Letters to the Editor: That “Coloured” Thing

Written by Ziyana Lategan in Letters

In the article which appeared in VARSITY entitled “It’s not racist, it’s a joke”, the writer critiques the role humour plays in enforcing racial stereotypes, particularly against those classified as “coloured”, claiming that the humour “erodes the very democracy for which we have struggled”.

To make the claim that this country is struggling with racial divisions, and to call this a consequence of a case of “prejudice”, is to be dangerously short-sighted. The identity was not constructed out of “stereotyping” which then led to extreme racial divisions. But rather out of a serious colonial project for which the divisive tools were beneficial for the ruling class.

Coloured and black people (deemed by the Verwoedian definition to be inferior) continue to live in absolute squalor conditions because of the lack of adequate redress of an oppressive history. Here is the real racism that we ought to be fighting. To highlight that others are ridiculing the representation of coloured people is the least of our worries. Whole scale marginalisation persists. Because somebody made a joke? I doubt it.

Mentioning “successful” coloured people, in an attempt to say “look we don’t all have false teeth”, is equally as misguided. Whose definition of success is this? Should these tokenised coloured people be celebrated for their successful assimilation into the dominant culture? What is the worth of motivation in the face of continued systemic oppression? 

An old joke which Zizek enjoys repeating is the one where a friend mentions his preference to being called Indian as opposed to Native American, claiming that it does a better job of illustrating the ignorance of the white man. Jokes in solidarity like this serve to expose the situation. So make jokes… or don’t make jokes… just don’t think that the laughter (or lack thereof), changes anything for the majority of people of colour facing the ills of this “democracy”. 

V

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