[Article first published on Huffington Post]
..Being policed by security personnel when shopping. It’s living with the knowledge that they will keep their eye on you, or even follow you around. Not because they want to help, but because they think you may steal merchandise.
Appreciating that multi-colour lunch plate you get on Sunday when you go home-home. This plate is also very much available on main holidays like Christmas and Easter which you normally spend at home-home.
Rolling your eyes at hispters who just discovered kale for their smoothies, kale chips and green salads… you’ve been eating it for years as morogo with pap.
Growing up in a dynamic environment, where close-knit familial relationships with ‘siblings’ from your extended family are the norm. Cousins being brothers and uncles and aunts being extensions of your parents.
Code-switching. Knowing when to turn it up or keep it real to keep your job or your place in a white dominated society.
Having accents you could employ to engage your different stakeholders. A ‘clean’ accent for work and a ‘real’ accent for other blacks. Don’t’ believe me? #AskMmusi, he’s mastered the accent game. Pay attention to how he pronounces the consonant ‘thr-‘ with his different audiences.
Being forced to dislike Nkalakatha because it’s overplayed at Friday drinks and all other office parties. Your colleagues love it. A lot. It’s the only kwaito song they know. Usually.
Being told to tone down using your mother tongue during social situations at work because your white colleagues won’t know what you are talking about.
Remembering those pre-Uber and pre-Taxify days when you were expected to make it to work when you had car troubles because you have the option of taxis or buses. Not so much your white counterparts. They got the day off to sort their car issues out.
Holding your tongue from reading your white colleagues to filth when they introduce themselves anew every week for a whole year, because they don’t recognize you. Must be those clothes you keep changing. Or that weave.
Having to deal with corporate South Africa and its disregard for black family funerals being inclusive of extended families, not just your nuclear family. It’s having to manage your leave days appropriately to accommodate those family occasions.
Living with white liberals who always see you as a great opportunity to talk about where this country is going. Sometimes you really want to talk about how those ripe ‘n ready avocados at your local Woolies store are never really ripe ‘n ready. And John Robbie.
Is living with ‘African Literature’ as a section at most bookstores. Everything else is just ‘literature.’
Reading characters like you in literature being described as food – almond eyes, chocolate skin, cocoa goddess, dark mocha god; and never bumping into, as Another Round’s Heben Nigatu puts it, ‘…her supple, cauliflower skin.’ ‘…his uncooked chicken breast skin.’ ‘…her skin glowed with mozzarella undertones.’ ‘His bones were as brittle as vanilla wafer.’ You get the drift.
Being linguistically apt, like a Generations set. It’s fantastic!
Having to explain that not all black men went to the mountain.
Rolling your eyes every time you see an ad with black people dancing for airtime or mealie-meal. This. Again. Ugh.
Being begrudgingly ok with truncated versions of your name like Molly in place of Moleboheng, Lebs in place of Lebohang, Kat in place of Katlego, M in place in Mpotseng. It’s that you have to explain why your name matters.
Trying all sorts of concoctions to grow and maintain your edges. Castor oil, cannabis oil and other backyard hair food products. Because that relaxer done messed you up. Thank you, assimilation.
Having to answer questions about blackness. Especially if you are the only black person in an office, in a lecture room or group.
Understanding what Kanye means by ‘broke nigga racism’ which is the ‘don’t touch anything in the store’ narrative; and by ‘rich nigga racism’ which is the ‘come in, please buy more. What you want, a Bentley? Fur Coat? A diamond chain? All you blacks want all the same thing…’ narrative. New Slaves.
Going to view a property for renting and having the estate agent tell you that the PUTCO bus, Metro bus and taxi routes are a stone’s throw from the house, so transport won’t be problem for you. Stop. You don’t know my life.
Being polite to the black beggar who sees you at your gate and asks you to call the owner of the house so they can beg from them, because you couldn’t be that owner. It’s being polite to them because you understand where that narrative comes from.
Finally learning to give no fucks when your neighbor or security patrol stops you, says hello and asks where you live again. It is jamming to Solange’s F. U. B. U. on full blast because she captures it so well… “When it’s going on a thousand years, and you pulling up to your crib, and they ask you where you live again, but you running out of damns to give, oh…’
Being guilty of ‘walking while black‘ in ‘white suburbs’. This includes altercations with police, neighborhood watch teams and security patrols with such questions like ‘do you live around here?’ or ‘where are you headed?’
The tension of buying property in gentrified neighborhoods while wincing at the pain you know gentrification inflicts on other people like you.
Having home, and then home-home. Home is the place you live in most of the time, and home-home is your parents’ home.
Wondering what’s wrong with you because every time you or people like you move into a neighborhood, all the white people move out. Something about property prices.
Feeling the need to explain the importance of affirmative action and engage people who think its racism while resisting the urge to roll your eyes.
Living under the spectre of respectability politics because you only deserve attention when you don’t drop your pants, have comb-kempt hair, straightened hair or a good weave. GTFOHWTBS