Black American, Black Boer, White African? – An Investigation of the Determinants of Identity

Beulah Osueke September 12, 2011

The leader of the Boer people, a small population of white South Africans who are descendants of the Dutch, Irish, British and French who settled in South Africa, is known to have expressed his concerns about the well-being of the Boer people. He fears that Boer people, if they don’t protect themselves, will be wiped. For this reason, he wishes to keep Boers pure by not accepting any black as a Boer, even if the black has the characteristics of a Boer. The leader’s unique beliefs, unorthodox school of thought, and his perspective on identity are quite conspicuous and the topic of investigation in this article. 

You might be asking yourself “Who exactly are the Boer people? What do they do and why do they matter?” As mentioned above, the Boer people are descendants of Europeans who settled in South Africa during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Their goals were to escape British rule and create for themselves their own “nation” distinguished from the imperial government of the Britain. In addition to those goals, they also had in mind to ascertain that they remain separate from native black South Africans. The topic is one worthy of discussion because the leader of the Boer people, during an interview between the Boer leader and BBC World Wide reporter Louis Theroux, made hard hitting comments that raise genuine questions of identity and cultural infiltration. 

The leader stated that despite the necessary qualities that a black man might have for the makings of a Boer, Christian, God-fearing, toughness, pride, patriotism, sense of history and the ability to speak Afrikaans, a black man will never be able to be a “Boer.”

Why a black man, woman, child or anyone for that matter would ever desire to become a “Boer” in the first place is beyond me, but the man’s school of thought brings about interesting question: “Can the color of a person’s skin hinder them from the rights to whatever identity they wish to claim”?

To answer this question I must admit that in my opinion, a white person can never truly claim the title of “African”. Yes, geographically a white South African can claim “I am African” but they do not truly have the African essence. Beyond the technicalities, white South Africans are not truly African.  If political correctness is to be honored and respected then I can give a white person the title of being “African,” but in my heart I will never truly believe that they can rightfully make that claim. “Why?”, you may ask. This stance makes me appear to be no different than the Boer leader who bases membership into his group solely on skin color but I personally believe that being an African transcends skin color. Just like Ghanian leader Kwame Nkrumah said, “one is not African because they were born in Africa but because Africa was born in them.”

Whites who claim to be “African” are descendants of the colonizers, ringleaders and oppressors who came and stole what the original Africans owned. White South Africans came and forcefully implemented their own ideas into authentic African culture.

The history of a black South African is more than likely this: My ancestors were enslaved, colonized, made to feel inferior, told they weren’t equal, told that something was wrong with them and told they weren’t worthy. The history of a white “African” is more than likely similar to this: My ancestors were colonizers who came and got the best part of a land that did not belong to them, took all the wealth, forcefully gained influence and injustly accumulated power. 

Black Africans have a history of pain, defeat, triumph and overcoming victory. White South Africans have a history of glamour and gold. With this in mind, how then can a black South African look at a white South African and be expected to mentally erase that past and unite with them under the umbrella term “African?” Forgiveness is an essential part to healing and necessary to living, but the past should always be remembered and taken into account for its role in the present. Black South Africans and white South Africans do not have the same historical reality and their present and future will always be perceived differently. Total unity dressed in brotherhood and equality is desired, but is it realistic? 

The Boer leader whom I spoke of was quoted saying “If we allow black people to become Boer then it will be the end of the Boer existence….” My views are not nearly as radical as his because I am coming from a place of genuine concern and sensitivity for remembrances of a past that shapes our today and will have effect on our tomorrow. With an approach similar to that of the Boer leader, I ask: If we allow those who came and stole our land to so easily adopt the title “African” or “South African” etc, are we not gradually contributing to the overall demise of our people? Are we not diluting the essence of what an African is? Having the right to call oneself “African” lies on the tips of every individual’s tongue with the ability to speak. It would be ridiculous for Africans to think of themselves as bouncers regulating who can and cannot enter the “I Am African” club. But when contemplating claims of African identity, do you believe that a white South African and a black South African are essentially equally African?

About Authour:

Beulah Osueke is a psychology major at Ouachita Baptist University. She believes the world's general view of Africa has been tainted and looks to address the inaccurate perceptions thriving in the media that result from an unjust past and unwarranted generalizations. She hopes to shine light on the efforts being made to generate a new respectable view of Africa, one that attest to Africa's rich culture, pure strength, and tenacious perseverance.

Last Edited by: Updated: February 25, 2014


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