11 February, 2016

‘I’m either called a coconut or a foreigner for not speaking Zulu’

According to them (Zulus) it was impossible for a black South African not to understand or speak Zulu.

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Slindile was adopted at the age of three by a white couple, Heidi and Neik Wit.

Slindile has never experienced any discrimination from her family based on her skin colour, but her family is an example of a rose surrounded by thorns.

Slindile Wit with her adoptive parents, Heidi and Niek Wit. PIcture: Sibonele Ngcobo
Slindile Wit with her adoptive parents, Heidi and Niek Wit. PIcture: Sibonele Ngcobo

The country always preaches about unity, a rainbow nation and how they wish white and non-white could be one. But when it happens they are not so welcoming, this is what Slindile experienced for 18 years of her life.

From the wired stares her family got in shopping malls to the isolation at school because she could not understand Zulu, signs that South Africa may not be a place where racism does not exist.

“When Lindi was young we had a few black people who would come to us and say “thank you (for adopting her)”, whilst white people would just walk away,” said Heidi, Slindile’s mother.

But now the picture has changed, Slindile receives more rejection from people who have the some skin colour as her than those who are different.

Some people could blame it on the country’s history where non-whites were force to fear difference which somehow developed to hate. Slindile is aware of other peoples prejudice because just for not speaking the language she is either called a “coconut” or a foreigner.

Slindile Wit in school
Slindile Wit in school

Simple things like going to a salon or getting a snack from KFC was not as easy for her.

“I remember I went to a salon that a friend recommended because it was cheap but when I got there prices changed,” said Slindile.

She said that when she asked why they changed the prices, they told her that she had to pay more because she was a foreigner.

According to them it was impossible for a black South African not to understand or speak Zulu.

“Almost the same thing happened once at KFC, I went to get Ice cream and the lady refused to serve me because I didn’t speak Zulu”.

“She even insisted that she knew I could speak Zulu and I was being silly”.

“She was so rude to me,” she added.

How do we turn around from these situations when so much was born from racism and apartheid?

Neik said he thinks racism is born from fear and that people fear what they don’t know, then they reject or disassociate themselves from it.

“Although we can’t call what Slindile’s experiencing ‘racism’, I think people treat her differently because they think she is different,” said Neik.

Neik said his daughter is aware that she is not the same race but has never been made feel like an outsider.

“We even have jokes around race and we are all comfortable with it, because love has no race.”

Neik said there is one family picture they always joke about, where Slindile was standing next to her brother who was wearing a black t-shirt, “all we could see was her teeth”.

Her brother wrote “find Lindi” on the picture.

“We’ve learned to always put her next to white when we take pictures, said Heidi laughing.

Slindile’s family paints a beautiful picture of what South Africa could be if racism did not exist.

There clearly is no room for racism in the Wit family.

Written by Mbalenhle Sithebe (MOJO) for the #RacismStopsWithMe campaign, an initiative by Independent Media and Sactwu.