Let's build a new African identity

Science has long proven false the notion of the existence of ‘human races”. Biologically we are members of the same species. Our differences of skin colour, body shape, hair and eye colour are simply physical variations, similar to differences found in other species of living things.
Colour differences in cattle, for example, do not imply a fundamental difference between them: they are still cattle.

Ironically, South Africans, who ought to know better, are divided on this issue. This country is replete with solid archeological evidence that shows we come from the same source. However, our chauvinistic social prejudices make us act irrationally.

In a cultural sense, there is nothing wrong with identifying ourselves as amaXhosa, Afrikaner, Jew, English, Bapedi and so on. The danger arises when these identities are used to judge people — whether they are inferior or superior. According to some, people behave and think in a particular manner because of their ethnic group.

But race and ethnic groups are created by people. They are not natural or ordained by God. Nowhere does the Bible mention races and tribes in the Garden of Eden. Such identities are mentioned much later on in the Gospel, proving that they were created by the descendants of Adam and Eve.

Precisely because we can create, and have created, races and ethnic groups, we can, and should, destroy them and create something positive. What we should be concentrating on is building a united nation, not perpetuating these divisive and confining laagers.

Those who advocate the ‘African renaissance” are rightly creating a new African identity. The definition is not exclusive and negative as it encompasses indigenous Africans, Indians, whites, coloureds, Chinese and so on as long as they affirm and identify with this continent.

Moreover, realistic pointers like economic class explain relationships far better than colour or culture.

Controversial as this may sound, members of the Boeremag have a lot in common with many South Africans — those who feel marginalised because of their culture and language, and who are worried about crime and the lack of jobs.

However, instead of uniting with these fellow South Africans to present a common solution to these problems and thus strengthening their case, they selfishly hide behind their skins deluding themselves that they are specific targets of persecution, with disastrous results.

There is a need to give life to South African democracy and the development of society by looking for the commonalities between us rather than the differences.

Dr Thabisi Hoeane is a lecturer in the department of political and international studies at Rhodes University

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