Friday, 14 June 2013

Ever Heard Of An “Other Coloured’?

Fifteen years ago, there was no way you could have bought two prosthetic limbs for just R549.95. So it’s a bit misleading when I say I paid an arm and a leg for this book in 1998. But that is how it felt at the time, and I was afflicted by both guilt and resentment at shelling out all that moolah for a single volume. Yet I have never regretted the acquisition of A Dictionary Of South African English On Historical Principles. The price has turned out to be trifling, considering all the information I have gleaned from this book over the past decade and a half.

Just the other day I heard someone refer to a tortoise as a padloper. Ah, I thought to myself, I must look that one up when I get back. And I did indeed find an informative entry in the dictionary. However, on the way to P, my eye was distracted by something under O. Other Coloured? I had to stop and read it.

other coloured ppl adj. phr. and n. phr. Hist. Freq. with initial capitals. [See COLOURED.]
A. ppl adj. phr. Of or pertaining to a person who, during the apartheid era, was defined as ‘Other Coloured’ (see quot.1959) in the system of race classification. See also COLOURED ppl adj.
1959 Govt Gaz. Vol.195 No.6191, 11 Other Coloured Group: In the Other Coloured Group shall be included any person who is not included in the Cape Coloured Group, the Malay Group, the Griqua Group, the Chinese Group, the Indian Group or the Other Asiatic Group, and who is not a white person or a native as defined in section one of the Population Registration Act, 1950. 1971 [see CLASSIFICATION]. 1989 Frontline Apr. 32 In my family there were brothers classified ‘Cape Coloured’ and others classified ‘Other Coloured’, which caused a problem because the ‘Cape Coloureds’ were supposed to be the real thing. 1991 B. ROBERTSON in Sunday Times 14 July (Extra) 8 There were
many children of Oriental sailors and white prostitutes who were brought to welfare agencies ... The seamen were classified honorary whites and their offsprings were classified ‘Other Coloured’.
B. n. phr. One who, during the apartheid era, was classified as a member of the officially-defined ‘Other Coloured’ group, a sub-group of the ‘coloured’ group in terms of the POPULATION REGISTRATION ACT. See also COLOURED n.
1978 Drum June 79 The offspring of a coloured guy and a black girl would usually be classified as an ‘other coloured’. I say usually because there are some cases when the child is able to choose whether he wants to be classified as coloured or black.

One tends to forget what it was like living under apartheid, which is understandable but not wise. It is better to refresh the memory, now and again, by reading entries such as this one. It is then possible to keep within one’s grasp just how insane apartheid was, and how intellectually and morally deranged its architects and supporters were.

I am inclined to believe that by keeping an eye on human idiocy in the past one is better able to recognise lunacy that is endorsed or overlooked in the present. Like today’s
neoliberal economic dogma that condemns millions of people to unnecessary unemployment and poverty, while a small minority are able to amass excessive wealth for themselves and their families. As was apartheid, this too is a crazy system and one day it will be looked back on with disbelief.

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