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Setting Trevor Noah straight about the origin of 'Coloured'

Cape Argus logo Cape Argus 2018-09-12 Alex Tabisher
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 13:  Trevor Noah speaks about his book 'Born a Crime' during 33rd Annual Miami Book Fair at Miami Dade College on November 13, 2016 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Johnny Louis/FilmMagic) © (Photo by Johnny Louis/FilmMagic) MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 13: Trevor Noah speaks about his book 'Born a Crime' during 33rd Annual Miami Book Fair at Miami Dade College on November 13, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Louis/FilmMagic)

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

I watched a Trevor Noah TV clip, filmed in about 2013, in which he claimed that South Africa was the only country to have created that ambiguous creature, the coloured. This column, hopefully, will set his thinking straight.

If by “coloured” we mean neither black nor white, the context is South African.

The term was invented to accommodate political and bureaucratic needs.

If you mix the colour white and black, you get grey. Genetically, the creation is a new cocktail of DNA material.

Politically, that mixture is “Coloured”, “coloured”, “brown”, “baster”, and other clobber words.

If Trevor reads up on colonialism and its ineradicable effects, he will know that the subjugation of natives - or indigents - was a cruel process that included rape, including sex across political divides.

He will come across words such as hybridisation, creolisation and Neil ten Kortenaar’s metissage. The mixture occurred across other racially “pure” categories.

These genetic aberrations were perpetrated by the Spanish, Portuguese, German, French - the whole spectrum of nations who left their native domiciles to seek salt, silk and satiation.

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Indeed, there is a school that explains a certain ugly word as an aphorism for the activities of these intrepid explorers who “fornicated under consent of king”!

The colonial story has been written blandly, as they who rule write history.

When the hunter tells the tale, the lion always loses. However, racism is not always a political slur. It is sometimes a strategy for identity, or hegemony.

Politicians gave it a bad name.

King Charles V of Spain set the rules that legalised the subjugation of such mixtures, which legitimated, among other socio-anthropologic aberrations, slavery.

Even if it required wanton cruelty.

So now we have settled the category.

It describes a reality that has universal complexities.

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What about the untruth that once the category was set, the incumbents distorted normalcy to legitimate this misconception. So that the Cape coloured have no front teeth, and the Coon Carnival is unique to them.

You don’t isolate people on questionable norms. You value each person.

You respect the person, not the category sticks and stones may hurt your bones, but names should never hurt you.

*Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email byactabisher@gmail.com

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media

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