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Africa: Can white people be Africans? – Part 1

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa, Citizen Media, Ethnicity & Race, History

Can white people be Africans? Sentletse Diakanyo [1], a South African blogger, does not think so [2]. He says, “Historically, the term “African” never had any ambiguous meaning. To Africans today it still does not have any ambiguous meaning. Africans across the continent and in the diaspora have long understood its meaning to refer to them as black people.”

His post entitled “We are not all Africans, black people are” [2]has generated interesting reactions online with some people agreeing with him while others consider his arguments to be divisive.

He says [3], “You can be an African in any colour as long as he is black.”:

Henry Ford once said, “You can have any colour as long as it is black”. Similarly, native inhabitants of Africa say, “You can be an African in any colour as long as he is black.” There has been a sudden demand for an African to come in a variety of colours. During days of slavery when an African was a commodity traded over the counter, there was never a demand for him in any colour but black. There is now an attempt in the 21st century to redefine the colour scheme of an African. Whites want to be classified as African.

Sentletse argues [3] that even Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa, understood the true meaning of the term “Africa”:

On the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa, he said: “The South Africa we have struggled for, in which all our people, be they African, coloured, Indian or white, regard themselves as citizens of one nation is at hand.”

In his book, Facing Mount Kenya, the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, made it clear that the term “African” meant the native inhabitants of Africa [3]:

“The African is conditioned, by cultural and social institutions of centuries, to a freedom of which Europe has little conception, and it is not in his nature to accept serfdom forever.” These are the words of Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya, from the conclusion to his book Facing Mount Kenya in 1938. Kenyatta, too, does not appear to have suffered from the illusion that the term “African” referred to anybody else other than native inhabitants of Africa — the black people.

Sentletse makes a distinction [3] between national identity and racial identity:

While ancient and recent history confirms that whites are not Africans; the notion that they are persists, primarily born from the lack of distinction between racial and national identity. Europeans who migrated and settled Africa through naturalisation assumed the national identity of countries in which they adopted as their own. Their descendants in later generations through birth assumed the national identity of those countries, not the racial identity as Africans. They remained whites or Europeans, as oppressors of Africans saw themselves. No white person can either through birth or naturalisation assume an identity of African. African is not and has never been a national identity. Nowhere does a country called Africa exist.

Even Arabs in North Africa are not Africans [3]:

Our historical revisionists who want to be reclassified as Africans and no longer as Europeans or white, tend to look north at Arab countries and claim, in their state of bewilderment, that Arabs are Africans, therefore, they too have the right to proclaim themselves African. Perhaps it is the lack of historical knowledge that leads some to conclude that Arabs are Africans. The term “Arab” denote the racial identity of people from the Arabian Peninsula who conquered Egypt (then part of the Byzantine Empire) and Libya in the AD 600s and ended up controlling much of the northern part of Africa, including Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Therefore, Arabs are not Africans.

Afrikaans [4], a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa and Namibia, is not an African language [3]:

It is puzzling that whites readily accept African languages to be exclusively those commonly known as black languages; yet they cannot accept that the description “African” exclusively refers to Black people. The notion that Afrikaans is an African language is as ridiculous as any claim to Africanism by the progeny of European settlers. Afrikaans by its origin is bastardised Dutch and as some say, “another form of Fanagalo”. It is not an African language in the same manner that Arabic-dialect in Egypt is not an African language.

At the time of writing this post, there were 281 comments [5] on his post. Let's look at a few of them:

Perry Curling-Hope says:

I was born in South Africa and so were my parents and their parents. That makes me African!!! (I’m a so-called coloured by the way, not white).

If you’re gonna use this argument then we might as well go all the way back to the first humans. that makes us all African.

I think this idiotic blog amounts to hate speech and it typical neo-African racism.

wannaknow says:

I’m white. I was born in Africa. So were my parents. And grandparents. I can trace my lineage, both maternally and paternally, back to 7 generations born in Africa before we start finding Europeans. My family has been here longer than most Americans have baan in America, and yet, they have the right to call themselves “American”.

I’ve never been to europe – nevermind have an ancestry there.

You remove my right to call myself an African – yet, I cannot call myself European. Then what am I? Are you so bold as to devoid me of any identity? Am I to live seasonless in this world where neither Africa nor Europe would take me?

I am white. I am an African. If this bothers you, then its your mind that is narrow, not mine.

Christopher says he is not an African but he belongs in Africa:

Being a person of no colour, I LOVE this! makes absolute sense… the facts are ’spot on’… it’s logical and well thought through. I’m not an African but know for sure that I *belong* in Africa…

X Cepting says no one can claim ownership over the term “African”:

I am Indian and African. Period. I was born on this continent, and have never been to India. You have no ownership over the term, and I am comfortable using it to describe me.

yeahboet says:

I was born in Zambia (only lived there for 2 years), of white South African parents, I consider myself a South African. If asked by foreigners for my nationality, I am a South African and if necessary to qualify further – a white South African.

I don’t classify myself as a European though, as I don’t belong in Europe. However, I also don’t classify myself as an African as I agree with Sentletse, there may not be a universal definition but we all know what we understand by African. Ask any citizen of America to classify themselves and they will say “American” but we all know they actually mean USA American not all America in the geographic sense.

I don’t understand the problem I am happy to be a South African – hela!

A true South African is a descendant of the Khoi-San:

With your logic, it is equally true that no African has the right to call himself South African unless he is descended from the Khoi-San. They were the only tribes in this area until they were invaded and dispossessed of their land.

MoBear says:

Fine you’re an African and I am an European – now what?

To be born in China does not make one a Chinese:

I am with you on this one Sentletse,to be born in China does not make one a Chineese. And besides,if the forms at Home Affairs classify blacks as Africans,then we are not all African,Black people are.