Categorized | Kasi Diaries

You’re a Coconut

I am black, but by the looks of things, and based on street research, it seems I’m not black enough. The tools which are used to determine, or rather establish, my true blackness are based on things like, my accent, skin colour, hair texture, pronunciation of words, my bum, my attitude and general outlook on life.

Society says that knowing your mother tongue fluently and knowing your culture well is what defines how black you are, but that would mean people like Rosie Motene or Pamela Nomvete are not black because they don’t meet that criteria. Motene was adopted by white folk, so she’s out. Pamela Nomvete lived overseas, so she’s also not black. This also means that having an accent that sounds like that of Pabi Moloi, Khanyi Dhlomo, William Lehong and Naledi Pandor disqualifies you from the black movement too.

If having a voluptuous booty a.k.a African Trade Mark (ATM) that turns the heads of taxi drivers and construction workers is the measuring tool for my blackness, then unfortunately, I’m out too. If I am what society calls a coconut because I went to a high school with textbooks, white teachers, a tuck shop and know who Macbeth is, then I’m not black. Does the fact that I didn’t find Lesilo scary as a child make me white? Or am I un-African because I don’t recall watching shows like Ubambo Lwami, Kwakhala Nyonini and Sgudis’ Nays? Am I un-black because I found all Gibson Kente’s drama’s a bit lame and over-acted ?

If such petty tools and attributes are what make us black, then there are many of us brown people with white souls I guess. Previously, when Apartheid told us who was who and what was what, it was the texture of our hair and skin colour that got us classified as darkies or non-darkies. If this still existed today, then I’m afraid that people with mixed parents still don’t meet the cut. People like Trevor Noah, Eda Rose, Phumeza are not one of us. Yep, society and its rules say so!

One of the high-tech devices created to figure out degrees of blackness was previously referred to by Apartheid police as the “pencil test.” If you were light-skinned enough and could almost pass for white, then an HB pencil – yes, a pencil – was put in your hair to check if you’re indeed telling the truth about the origins of your roots (excuse the pun). If it glided through your hair like a hot knife through butter, then you were classified as white; you’d have endless opportunities in your life. But, if you had steel wool for hair, like me, and the pencil did not make it out due to traffic from your blackness, then it was back to the township, no questions asked.

Today one of the various “high tech” tools used to measuring your blackness are more broad and vague, such as what car you drive, where you live, what school you went to, and your accent. So, if you pronounce “No” as “Noy” or say Durban instead of Deben… if you don’t like eating pap a few times a week, or if you’ve never taken a taxi in your life or don’t know the difference between Noord taxi rank and Bree taxi rank, then you’re a fake black. If you don’t know that Madluphutu is a hit in Mzansi and is extremely hilarious to black folk (only), then you aren’t black. You are what’s called a “coconut.” Synonyms for this word include Top Deck and Oreo. These are clever and offensive words used by black people towards other back people who apparently think they are better than them. I’m not sure how one measures another person’s thought process based on the way they speak… but yes, it’s done.

But before I finally dress myself in the garments that society has woven for me to wear based on the aforementioned traits that I need to have in order to belong to the now exclusive black people’s nation, I have just a few questions for society. What if I went to a white school but know my mother tongue, or what if I speak English fluently but live in the township and do so proudly. Am I still classified as a coconut? And by the way who are the individuals from this school of thought who have come up with these rules and laws that govern degrees of blackness? Is it a panel of men from ekasi sitting at a street corner wearing All-star sneakers with overalls, who decide who is what, based on whether they pronounce the number 11 as Leven or eleven?

Is it ghetto fabulous divas in patterned leggings and morning slippers who gather at a salon and decide one’s fate?

I’m black and care less about what is said about my blackness. I know where I’m from, know where I’m going and also know who I’d like to become. Mzansi is mine, and while I’m in it, I’ll be myself and I change, learn and grow each and every day. So with that said, society must either keep up with that change or simply stop defining it by shallow definitions on what being black is all about.

Blessings,
Poppy Pops Vilakazi

This post was written by:

- who has written 70 posts on Kasi Times.

Twitter: @popsvila I am Poppy “Pops” Vilakazi, a 24 year old black and proud woman. I am shaped and defined but not limited to the ghetto lifestyle, culture and lingo. A Yahweh chaser by faith, a production manager by profession and a Kasi Times Editor by passion. Inspired by writers like Alan Paton, Fred Khumalo, Mongane Wally Serote, JM Coetzee, Ndumiso Ngcobo, Chinua Achebe, Karen Kingsbury and of course Zakes Mda. I only hope that through this publication you see that we are more than a stack of magazines put together and more than just words on a computer screen. May you see in us all that we’ve geared up and set out to do for you. I hope and pray that through my God given gifts and skills I am able to live up to our KasiTimes vision to “Empower, Motivate and Inspire” you to do and be more. Follow me as @popsvila on Twitter, Poppy “Pops” Vilakazi on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, and let me bless you with “A Piece Of my Mind” on my blog at www.popsvila.blogspot.com Blessings, Poppy “Pops” Vilakazi

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  • Kamo Mpshane

    Well written girl!!!!!

    So am I not black because I mention Birdy, John Mayer and Norah Jones when I describe the type of music I listen to. I can’t stand Hip Hop because I think its loud, and the sound of RnB doesn’t sit quite so well with me. Does this not simply mean that I have a different taste from the average black person, why does it have to automatically reclassify my whole race
    Our fellow “black” people should understand that certain things are purely a matter of choice, and not so much abandoning our roots.

  • http://twitter.com/Popsvila/status/232848667562876928/ (@Popsvila) (@Popsvila)
  • Pops

    So true my Chomp!!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 

  • http://twitter.com/theDzil/status/233081501254823937/ (@theDzil) (@theDzil)

    http://t.co/AJVi2h1O good read by: @Popsvila our very own!! #fb

  • SevenNev
  • Aya Mhlongo

    Well written! I love it!
    Having being born in Soweto and living there for only 2 years and moving to a suburb I’m always treated differently to my other cousins because I am always referred to as “Mlungu omnyama’ – (a white black person).
    This is always the case because of how I speak, the words that I use and the fact that I am not as fluent in Zulu because I grew up in a different environment.

    Due to all of this I’ve programmed myself to not always live up to society’s pressures and expectations. I am a black girl that loves & respects my culture but I love communicating in english and using “funny words” when I speak.

    Totally love this post! 

    • http://www.facebook.com/veli.brown Veli Brown

      It is called IsiZulu , by the way it is one of the eleven official Languages in this country. Not Zulu, unless your a white person. I understand that you are what you are, but please have respect for people who choose to speak the language and show an effort to know how some of the things are said. Why is it when somebody make a grammar error in English gets castigated, but its O.K. to make a Grammar error In IsiZulu. It is precisely that attitude people hate, where you show very little consideration in things pertening to African culture yet you want your situation to be understood.

      • Pops

        Veli Brown, your opinion is noted and thank you for sharing it, however I think you were too emotionally caught up to get the gist of what I am saying. I am saying that it is petty things like an overall, all stars an accent and physical features that have made us such haters and name callers. The stereotypes that we are suppose to live up to in order to be black enough are in my books, irrelevant. You did not get what I was saying perhaps read the article again and no, I am not going to criticize your English no, I just want to get your point. I hear what you are saying but it is crystal clear that you don’t get what I am saying at all. This publication is not designed to promote self hate, it’s created to push self love regardless of where you are from, how you speak etc. Of all the readers you seem to be the only one who did not get what I was saying, I apologise my message was not transmitted that clearly but kindly re-read and you can contact me directly at pops@kasitimes.co.za

  • Pops

    Aya I love you for sharing your thoughts and experience. I understand you fully. Society is not Aya, they may influence but do not make you. You choose who you want to be. As you are, you are awesome because if you feel confident in your skin and language. Live on sista!  SevenNev very creative!

  • http://www.facebook.com/veli.brown Veli Brown

    I just find some of your reference to Black culture very offensive and very stereotypical ( Like wearying an all star and overall) This is the reason why perhaps township people have such categories of people like yourself, who instead being black themselves, hate everything black, more like Uncle Rusus character in Boondocks. I do not think people have a problem with a your polish English accent , but they have a problem with people like yourself , who criticize and scorn at people when speaking their own mother tongue. Simple put, people criticize the attitude , the kind of people you mentioned act like racist white people towards anything black, it has been like that since white people landed in Africa. You are probably going to criticize my English you bloody Model C. The bottom line is that , you will never wish us away, because it was design by The Almighty , that in this part of land, we will reside, go ahead shoot to see if I care. Apartheid failed, then who the hell are, confused person, just like transvestane who are men who feel trapped in the gender they have.

  • ThatGirl

    Pearl’s parents arent mixed though. And she grew up in a township… 0_o

  • http://twitter.com/m0_Ami/status/286833982413365249/ ReSsah (@m0_Ami)

    Kasi Times » Blog Archive » You’re a Coconut http://t.co/pruMBAUu

  • NKORD

    I think you are fake. All though some of the things you said are right, you can’t compare Pearl and Eda. Pearl is a proper Zulu girl while Eda never made an effort to learn Xhosa. You on the hand just wish you weren’t black. Also it’s not only black people that accuse each other of being coconuts, whites do accuse blacks of being coconuts. Secondly, it’s irritating when a black person speaks English with a person that they know that that person doesn’t understand English. I infact know who Macbeth is but that doesn’t I have to show less effort to try African stuff and behave in a manner that shows what kind of a school I went to.

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