captured my mood at the time. One of my older friends from Cape Town commented on the picture, saying “Why had that sarafina look? PS: Shaka Zulu”… this was his comment, verbatim… I’m not sure if he was trying to insult me or trying to make a joke but I wasn’t laughing because I didn’t get it. So I asked him what he meant and his reply was “Dude you look like Sarafina!!!!”… I felt so furious by this underhanded attack at my choice of scarf and once again, my skin colour. I wasn’t insulted by the fact that he had referred to me as Sarafina but the fact that he thought I would take offence to it is what made me mad. I was mad that he intentionally used a racial distinction to make me feel bad or insulted in some way. I have been considered racially ambiguous all my life. People never know whether I am black or coloured.The first assumption is always that I’m black because I’m dark and my hair is covered with a scarf (which I wear because I’m muslim) but when I open my mouth it’s very obvious that I am coloured because of my Capetonian accent and the various shows of vulgarity in my speech (LOL not all coloureds are vulgar). I used to hate my hair and my skin tone because of it, always being referred to as black and made fun of by my coloured class mates because I was so much darker than them, oh and not to mention my derrière, I had a huge bum for a kid, easily twerkable, always in the way but not so much anymore. But it never really bothered me, I took it in my stride, I went with it, even though I knew nothing of being black I wouldn’t mind so much that they made fun of me because these were things that I knew couldn’t change. I can’t change the tone of my skin and even if I could, I’d never want to! My hair is always going to grow the same way, I could straighten it, but it will always come out of my scalp the same way! So my problem has never been with the fact that I’m referred to as something that I no doubt, look a lot like. I could be black any day, all I need is the language and the cultural know-how and you wouldn’t know the difference. My problem is that A: people make it out to be an insult like there’s something wrong with dark skinned coloured girls with kinky hair. It’s that same bullshit that happens in coloured communities where darker skinned coloureds are made to feel inferior to lighter skinned people with better hair and that same notion that breeds self-hate and lack of self confidence among coloured girls and that same notion breeds racism in coloured communities and that is the same fucking ideology that crippled this nation during Apartheid and has fucked up society as a whole! And it needs to stop! My other problem is that you are labelling me as something that I have no knowledge of and therefore disrespecting my own cultural ancestry. This one is a bit more layered and profound and doesn’t convey any element of social justice but I believe it’s important to allow people the freedom to be whoever they fucking are! Just because I don’t aesthetically fit your stereotype of a coloured person doesn’t mean you have the fucking right to impose your ideas of what I should be onto me. I grew up in a Cape Malay home, with coloured family and Cape Malay traditions. That means something to me and I deserve the freedom to embrace that. I am not black because I did not grow up in a black home with black cultural practices, whatever that may be. I do not understand the nuances of growing up in a black home, rich, poor, middle class or otherwise. I grew up on the Cape Flats speaking Afrikaans so fast that half of the words don’t come out; I woke up to people yelling from one corner to the other, with Sundays of Tevin Campbell and The Temptations, the smell of koeksisters and coffee filling up the house as the sun touched the earth; Ramadan meant the exchange of treats that my mother made between us and other muslim neighbours; every eid christian neighbours would dress up and celebrate with us and every christmas we would do the same; Guy fawks (guyfox) meant that we would throw one another with eggs and paint and smear toothpaste over eachothers faces and we’d all clean up the streets the next day; every boxing day we’d go to a beach and every 2nd January we went to watch the Cape Minstrels in Cape Town CBD. This isn’t all of it but it is part of what I believe make me coloured. And the values that these life experiences have taught me distinguish me from any other race. I do believe that it is a cultural distinction being coloured or being Cape Malay because there are things that we do that are distinguishingly different to other cultures of people. (I dare you to contest that) As a kid, I obviously didn’t understand this notion of identity and how bloody important it was, but now I completely get it. Especially in a world of people who are so blinded by everything else, it’s so easy to get lost, to forget who or what you are and where you come from. And I feel like those who came before me have a history and a legacy and played a part in me being who I am today and they taught me so much by showing me all those traditions and all those experiences and I have a responsibility to uphold that. Thats why my identity is very dear to me and I feel as though I have to defend it at all times and make people understand that they should let people be whoever the fuck they are. Gahdammit! Rafieka Williams

Yesterday I posted a picture of myself on facebook wearing a wrapped scarf around my head and a hoodie, I was looking rather glum if I do say so myself and only vaguely interested in whatever I was listening to. The picture was taken during a photojournalism class and my colleague Reuven was experimenting with depth of field. I posted the picture because I thought it most effectively captured my mood at the time.

One of my older friends from Cape Town commented on the picture, saying “Why had that sarafina look? PS: Shaka Zulu”… this was his comment, verbatim… I’m not sure if he was trying to insult me or trying to make a joke but I wasn’t laughing because I didn’t get it. So I asked him what he meant and his reply was “Dude you look like Sarafina!!!!”… I felt so furious by this underhanded attack at my choice of scarf and once again, my skin colour. I wasn’t insulted by the fact that he had referred to me as Sarafina but the fact that he thought I would take offence to it is what made me mad. I was mad that he intentionally used a racial distinction to make me feel bad or insulted in some way.

I have been considered racially ambiguous all my life. People never know whether I am black or coloured.The first assumption is always that I’m black because I’m dark and my hair is covered with a scarf (which I wear because I’m muslim) but when I open my mouth it’s very obvious that I am coloured because of my Capetonian accent and the various shows of vulgarity in my speech (LOL not all coloureds are vulgar). I used to hate my hair and my skin tone because of it, always being referred to as black and made fun of by my coloured class mates because I was so much darker than them, oh and not to mention my derrière, I had a huge bum for a kid, easily twerkable, always in the way but not so much anymore. But it never really bothered me, I took it in my stride, I went with it, even though I knew nothing of being black I wouldn’t mind so much that they made fun of me because these were things that I knew couldn’t change.

I can’t change the tone of my skin and even if I could, I’d never want to! My hair is always going to grow the same way, I could straighten it, but it will always come out of my scalp the same way! So my problem has never been with the fact that I’m referred to as something that I no doubt, look a lot like. I could be black any day, all I need is the language and the cultural know-how and you wouldn’t know the difference.

My problem is that A: people make it out to be an insult like there’s something wrong with dark skinned coloured girls with kinky hair. It’s that same bullshit that happens in coloured communities where darker skinned coloureds are made to feel inferior to lighter skinned people with better hair and that same notion that breeds self-hate and lack of self confidence among coloured girls and that same notion breeds racism in coloured communities and that is the same ideology that crippled this nation during Apartheid and has somewhat left our country in turmoil! And it needs to stop! The other problem is that you are labelling me as something that I have no knowledge of and therefore disrespecting my own cultural ancestry. This one is a bit more layered and profound and doesn’t convey any element of social justice but I believe it’s important to allow people the freedom to be whoever they are! Just because I don’t aesthetically fit your stereotype of a coloured person doesn’t mean you have the right to impose your ideas of what I should be onto me. I grew up in a Cape Malay home, with coloured family and Cape Malay traditions. That means something to me and I deserve the freedom to embrace that.

I am not black because I did not grow up in a black home with black cultural practices, whatever that may be. I do not understand the nuances of growing up in a black home, rich, poor, middle class or otherwise. I grew up on the Cape Flats speaking Afrikaans so fast that half of the words don’t come out; I woke up to people yelling from one corner to the other, with Sundays of Tevin Campbell and The Temptations, the smell of koeksisters and coffee filling up the house as the sun touched the earth; Ramadan meant the exchange of treats that my mother made between us and other muslim neighbours; every eid christian neighbours would dress up and celebrate with us and every christmas we would do the same; Guy fawks (guyfox) meant that we would throw one another with eggs and paint and smear toothpaste over eachothers faces and we’d all clean up the streets the next day; every boxing day we’d go to a beach and every 2nd January we went to watch the Cape Minstrels in Cape Town CBD.

This isn’t all of it but it is part of what I believe make me coloured. And the values that these life experiences have taught me distinguish me from any other race. I do believe that it is a cultural distinction being coloured or being Cape Malay because there are things that we do that are distinguishingly different to other cultures of people. (I dare you to contest that)

As a kid, I obviously didn’t understand this notion of identity and how bloody important it was, but now I completely get it. Especially in a world of people who are so blinded by everything else, it’s so easy to get lost, to forget who or what you are and where you come from. And I feel like those who came before me have a history and a legacy and played a part in me being who I am today and they taught me so much by showing me all those traditions and all those experiences and I have a responsibility to uphold that. Thats why my identity is very dear to me and I feel as though I have to defend it at all times and if i have to do it for the rest of my life, I will.

Rafieka Williams

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We’re all numbers to institutionalised power

Originally published by Wits Vuvuzela on 3 September 2015

We are all victims to the system!

You wake up in the morning, to act out your gendered role, to go to work, to drive on the right sight of the road, to abide by the laws of the country that you belong to as a citizen – just so you don’t get in anybody’s way… We are all victims to the system.

I enrolled at Wits four years ago, unaware of my dis-empowered, caged self. Until my first year in Sociology when I was taught that everything that I know has been part of a systematic control mechanism to ultimately make me a pawn to whatever category I fit into. And I have never felt more like a number than I do now. A fourth year Wits student who has a part-time job just so I can pay for my student loans and get to school, just so I can somehow make it in an industry that I thought was set to keep power in check. I was wrong, no matter how many Ruth First discussions we have, we will never be able to hold power to account in any meaningful way.

We are entrenched in capitalism, patriarchy, and a system of laws that are all ultimately steeped in injustice and inequalities. Societal structures that are supposed to liberate us, instead infringe on our freedoms to do whatever the f*ck we want.  Methods of control to dictate to us who and what we should be and even how we should be spending our time.

We are being policed at every point of our lives.

The puppet masters

The only people who benefit from this systematic infringement are those who are on top. They hold the power to do what they want with the lives of others and make decisions in order to allow the oppression to continue.

These people who occupy positions at the top of boards and heads of councils, sit in leather seats – specifically designed for their comfortable execution of oppression – have already made decisions about you and your place in this world. The worst part is that these people consider themselves humans but really they are just pawns as well. These “humans” cower behind their rhetoric of equality, peace and justice because they have the privilege of not having to account for not putting those words into action. Never considering that the money they make is not because of how hard they worked but because of how easily they were able to disregard the lives of others for their own personal gain, and many of us have done the same thing. Whose blood do you have on your hands?rafieka

We have been brainwashed into the belief that if we bow down and submit to the rules of gender, citizenship, religion and money, we would be rewarded. In essence we end up neglecting the self in order to move forward in our lives. But why should that be the case? Why should we submit to the constant policing of our opinions and all forms of our expression? Why should we be victimised by this all-encompassing power that controls universities, streets and social spaces?

It’s because we do not own ourselves. We have been forcefully detached from ourselves for the sake of control and there is no way around it because tomorrow you and I will wake up before sunset to please those who have downsized our worth to a number. Student number, ID number, tax number, clothing size number, licence number…

You and I, we’re just numbers.

The 15 reasons you shouldn’t be scared of Johannesburg… or should.

People who visit Johannesburg from any other part of the country will always be overwhelmed by the fast pace and hum-drum of it all. This vast space of land with it’s complex social, economic, cultural, political and historic dynamic continues to evolve. However people may have the wrong idea about what exactly the city consists of. Here are a few pointers for the average young South African who doesn’t know Johannesburg very well.

  1. An ever-changing city: Johannesburg was founded on the mining industry. Prospectors traveled here in search of gold before the city was even declared “Johannesburg”. The city has always been at the forefront of innovation and new developments, on par with London and Paris in it’s earlier days. Today Johannesburg continues to gain international recognition as the heart of economic and technological development. The city is growing bigger and faster every day and it stands still for no man.

    THE ORIGINALS: Portraits of the pioneers of Johannesburg. They are on Display at Carlton Centre in Johannesburg CBD.
    THE ORIGINALS: Portraits of the pioneers of Johannesburg. They are on Display at Carlton Centre in Johannesburg CBD.
  1. The rich people: The highest percentage of the wealthiest people in South Africa reside in Johannesburg. According to a report by Business Tech the the wealthiest people of Johannesburg reside in areas such as Sandhurst and Houghton. If you’ve been to those areas, you are met with high walls and 24hr security. Intimidating to say the least. Conversely, the poor live in the open, on the streets – they are accessible.

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    In a park in Johannesburg CBD, one can find groups of homeless people gathering to discuss future prospects of opportunities in the city.
  1. The Gyms: One would think that a gym is a place mainly enjoyed for sweating and looking attractive but scare tactics seem to seep into the most controlled spaces in Johannesburg. Muhammed Desai, a member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was thrown out of his local gym for wearing a t-shirt that showed his solidarity with Palestine. He was the asked to leave because fellow gym members found it offensive.
  1. The job market: Wealth streaming in from all sectors, Johannesburg is the city that people flock to from all over the world to make money. However, Johannesburg is also crawling with scams masquerading as employment opportunities. There are illegitimate companies that use the Internet to lure desperate people in for jobs. In many cases these scams ask their victims for money in order to secure their jobs in other cases the scams advertise jobs falsely and will have you handing out flyers instead of the office you were promised.
  1. Street culture:  It’s no secret that Johannesburg is host to a plethora of cultures all interacting on a daily basis. So much so that cultures are easily appropriated and distorted for the sake of cosmopolitan ideals, alienating people further and further from their roots.120bgr

 

  1. The taxi industry: The air of Downtown Bree and Noord Taxi ranks permeates with strong smells of urine on a hot day and sewage on a rainy one. This does not deter the working class from filling these ranks – jumping in and out of taxi’s, immersed in the hustle and bustle. These taxi ranks are also governed by relentless taxi officials always hovering in between lanes, policing which taxi you get into. If you give either of these officials any type of attitude, you’ll end up not getting a taxi at all.

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    Bree Taxi rank destined for the Western Townships of Johannesburg.
  1. The foreigners: Foreigners are here to make a living. That’s all.

    A group of foreigners at the SANZAF refugee camp in Mayfair watch on as new survivors arrive. Many foreign people have fled from all over Johannesburg to various refugee camps in as xenophobic attacks spiral out of control.
    A group of foreigners at the SANZAF refugee camp in Mayfair watch on as new survivors arrive. Many foreign people have fled from all over Johannesburg to various refugee camps in as xenophobic attacks spiral out of control.
  1. Buildings: Johannesburg is home to the tallest building in Africa – The Carlton, located in the middle of the CBD. The view from the Carlton overlooks the beautiful Johannesburg skyline, a closer look and you will be able to spot the numbers of neglected and abandoned buildings. These buildings, although unfit for human habitation continue to be occupied by residents, endangering their health to get cover from the harsh city streets.listicle-40
  1. The youth: The youth of the Johannesburg have been deemed the drivers of change in the city. Heading their own businesses and movements by utilising social media to brand themselves, young people in Johannesburg are taking their futures into their own hands. Bloggers turned business owners such as Frypan Mfula and twitter personalities turned socialites such as Sadie Wiggles have made it big just by using the Internet to their advantage. Watch the space.
  1. The food: Bloggers will tell you that street food consists of Maboneng food stalls that sell Mexican food and Markets that sell coffee flavoured ice-cream but the only consistent type of food is cheap snacks that go for one rand. Sold by someone with a pop up crate store that you can find in any area of Johannesburg, no matter how far North.
  1. The environment: Johannesburg weather patterns are erratic and hard on your skin. Winters are dry and summers are wet. In addition to that, the city has gone through at least three tremors in the last three years.86-40
  1. Crime: South Africa may be known for its high crime rates and Johannesburg andi you haven’t been a victim to it, you know somebody who has. The city streets may be over-populated but it’s the quiet streets where there are few witnesses one should be equally afraid of.

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    Johannesburg: Alleys in the CBD, sometimes used as shortcuts for people to get around easily because they’re less crowded than the pavement and the streets.
  1. The entertainment: Buzzing with hotspots such as Melville, Rosebank, Braamfontein and not to mention the famous Vilakazi street, one could never be bored in Johannesburg. But beware of the mundane company you may have to endure among these middle to upper class socialites. great dane2 (40 of 1)
  1. The uninvited guests: Once you’ve been in Johannesburg long enough, you’d understand that your racial identity is an important part of who you’re meant to be. Unfortunately if you’re not black or white, your ideas on race do not matter. Racial discussions in Johannesburg exclude any other race that is not black or white. Better pick a side.IMG_3429
  1. Safe Havens: Given all the reasons that Johannesburg is a scary place to be in, there are also spaces of safety that you can enjoy without feeling pressurised or fearful for your life… the malls. Where you won’t lose your life but you will spend all your money buying overpriced goods.