-- Unathi Kondile, South African Correspondent
I’d like to apologize, in advance, to all Chinese people who might read this. It’s not personal. I can just already imagine Chinese folks screaming, “kuai dian! kuai dian! (hurry! hurry! ) make us black too!”
Now ask me what the new what is?! Well, it was on Wednesday – the 18th of June - when I stood, gaping, watching the late night news as the presenter said something along lines of, “The Pretoria high court granted a landmark ruling that Chinese South Africans are to be included in the definition of ‘black people’ in legislation designed to benefit previously disadvantaged groups,” and further said Chinese now “automatically qualify for full benefits in terms of employment equity and broad based black economic empowerment legislation.”
“Come on!” I thought. We’re barely grappling with African immigrants who are already being included in this definition of “black people” and reaping the benefits of our hard fought freedom. How far can you stretch the definition of black people anyway? Doesn’t black refer to a skin colour?
So now, as it stands in South Africa, being black means you are Chinese, you are Indian, you are a white woman who was previously denied jobs in the past; and finally you are also the person who actually has a black skin colour and was subject to abhorrent discrimination in the past. Talk about a rat race - and increasing the competition pool for scarce resources!
We already have enough black locals who are struggling to make ends meet or even secure Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) deals; locals who still haven’t benefited from these empowerment programmes, and now we have more people being conveniently labeled “black”? One must never forget that certain races in South Africa refused to be classified as “black” in the past – all in the name of convenience. See if you were termed black in the past – you were the lowest denomination of God’s creation and you were sidelined into townships and makeshift shacks, whilst the Chinese or let me call them “new blacks” had better privileges than the lowly original blacks. Actually Chinese South Africans were called coloured people (or mixed race) back then, and not black, and not subject to the same discrimination. Now all of a sudden everyone wants to be black? Seems being black is fashionable these days. Everyone wants to be black in South Africa. I can just see everyone dreaming they were black.
As I watched the news I heard an emotional Patric Chong, chairperson of the Chinese Association of South Africa, expressing his joy and how they were overjoyed with being afforded the opportunity to be black and reap the benefits of being black. “A black Chinese!” I thought, “Now that’s definitely new!”