This is the second of three posts i am wanting to share from Antjie Krog’s ‘Begging to be Black’ worth some serious thought and conversational engagement.

From Chapter 9:

‘I don’t think I know how to talk about social imaginings. I think I am experiencing a racial awareness crisis. Whereas I can imagine myself poor, ill, scared, beautiful, strange, powerful, I can’t even begin to imagine myself black. Why is that? One stood up against apartheid because one believed that all people shared a common humanity and that discrimination was wrong. In other words, I think I can imagine the indignity and hurt and empathise with that, but I can’t imagine the being-blackness.’

‘Do you know or suspect why that may be the case?’

‘Part of me is terrified that it is an indication that, somewhere, somehow, the residues of as yet unrecognised reflexes of racism are still smouldering. That I cannot imagine myself black because I actually despise black.’

‘You suggest that to imagine yourself black would be for you the final proof of your non-racialism?’

‘Maybe. But maybe I simply don’t know enough about being black to imagine it. Again the story of Petrus. I think I do not hear it properly enough to say: now I can imagine myself with a black voice. On the other hand, maybe whiteness is unlaydownable and I just have to learn to care for it?’

‘I really feel a bit uncomfortable with your black/white divisions. You suggest that blackness is more than skin-deep, to use the cliche, and this is essentialist talk. Trying to argue intelligently about it is a waste of time for me. We’re sitting here in a country [Germany] and in an institution and with people that are still staggering to make up for those very consequences of racist essentialism.’

‘Okay. You’re right. You’re right.’

‘And this is not to deny that a group of people’s inner psyche had been overwhelmingly formed through the colonial and apartheid principle of race. But race deserves more serious thinking than skin colour.’

‘We still have twenty minutes.’

‘No, let us continue next week. I also have to point out that you should be careful not to let blackness become a voiceless group that you privately observe and define, instead of a varied, multiple people with which you should have multiple-way conversations. In other words, don’t keep on talking to whites about blacks. Talk and listen to blacks.’

Somewhat unsettled by this stern admonition, I walked back to the flat.

Oblivious to the trees and the long, quiet street, my inside was searching for a word. A milk-near word. Something rising through all the remnants of past hearings. How was one to break through all these dividing borders? ‘Suture,’ I think. Perhaps ‘suture’ is the word that can wash this world. Carefully, to stitch, to weave, this side to that side, so that border becomes a heart-hammered seam.’

[To read the next part on Coherence or the lack thereof, click here]