Storm in my Skull

I have not written for a while. I have been spending time with my thoughts. We have been dating, playing beneath the sheets, laughing, crying and screaming together. I am exhausted and over-excited. Now I am ready to share.

There are two things that started this storm. I sat in a crowd of all black, all African women, an incredible gathering and safe space for women of colour.  I was told and asked two very interesting and hurtful things there. The first; I was told by a young,  black, female, (I assume) UCT student, that I should be ashamed that I called myself ‘middle-class’.  The second; I was told, with fist held high in the air, to purge myself of my whiteness.

At the time, these two statements broke me open and punched my heart. I learned there and then that sometimes anger and frustration no matter in what form, can lead to cruelty and violence towards a minority group. I am a minority. I am a black South African woman, born in a rural Zulu village, originally from a land I do not know and can not guess.

I was raised by white parents in a home where culture was created and assessed every step of the way. My home language is Cape Town English. My accent comes from  being well read, enjoying language, loving poetry and watching theatre. I was raised on African fables and stories filled with colours, half dreams and half realities. I have learned to grow unrestricted, furiously, beautifully, wild.

My family has never been wealthy, but we always had enough. I could not afford to study but I was lucky enough to get a sponsor and then a scholarship. My education and life lessons have been based on books as much as they have been based on living. My blackness has been an education all on it’s own. An education and exploration of skin.

So dear black UCT student, when you tell me to purge myself of my whiteness and to apologise for my middle-class culture. What are you telling me to do? Your situation is such that your books and your life have positioned your head in one direction and made you see only one side of blackness. What has blackness taught you? What has your life taught you about your skin?

Let me tell you what blackness has taught me.

Blackness has taught me to be on my own without being lonely.

Blackness has taught me to be brave in a sea of things that supposedly do not belong to me.

Blackness has taught me to love myself in a way that no other skin could ever learn to love.

I have loved myself when no one else knew how to, when everyone else was afraid, when white men, black men, all men and most women thought that I was a thing to be had, sought after, played with and then forgotten.

Blackness has allowed me the space to discover, has given me the time to study the lines and marks, the tones, hues and undertones. It has given me an artistic eye that sees between, under, above and through my and other colours.

Blackness made me shy and afraid. It made me raw like a lioness and breathe fire like a mother dragon.

Blackness made me.

I made my own blackness.

This blackness is mine, individual to me, responds and purrs only for me. You can not compare blackness with anything else.

You can not compare any colour

You can only live it.

My blackness is living, breathing, beating, breast against chest, against flesh, against bone. Alone but not on my own. Defining and collecting, creating and negotiating. Space time and the minds of many.

I can not separate my skin from  my culture or my upbringing from my personality. I should not have to. I am stuck somewhere between what the world thinks of me, what white people think I am and what black people expect from me. Where is there a place for me in everyone else’s wants and expectations?

I can not purge myself of what I am. My life is perfect in all that it is. Just because you and a scarily large portion of the world have come to recognise blackness as something stereotyped does that mean then, that this stereotype is not able to unfold itself into many different realities?

By trying to tell me to apologise for everything that makes me wonderful, you are doing exactly what you, yourself are fighting against. Learn to fight without pushing others down. This is the method that brings success. Celebrate your blackness with success, not otherness. We are  all different but so much the same.

South African.

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