Saturday, December 22, 2007

Colour Coded

I wanted to share this little snippet that happened on my son's class camp a few weeks ago.

Towards the end of the camp my son's teacher was brought a form to fill in by the education centre's admin. It asked her to give the statistics for the racial make-up of the group. She looked at it distastefully and our guide apologised but said they were obliged by government regulations to keep records, presumably so they can make sure that "previously disadvantaged" groups are adequately represented.

Some of the nine-year old girls were hanging out with the grown-ups and were interested in the form, helping count up the numbers of black, coloured and white, boys and then girls. At one point one of the Xhosa girls reached a different total to the teacher and started naming each white boy that she had counted to make her total of four. My son and the twins who live at Camphill (a village community for slightly mentally disabled adults, down the road from us, with quite a group of the children of the co-workers living there), were counted off and then she added Danny to the list. Danny is the adopted son of one of the (white) Camphill house parents, his skin a dark brown, but he has grown up with the same cultural background as the twins and she saw him as white, even though his skin was no lighter than hers.

The teacher and I looked at each other, secretly thrilled that this pigeon-holing for the sake of statistics had been cancelled out by a child's perception of how things are.

It really seemed to illustrate that for our children's generation culture is more of a racial identifier than physical colour. It also give huge hope that our country can eventually become more unified as our children grow up and share their cultures with each other and a solid middle-class of all colours gives us a foundation on which to build.


  1. Oh, I love that Kit. It does give me hope that SOuth Africa may have a future. Race will always be there, but if we can teach tolerance and empathy we might just get through another century as mankind!

  2. i love this story... i someimtes wish we could see the world through our children's eyes - life would be so much less complicated!

  3. What a fascinating perception that child has. I worry that well-meant efforts at education often simply serve to communicate stereotypes. We got a book for Christmas all about red monsters and blue monsters, a heavy-handed allegory for race relations that seemed likeliest to me to inculcate the idea that colour is what matters, despite the obvious agenda otherwise.

  4. That's one of the things that thrills me the most on my visits home to South Africa. The kids born since the early 1990s simply do not see the world in colours as we used to as children - it's fantastic to see and the best hope our country has of coming through all the social upheaval, load shedding et al.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!