“If you’re from Africa, why are you white?”
Many may recognize the words of Karen from the 2004 movie “Mean Girls.” Funny, right? Not really. Not when you get asked that question almost every day.
In every country that I have visited, some misinformed person asks me this racist question. Usually, however, this question is followed by a retort like “I’m not trying to be racist or anything,” or “I have never met a white person from Africa before.”
I have been asked which country in Africa I am from when I say that I am from South Africa. I have been asked if I lived there for a few years and just identify as an African as a result. But still, almost every day, I am asked how it is possible for me to be African.
Yes, white people can be from Africa. We are born there, our parents and grandparents were born there. We are not all sons and daughters of missionaries from America or Europe.
This is not such an odd phenomenon. There may not be many, but 8.1 percent of the current population of South Africa is white.
Jan van Riebeeck landed in South Africa on April 5, 1652. One of the ships was named De Goede Hoop (The Good Hope) and as soon as it landed, construction started on the Fort of Good Hope. Ever wonder where the name for the Cape of Good Hope comes from? Now you know!
This was the first introduction of Europeans in South Africa. Over the next few decades, the Great Trek ensues and white people spread throughout the boundaries of what we know as South Africa today. These Netherlanders spoke Dutch to the natives and the product of the two is called Afrikaans. This is what I speak. It is an African language. The Afrikaner culture was born.
Today, South Africa’s national anthem consists of five of the 11 official languages, one of which is Afrikaans.
White South Africans, or Afrikaners, are just as African as anyone else born on continental Africa. I just happen to have a different complexion than popular culture has taught the Western world Africans normally have. No big deal.