Where on earth do I even start with this topic? “What I want my white friends to know” seems like such a direct attack to some of my closest friends and those who I am still to meet. I absolutely love my friends so how could I write this? Then I thought about how much I really want to say some things and I sat down to type this.

First of all I come from a lovely family. Two parents. Two kids. My brother and I are so different that you would think that we were not related. I am also a devoted friend and will try and move mountains to help a person that I care for.

There is just one issue that absolutely tortures me.

I am constantly called a coconut. For those who don’t know what that means it refers to being white on the inside even though the person’s skin is black.

That word is the most hurtful thing that at some point all of my friends have said to me. Some people don’t realise how much it bothers me and I scarcely say it out loud. When I do people brush it off and ask how many books I have read this week alone. (Three on average if you were wondering)

I mean, how is it that it’s okay for any other person to love reading, public speaking and just overall enjoy the English language but as soon as a black person does it they get labelled? I’m not white. I’m black. Every time you insinuate otherwise it hurts because with that one word you have discredited my whole heritage and culture.

With this whole coconut thing also comes the term that I don’t like which is “you speak soooo well”. What? I speak soooo well? As opposed to who? Another black person or just another person in general? Do you praise another person as much if they successfully master the English language?

I get it that each individual person does not mean harm but after a lifetime of these two things it gets frustrating.

When I go back to visit my grandmothers I am perfectly capable of cooking over a fire, speaking my mother tongue and helping pick fruits while it is 42 degrees Celsius with not a single cloud in the sky.

Is it so wrong for me to live between two cultures and not get called names about it?

There is this automatic assumption when you are called a coconut that you know nothing about your culture. I can’t say that I know everything about my culture but that is out of choice for not wanting to practice certain aspects because I am Christian.

This whole piece seems very accusing to a specific race but it isn’t meant to be. I get called a coconut by my black friends too. I remember one time in specific where I was walking into the office and there was a new person around. My friends both black and white stopped me from coming in. They then told me to talk to them as I stood outside for a while. I thought that was weird but did it anyway. When I walked in after about 5 minutes of conversation it was to the shock that they had asked the new person inside to guess if I was black or white. When the person guessed that I was white I was so ashamed of myself? And worse than that I was just overall embarrassed.

After nearly a week of beating myself up about being too white and convincing myself that I was black enough I got over. At what point is it okay to judge me because I embrace a culture?

So what I want my white friends to know (and black) is that coconut is not a nice word. I have never and will never like it.

[For the next post by Siki Dlanga focusing on the concept of ‘the better black’, click here]