Local social media put a big target on Trevor Noah’s back last week, because of a paragraph from his book Born a Crime.
But I was just wondering whether the outrage was justified.
Because personally, I didn’t have a particularly big problem with what he said.
Now before you get your knickers in a knot, let me explain.
Firstly, in the interest of full disclosure, although I plan to, I haven’t read the book myself yet.
From the screenshots I have seen, Trevor wrote the following: “Most coloured people don’t speak African languages. They speak Afrikaans. Their religion, their institutions, all of the things that have shaped their culture, came from Afrikaners. The history of coloured people in South Africa is, in this respect, worse than the history of black people in South Africa. For all that black people have suffered, they know who they are. Coloured people don’t.”
I am desperate to understand the context in which this was written.
But be that as it may, what about this is horribly wrong?
Personally, I don’t know many coloureds who speak an indigenous language.
I know a few who proudly speak European languages, and many a bit of funnygalore, but not fluent Xhosa, or Ndebele.
In fact, I know of more white and Indian people who speak Zulu or Pedi than coloureds.
The rest of Trevor’s thought is only partly correct, because Coloured identity is shaped by many things, not just our religions and institutions.
But, he isn’t completely wrong!
So I wonder how much of the attack on Trevor is based on our own lack of self-confidence; or is the offence we take dependent on who the speaker is?
Because this is not the first time I hear this sentiment.
The only difference is, this time it’s being said by “an outsider” which may well be Trevor’s only transgression here.
In case you missed it, this is what else I said about it on Facebook last week: Has Trevor cut a little too close to the bone; or is he ignorant and delusional? Are there many Coloureds who will proudly reference their European ancestry, but any mention of their black blood is anathema to them? Absolutely!
Are there Coloureds who consider themselves pure Khoisan, and therefore more worthy? Of course!
The fact is, Coloured-dom is a multitude of truths. It is a confusing kaleidoscope of Creole stew.
It is Malay, Germanic, Scottish, Herrero, Damara, Persian, Indian, Asian, Khoisan, Dutch, English and even those who can trace their roots back to St Helena Island. It is by this very nature impossible to classify it as one singular thing.
Trevor’s words are true for some and hurtful and false for others.
Both views have a place in the tapestry of what it means to be Coloured.
And that is a difficult concept for someone who isn’t socialised as coloured to understand and appreciate.
Even more so for someone like him, who was raised as an observer of a homogenous community.
If nothing else, he prompted us to ask questions about ourselves.
Sadly, the emotions got the better of some, who preferred kneejerk reactions, rather than a thorough interrogation of who we are.
And for me, that is summed up with the fact that others may take pride in their blood purity, while we can revel in our blood diversity.
The fact is, unlike most other racial identities, there are a myriad of beautiful truths to being Coloured!
* Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Daily Voice.