There was an interesting, though somwehat troubling article and response in yesterday's Mail and Guardian, under the headline "How to be a White African". It was an extract from the book The White Africans by Gerald L'Ange. What worried me about it was that although both the article and the response pretended to be liberal and inclusive, the extent to which they expressed a concern with classification and difference made me wonder how we are ever to move beyond it. I get that there is still a massively uneven distribution of wealth and resources, and there are still a shocking percentage of racists around, but classifying a person as priveleged, wealthy and racist because they are white is equivalent to classifying them as poor, uneducated and criminal because they are black. These stereotypes are the real problem. I have sung choral music in African languages. I teach this music to my choir, and wrestle with issues of authenticity every time I do. Does that make me African? There is an entirely black choir on the television in front of me right this moment singing "Benedictus" from some or another mass. It is in latin. Does that make them not African? Does the fact that I choose to attend the Christmas concerts of Chantecleer and the Welsh Male-Voice choir rather than Afro-tenor make me not African? and if I'm not African, what am I? I speak English, but so does everyone at my university. I don't speak any other european language, but I do speak Afrikaans. I don't speak an nguni language, though. So what does that make me? I'm going to further my studies in the United States next year. A friend of mine is planning to do the same. For her, it is a way out of South Africa. For me it is a way in. I'm going to the united states because I need to be a highly qualified and capable an academic as possible in order to come back to South Africa to work. No matter what anyone says, this is where I want to be. And I don't just want to be here, and fool around. I want to contribute. I want to make a difference. and yet this article suggests that "any group of ‘outside educators’ who had grown up and been educated in a privileged situation where teachers are educated by former European systems, curricula and processes and those elites who travel to Europe, North America and overseas to continue an elite education, are distanced from the people they might, hopefully, return home to teach." So what is one really supposed to do. I don't really want to leave, but I feel that I have to if I am to make this career work. Does that make me disloyal to Africa? does that make me not an African?
LINKS TO OTHER ARTICLES ON WHITENESS AND AFRICANNESS:
Meditations71 writes about seeing South Africa through Western Eyes