As a young black woman, we face many expectations and stereotypes as to how we should look, talk and act. I grew up having African ethics and morals being instilled. But what I’ve come to realise is that our African culture went from diverse traditions and rites to a now quasi, clout grabbing tactic to “fool” others into believing how rich and how deep your culture is instilled in you.
Let us first unpack the definition of the word culture. Skinner (Agha, 2014) defines culture as the “totality of how people live and behave” (p.38). Culture is a set of knowledge acquired over time, passed on from generation to generation. They are seen as a set of customs, traditions, and values of a society or community, be it an ethnic group or nation.
What I love/hate about our generation is that we were and still able to use the tools given to us by the preceding generation and the platform to advocate the injustices as well as the neutralities. Which begs the question: why can’t we invest this much effort in our African culture as we do in Western culture? Africa as a whole has quite a number of rich ethic groups. Our downfall came into the picture the moment the white man set foot on our soil, changing the texture of my hair as well as the tone of my skin.
In the New Age we live in there is a huge identity crisis, making us having to do some introspection that would make us want to take a look back and be in touch with our roots. It is in these times we should take pride in being African; clearly we had something that the White man would dream to have: being proud of our African identity. The white man travelled far and wide in search of “something” spreading the word of God where he sets foot. If you take a closer look, no black man made such an effort to forcefully instil his culture/religion on anyone.
Sure we can say that the socio-cultural evolution in our continent has been notable, however it has been provocative to say the least. As a firm believer of my culture as well as the in-betweens, being westernised was never something I bargained for, if I may say. I was brainwashed into gradually accepting myself that in order for society to accept me, I have to hide my melanin or cover my afro because in an interview, “Justine” wants someone that’s “presentable.” That means straight hair, fair skin, proper mannerism (all in all I have to act white).
This created a slippery slope for the black and brown community. I know damn well no blesser/sugar daddy would look my way with my afro and uneven brownness. And when my friends look at me cross-eyed for laughing too hard at the white girl’s jokes, who’s to blame? Nonetheless, I mean no disrespect to the “Justines.” At some point, one has to be blunt and say out loud what’s being whispered: I don’t owe any white person anything and allow him/or she to make me second guess myself.
People of colour are always seen as an opportunity until we become an inconvenience. The law of Darwinism, survival of the fittest, is portrayed in many unique instances everywhere. It may be socially, economically, politically, or even physically. The black man has been known to end up in either two places; in prison or inside a coffin. The law becomes prejudiced to young people of colour because we do not have the necessary skills and tools to practice that law.
The majority of the population in SA are young POC, the youth that partakes in drugs sexual behaviour and criminal activities. Having to deal with those factors and surviving can be nearly impossible for the youth of today. Black and brown parents have to settle for the bare minimum, applaud the little we’re able to achieve because it’s so hard to make it in this world when you’re seen less than or inferior, and bound to be a failure.
So to my fellow sisters and brothers, I plea to you to fight back this ridiculous system set to make us fail, and turn our backs on what is truly important; having African pride and upholding our African identity.
by Mthembukazi Bavuma