A Box Labelled “Other”

by remembertoexhale

Don’t ask me who I am
the answers you will receive will invariably dissatisfy you

I am from a country that up until I was a year old
was separated due to the pigmentation of our skin
beaches saying “White only”
“No blacks allowed”
“Coloureds this side”

My father
coloured boy with a stubborn curl on his forehead
a slightly Jewish nose
and wide, wanting eyes
stepping his foot over the boundary
longingly looking over at the ice cream man on the “White only” side
hopping over the white hot sand
thinking maybe if he tripped over it
people wouldn’t mind

but they would
and if they didn’t
someone else would
the law would

My mother,
the fairest and prettiest of the sisters
incidentally her grandmother’s favourite
and my mother’s best cousin, the darkest little boy
incidentally
the grandmothers least favourite

Indoctrined
educated
informed
you are half black
you are half black
you are not white
you are not white
you are half scum
you are a thief
you are disgusting

You asked me to explain who I am
I went to a private Christian school
predominantly white

My father wanted an ice cream

My mother a university student
decided to leave campus early
and decided to forgo the symbolic burying of apartheid
too tired to sing hymns
and peacefully demonstrate with the rest

Minutes later
tear gas
rubber bullets
burnt textbooks
beating
bruising
you are worthless
you are coloured
we will never be equals

You asked me who I am
I grew up in a private Christian school
predominantly white
my  father wanted an ice cream
my mother left early

My great grandmother
inky brown smooth skin and a sweet smile and my great grandfather
they met on a ship
and they fell in love
my other great grandmother already mixed milky brown and soft chin
fell in love and married a dapper Dutch man
they all died before their stories could be told to me

You asked me who I am
I grew up in a suburb in a small city
along the eastern coast of South Africa
I went to a private Christian school
predominantly white

you asked me who I am
I moved and lived in Singapore from age fourteen
I am now 20 and still living here
you asked me who I am
I was the only coloured- mixed kid
in the class full of white students
I was the only coloured – mixed kid in a class full of Chinese students

You asked me who I am
I might not be able to give you
a satisfactory answer
because my tick always falls in a box labeled “other”.

 

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