Consider this a report from the diaspora on the impact of assimilation. The BBC program, World Have Your Say, which featured JJP a few months back has posed the following questions:

From World Have Your Say on 14 April 2008:

This question comes out several debates we’ve been following for the past few weeks. And before I continue, a ‘coconut’ or an ‘Oreo’ is a disparaging term for a black or Asian person who is seen as behaving like a white person.

1. Ndumiso Ngcobo’s a South African columnist on He’s at the centre of row after saying ‘I’m a coconut and proud of it’. He rejects that taking on certain characteristics makes him more ‘white’.

2. South African journalist Jon Qwelane is also in the thick of it after saying that ‘there was no room for journalists in South Africa who were “authentically black” and there were black editors who suppressed black self determination and identity’. He also called those who opposed black-only meetings of the Forum of Black Journalists ‘coconuts’. Here he says he won’t apologise.

3. Last year a BBC survey found that more than a third of British Asians believe that to get ahead as an Asian in this country it is necessary to be a coconut.

4. Here’s a fascinating post by Trini blogger mentalTHREESIXTY. He grapples with how ‘black’ he is and how African Americans have had a problem with his credentials. What’s interesting is that clearly becoming more ‘white’ as some people have said of him has not been a conscious decision.

If you’re black or Asian, have you had to compromise your background or culture to make your way? If you have had to, did you mind doing it? Or maybe, you think you’ve been at a disadvantage because you won’t change. Are you an employer? Are you more impressed if black or Asian applicants behave in a ‘white’ way?

Or does this mean nothing to you? Is the notion of being ‘black’ or ‘white’ completely out of date? Is being black a ’state of mind’, as Jon Qwelane suggests?

It’s interesting to see these same conversations of assimilation to majority culture happening across the diaspora. Also, I’ve never heard the term coconut before! That’s hilarious and sad at the same time.

Related Posts with Thumbnails