“Ag, Alyx – you’re the prettiest coloured girl I know!”
Something I heard when I was 18. It seemed really innocent at the time, but the feeling in my stomach didn’t go away. Why did this person have to phrase it like that? I didn’t get it.
Not the first or last time I experienced a microaggression – but it was the first time I started to think, “Hmmm. This isn’t right.”
And once you know what that means, you start to pick it up in the things you see everyday. From the media, to your friends and even your colleagues.
“So, the passion gap thing? What’s that about, hey?”
And that in itself can be an startling experience. You see, you might be told you’re sensitive, not able to take a joke or that you make everything about race but the reality remains is that you’re experiencing discrimination, underhandedly so too.
Over the years, I’ve come to notice how the South African media portrays coloured people and it isn’t very positive.
Before I used to say, ‘Ag, now people are gonna think we’re all like that!’ when cringing at a soapie character on TV or seeing an advert that had a “typical” coloured aunty or uncle (looking at you, Vodacom). Because I figured if that was all people saw, that’s all they would know. But actually it’s not my job to broaden someone’s horizons and representation is something that should be inclusive of all.
Coloured people are never really seen as fully fledged people in the media, we are the toothless drunk, the homeless kid, the sexually charged homewrecker trying to end your marriage or the pumped gym addict with a gold earring.
Tell me when last you’ve watched a soapie or advert without those characters in it.
And while those kinds of people do exist, that is not the sole way anyone should be represented.
Then you deal with people asking “Are you from here?” because you don’t conform to some idea of what a “typical hotnot” (an actual thing said to me) is. Or putting on a poorly executed coloured accent when talking because somehow that makes me “understand” you better. Microaggressions leave you annoyed, angry and wary of the people you encounter. Why would you want to engage with people when you’re likely to have to fend off some shitty racism? Nope, no thanks. Keep your conversation.
We’re not just one dimensional. We’re not just a punchline. Mostly, we’re not sensitive or overreacting for being offended at the way people of colour are being portrayed. And I shouldn’t even have to tell anyone that.
But thank God I can see I’m not just “pretty for a coloured girl”.