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When you have to justify and clarify who you are

There is no politically correct way to say this – I was born an insult to humanity, or so it seems. 

Puseletso Petersen

And unless everything around me pointing to this is there no more, this will be the way I perceive it. But let me add – I do not apologize - for being black, for being a woman and I do not apologize for my daughters yet to be born, because they too, will inherit and struggle with the label of being a black woman. 

I’m an 80’s baby - born into a biracial family. My shade of black has always been a topic of discussion from primary school through to University. 

The surname is the clincher – But why is it Petersen? Are you black? These questions have always made me cringe at the meeting stage. The first time you have to identify yourself. Because almost always without fail I think, let’s get the explanation out from the start. Let’s keep this short. Let’s keep it moving.

ALSO READ: If you live in South Africa, race matters

After graduating from University, I started actively thinking about what my identity should be - Who I am in relation to self, my family, career and others. And how does that fit into our rainbow nation and now our democracy? What is my place? Do I even have a place?

These scenarios are complicated to answer when you view what is happening around you on a daily basis. You see, issues of race aren’t straight-forward in the South African context. We all have baggage and issues. And sometimes it comes out for the world to see.

Defending your DNA is a daily activity it seems. We risk being reminded of our unconscious inferiority, from the moment we wake up, to sitting in a restaurant boldly attempting to be a part of the human race. Chances are you will be challenged for thinking you deserve a seat at the table.

Most people reacted in anger to the “Spur” incident. And yes, it was highly emotive. What I saw was a man bullying a woman in front of her children. It angered me, but it also pained me. I identified with the mother, and that overwhelming feeling of always having to defend, stand up and demand to be heard and respected. That feeling of not being treated as an equal, of always being reminded by your existence in a patriarchal society, that you as a black woman, must stay in your lane. 

WATCH: Heated confrontation at Spur sees man banned

The video speaks to so much that is wrong in the South African context. It reminds us all of the work still to be done to bridge the gap between black and white, men and women. But we will have to do the work. We will have to start building bridges and mending fences. It is not okay for us as a society to be reminded in the crudest of ways, that some amongst us have not moved an inch.

South Africa really does belong to all who live in it, and we must start treating each other that way. We owe it to our children. We owe a change of mindset and attitude, to the women of our country, who all can assist in creating a better life for all. For if we don’t -we will simply perpetuate the existence of a country in limbo.

The saga has however made me rethink the way I do, speak and act when it comes to complicated matters in my daily life. How I navigate my way in this society. It’s not okay to be silent. It’s not okay to sit on the fence. It’s time to find our collective voices when wrongs are committed. We need to be proper examples for the next generation. So when next you wonder if I know my place - Well yes I do. I take my seat at the head of the table. Unapologetically. 

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