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COLUMN: ‘Race card’ – the modern-day dompas

Ofentse Maphari | 17 March 2017

 

I have witnessed black people being accused of pulling out the “race” card quite a lot, but in all honesty, I have never actually seen a black person physically pull one out. This got me thinking:

What exactly is a “race” card and why are we, black people, constantly being accused of pulling it out every time we talk about race, racism and racial injustice.

As a black person I have questioned the existence of a “race” card. Is it like a loyalty card that you have to swipe every time you comment on the reality of your racial identity? Or maybe it is like a credit card that you load with “race” points and swipe until it runs of credit. If so, is there an overdraft or do I completely have to stop talking about what it means to be black once my “race” account hits that 0.00 balance?

If that is the case, can I reload my card multiple times a month or I am I capped and limited to only the “race” points that I get each month – meaning I have to always wait for a new month to validate my experiences of being black to the dubious individuals who want proof of my credibility to speak on MY race issues?

Who, then, do I go to to reload my card? Who issues these cards and decides when, where and how I can discuss my reality as a black person, and most importantly, a black woman?

Also, how are the “race” points deducted from my “race” card? Is there a set amount of points deducted from my “race” account every time I talk about being black or are there different degrees of statements that I can make regarding race that qualify different “race” points being deducted from my account?

Or maybe, just maybe, the “race” card is not like a normal card, but somewhat similar to a memory card – storing terrabytes of my invalidated existence. However, pulling out a memory card adds no input to a discussion as all the information simply disappears along with it (which is definitely what the “pulling out the ‘race’ card” accusers want). People are accusing us of pulling out the “race” card because of the information we put in, not the information we pull out.

A “race” card built like a memory card would be a nightmare for them because there would be gang files being uploaded into these conversations that are supposedly exempt from addressing race and racism. Basically, there would be an overload of black realities that I do not think those who believe “it’s not always about race” are ready address (or even want to, in fact)…

The idea of black people being in possession of a “race” card that we casually always pull out and swipe like billionaires has left me perplexed, to say the least. Black people have searched their bodies and their homes like apartheid policemen – looking for this object that is meant to silence us whenever we address the reality of being black to the“it’s not always about race” preachers – and still, not a single black person, including myself, has been able to produce one to the accusatory audience.

Ironic, isn’t it, that even after the dompas was abolished, people still continue to invalidate black lives, their experiences by using an object (this time imaginary) to control us and how we see our reality, repressing it, further reminding us that we are black, but telling us how and when it is appropriate to address racism and racial injustice.

Why, then, would black people own this card, but most importantly, why have I never seen it?

It could be that all black people disappeared off the face of the earth when the “race” card was issued or maybe it floated somewhere in the womb with us and was accidentally discarded with the after-birth. I don’t know. What I do know, however, is the colour of my skin and my lived experiences are not to be reduced to the “pulling” of a “race” card, if, with each swipe my reality is to be devalued as a debit.

Looking in the mirror is already enough.

By Olorato Mongale

Olorato Mongale

Olorato Mongale

(Featured Image: Twitter)

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