the cultural glass ceiling



Firstly, let me add the disclaimer that what I have written here is simply an observation on my behalf and in no way intended to offend, demoralize or degrade any group.

As a coloured girl, born and bred on the Cape Flats, I have always been taught to embrace, honour and be proud of my roots. This is one of the core values my parents, grandparents and teachers have instilled in me from a very young age and one which I take pretty seriously, one I look forward to passing on to my kids someday.

However, I have noticed a trend brewing, particularly amongst coloured folks , which concerns me. This is the tendency to not only withhold support for their OWN people, but begrudge members of their group who dare to go above and beyond convention.

Many of our people are doing phenomenal things in various spheres such as business, entertainment, sport, medicine, education, politics and more. Yet, to the rest of the nation, it seems that we are still stuck in the abyss of being ‘the middle man’ too black to be white, too light to be black, the eternal under achiever. We complain about this constantly too, a feat which I have been guilty of many a times, until it hit me, like a Sunday afternoon netball to the head: ‘’What are WE doing to support our OWN people?”

The answer, sadly it seems, is NOT MUCH. This is displayed daily in the workplace, on the sports field, within organizations and amongst the music & arts fraternity. It is hard to see our brother and sister progress, as we feel that we are entitled to the same, not because like them, we’ve earned it, but purely because we are afraid of being left behind. It forces us to question our own position, and challenge ourselves to break out of our all-too-cosy comfort zones. In truth, my brothers and sisters, it involuntarily turns us into what is commonly known in pop culture as “Haters”.

A very popular SA rapper, known as AKA, recently made a statement about these very “Haters” after being awarded with a prestigious music accolade, this musician, ironically, happens to be coloured too.

At first I thought “Pffft…Look at this guy saying this on national tv..” I found it arrogant and I wasn’t the only one. The furore on social networks, particularly Twitter, was insane. The guy, who obviously didn’t realize he would cause such a splash with his statement, was slandered, ridiculed and attacked by everyone who is anyone with access to BIS or a laptop.

Months later, he released what I can ONLY call a hit of note. People were and still are jamming to this in clubs and gigs around the country. Where are the haters now? What’s fascinating is that most of the people who were hyping his music, are NOT from the same race as him. I find this interesting. But not surprising. Looking back, I honestly do not blame him for making such a controversial statement, he has done, what people said he could not do, and to that we owe all due respect.

To personalize this for a moment, I was recently a part of a campaign whereby the readers of a popular women’s magazine had to vote for their favourite/most influential females on Twitter , I was

literally amongst royalty. Beautiful South African women, some well-known, others relatively unknown (me being part of the latter). The support I received from friends, readers and followers was amazing , crazy and humbling to say the least. However, what I did notice was the lack of support from my own people. Besides personal friends and acquaintances, the rest were significantly absent in their encouragement.

When the article was published, it took one of my colleagues to point out that I was, in fact, the only one in my race group which was represented. Again, I found this interesting, but I was not surprised.

Many comments are thrown around on social media and in day-today conversation, gems like: “Who do they think they are?” ‘big head’, ‘inflated ego’ or, my personal favourite, “Now they will forget about us and where they came from”.

This confuses me as these are labels and phrases which are forced upon those who go out and do what they aim to do, inept substitutes for a pat on the back, instead, you are issued with a proverbial slap on the wrist. Whether it’s something as small as appearing in a magazine article, or something huge like winning SA Idols, our people are never satisfied.

When did we adopt this ‘Vote Of No Confidence’ culture?

I feel that we, as a people, would be so much more powerful and commanding, if we recognized the potential in each other, supported one another and realized that a win for one is in fact, a win for all. Imagine what a force we would be then? Imagine the possibilities we would plant in the minds of our kids who are growing up in a country where their cultural identity is under scrutiny every single day. It would open up so many doors and better yet, a myriad of minds.

There are so many coloured men & women who are breaking ground in this country, many who were shunned, shirked and ridiculed by their own people. Legends in their own right like Patricia De Lille, Eusibius McKaizer, Marc Lottering, Denise Newman, Oliver Hermanus, Ferial Hafajee, David Isaacs, Mandy Roussouw, Clint Brink, Jonathan Butler, Sharleen Surtie-Richards, Jonathan Jansen, Trevor Manuel , Taliep Petersen and the late, great Prof Jakes Gerwel . To these people and many more who are not listed here, I want to say, kudos for pursuing your dreams despite various odds stacked against you. WE SALUTE YOU.



author: mj ( @melfunktion )

image credit: district six archives, UCT via


One thought on “the cultural glass ceiling

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s