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For Mixed-Race South Africans --- Equity Is Elusive

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  • multiracialbookclub
    For Mixed-Race South Africans -- Equity Is Elusive -- by Lydia Polgreen CAPE TOWN , South Africa— When the man from the African National Congress came
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 10, 2007
      For Mixed-Race

      South Africans --

      Equity Is Elusive

      -- by Lydia Polgreen

      TOWN , South Africa—

      When the man from the African National
      Congress came looking for votes in 1994,
      Mohammed Khan says he listened carefully.

      The man promised jobs, better schools and new
      houses for the hundreds of thousands of people
      crammed into the Cape Flats , the sprawling
      townships built by the apartheid government.

      Most important, Mr. Khan recalls, the man
      said that in the new South Africa, people
      of Mixed Race, known ... as `
      would [become] full and equal citizens.

      To someone like Mr. Khan, who had lived
      only as a second-class citizen, derided
      as the progeny of forbidden racial mixing,
      uprooted from his neighborhood in Cape Town as a
      little boy and sent to live in a distant ghetto to make
      room for White people, it was a powerful message.

      "We were all going to be South Africans now, not
      Colored', not 'Black', not 'White', just South Africans,"
      said Mr. Khan, 43, an unemployed laborer who
      lives in Netreg, a few miles from Table Mountain.

      Mr. Khan was convinced; he
      cast his ballot for Nelson Mandela.

      "We were all going to have a
      better life together," he said.

      Nearly 10 years after Mr. Mandela became
      South Africa 's first 'Black' president,
      Mr. Khan still does not have a job.

      He collects scrap metal on a
      horse-drawn cart to feed his family.

      His parents still live next door in a two-room
      cinder-block house, with 18 other relatives living in
      shacks in the backyard with the horses and chickens.

      Worst of all, he feels that people of Mixed-Race are
      still caught in the middle of South Africa 's rainbow.

      "… It is still `
      Colored' people who are stuck
      in the middle, and no one cares about us … "

      People of Mixed-Race are not the only ones
      disappointed; people in all racial groups have
      felt the shocks and pangs of South Africa's
      slow and painful progress from authoritarian,
      racist-rule to multicultural-democracy.

      Unemployment, crime and the scourge of AIDS
      -- afflicts all South Africans to varying degrees.

      But among the Mixed-Race residents of the
      Cape Flats --  where poverty and unemployment
      help push young men into violent street gangs,
      and where life seems to have gotten harder since
      apartheid's end -- many people say they feel there
      is no place for them in the new South Africa ...

      A child playing a bugle outside a
      dwelling in the township of Netreg

      In a country whose history is usually simplified
      into a struggle between a 'White' minority and a
      'Black' majority, the four million people known as
      Coloreds' are often little more than a footnote …

      Yet people of Mixed-Race have always been
      central to the nation's history, and today they form an
      important and hotly contested voting bloc, especially
      for the largely White opposition party, the Democratic
      Alliance, which seeks their support as a bulwark
      against the powerful African National Congress.

      During apartheid, people of Mixed-Race were
      granted a slightly higher status than 'Blacks':
      they had marginally better schools and
      housing, and did not have to carry passes
      to enter 'White' areas, as 'Black' people did.

      [In] the  Western Cape , Mixed-Race people
      could get skilled blue-collar jobs that paid better
      than the menial ones open to 'Black' people.

      They were uprooted from their homes and banished
      from White areas -- but were not sent to distant
      homelands, like the so-called bantustans
      created for 'Black' people under apartheid.

      Most people of Mixed -Race spoke Afrikaans,
      which linked them culturally to the ruling elite.

      But that "thread of privilege" came at a price.

      The Population Registration Act, which
      codified racial categories under apartheid,
      put non-Whites in a crude hierarchy, using
      "a variety of humiliating methods to determine race".

      Perhaps the most absurd was `the pencil test', in
      which a 'White' bureaucrat would put a pencil into the
      hair of a person whose racial origin was uncertain.
      If the pencil fell out, the person was `White'.
      If it stayed put, the person was `

      Many South Africans of mixed race live in townships
      built by the apartheid government outside Cape Town

      These indignities created a
      deep antipathy to apartheid;
      indeed, the Mixed-Race community
      of the Western Cape was central to
      a powerful and important anti-apartheid
      movement, the United Democratic Front.

      But the apartheid government also went to
      great lengths to patronize and demoralize
      people of Mixed-Race -- building a system
      of dependence through social welfare and
      sowing fear and contempt of 'Black' people.

      In the dream of a nonracial South Africa ,
      Mixed-Race people were to become
      simply South Africans, no longer burdened
      with "the inhuman probing of their identity".

      But their status today illustrates just how difficult
      the task of creating `a non-racial identity' has been.

      "We all thought that after 1994, the whole
      notion of `
      Colored' would just disappear,"
      said Trevor Oosterwyk, a political writer and
      historian who grew up in the Cape Flats and
      was active in the anti-apartheid struggle.

      "But it did not disappear; if anything it reasserted
      itself in the form of `
      Colored' Nationalism.

      And now `
      Colored' people are struggling to
      figure out precisely where they fit in."

      Of course, there are people of Mixed-Race
      who have fit into the new South Africa just fine.

      They hold high positions in government and business,
      and new educational and career opportunities are
      helping many break into the middle class. …

      But Robert Mattes, a professor of political science
      at the University of Cape Town who led a survey
      published last year on political attitudes, said that
      of all racial groups, `
      Colored' people were the
      most pessimistic about the country's future as
      a peaceful and prosperous multiracial nation.

      In some ways, people of Mixed-Race had
      the most to lose with the end of apartheid.

      The 'White' ruling elite kept its wealth
      even as it relinquished political control.

      Mixed-race people, [were] never allowed the
      tools to accumulate [the] wealth… that now
      must be spread among 44 million people…


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