Sunday, November 23, 2008

A celebration of brown

Brown-ness should be celebrated, its the colour of the future. This is the interesting point in the article on the Obama phenomenon, by Colleen Lowe Morna, executive director of Gender Links, where she makes the point that Barrack Obama is neither black nor white, he is brown. She tells her own story, 'as a Southern African mother of two daughters of mixed race', who celebrates, the 'fortune of her two daughters in being born brown'. She concludes,
'If all that Barrack Obama succeeds in doing is to show us that between the black and white of race and politics there is a colour brown in which you can celebrate your African roots as well as pay tribute to the white grandmother and mother who raised you without being called an Oreo (black cookies with a white filling), he will have done our world a great service.'

I am becoming more and more aware of younger people celebrating their brown-ness, the 'fortune in being born brown'. What does this mean ? Is this only a struggle of us South Africans, in particular the brownies again ? Lowe Morna, who describe herself as 'born of white South Africanparents', however makes the point that, if you get on the subway in London or New York, you will be hard-pressed to find a face that is 'purely of any race'. This is my struggle, exactly. Whilst we become aware of our mixed-ness, our brown-ness, more and more we realise that this is not simply a Southern African conundrum. It is a reality within the rest of Africa, but also in other parts of the world. Danny Titus often makes the point, that the notion of mixed geneology, but also mixed heritage is not only the reality of coloureds in Southern Africa. I would like venture a bit further. Mixed-ness, in terms of geneology is a reality amongst all human beings- racial purity is a myth. In terms of this, whiteness, has no genetic ontic essence, it is a social construct, i.e. it was developed. Steve Biko, often made the point that blackness, African-ness is not about genes or pigmentation, its about a social state of being. Here we need to ackonwledge our history, the roots in slavery, European colonization, miscegenation and bricolage. So, lets accept that as human beings, we are all products of mixed geneology, and culturally, we are all mixed, hence the title of Dr Hans Heese's book, 'Groep sonder grense' (Group without boundaries)

Where does it leave the conversation ? It leaves us at the place where we have to own up to our mixed-ness, all of us. We are allways open to new shades and textures, as we evolve in our human-ness. In this process, we may celebrate the diversity and the new shades emerging, hence we may celebrate brown-ness, as long as we realise, that this is an open, inclusive celebration.
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