Do white people from South Africa identify as African?

Answer by Rory Young:

Thank you for asking me to answer this.
I should point out first that I am NOT South African. I was born and currently live in Central Africa which is very different in many ways. I did go to boarding school for one year in South Africa, three of my siblings now live there and I have visited many times. I am also "Anglo African" so can, I suppose, answer as a non-South-African but with a good knowledge of South Africa and its white people.

First of all, what does it mean to be African?

Africa is vast and its people are incredibly diverse.

Genetically there is more diversity in one indigenous Central African village that there is in the entire indigenous populations of many European countries.

There is more difference between Zulu and a Xhosa, two South African tribes, than there is between a Mongol and Laplander.

Culturally, compare a Muslim Moroccan Berber from the Atlas mountains with an Animist Baka "pygmy" from the Gabonese rainforest.

Baka    
 

Atlas Berbers

Or compare an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian (one of the oldest Christian societies and churches in the world) with a Kalahari San "Bushman".

San

Ethiopians

All these pictures show how different they look but that is the least of the difference. In terms of religion, language, food, architecture, music, you-name-it they are completely different.

Africa is 30.2 million km in size or ten times the size of India and three times the size of the USA. It has over TWO THOUSAND languages. It has snow capped mountains, deserts, equatorial forests and temperate, Mediterranean coasts.

Africa is a continent, a big one with lots and lots of different peoples living on it.

Now let's look at white South Africans.

There are many different types of white South Africans but most fall into two categories.

Firstly there are the "Anglo-Africans".

These are people of mostly, but not only, British decent who speak English.

Anglo-Africans really started settling from 1820. Only recent arrivals have any sort of kinship with Britain. They are however mostly Christian, whether Methodist, Catholic, Church of England or other.

They have retained many British habits, including tea-drinking, golf, cricket, rugby, tennis but are for the most part not in favour of football (soccer) or cucumber sandwiches. They speak with their own accent, which varies according to the province they come from.

Secondly there are the Afrikaners.

These are people of mostly, but not only, Dutch, French and German ancestry who speak their own language called Afrikaans.

The Afrikaners first began settling in South Africa in 1623. They have absolutely no ties with the Netherlands other than they are usually members of the Dutch Reformed Church although their own churches are independent of the Dutch Reformed Church hierarchy in the Netherlands.

Not only have they evolved their own language but they have also developed their own culture entirely. Their food for example is quite unique.

During the Boer Wars the Afrikaners fought the British who wanted to take over the independent States that had been formed by different populations of Afrikaners who had, generations before, left the British-ruled Cape Colony.

Boers Fighting the British

The Boers (Afrikaners) fought magnificently against the British who in the end resorted to creating Concentration camps (this was where the term originated) into which they forced many Boer families. Over 26,000 boer women and children died in these concentration camps.

Lizzie Van Zyl, a girl in a Concentration Camp During the Boer War.

Many Afrikaners are still angry about this to this day. There is a certain but limited amount of mutual animosity and resentment/annoyance between English-speaking and Afrikaans South Africans.

As you can see, neither the Afrikaners nor the English-speaking South Africans could fit into any European society. Their home is South Africa and that is a part of the African continent.

Neither consider themselves black Africans because they are not. They also do not consider themselves European although they may use the term to describe their racial origins. Both groups consider themselves South African in terms of Nationality.

In terms of ethnicity they are two different cultures that both belong in South Africa.

White South Africans see themselves as South Africans and white and as Africans but of different cultures.

The question tribe has been the cause of endless tragedy in Africa and the question of race has been the cause of endless tragedy in South Africa. It is not gone and will not be for many generations. However, it is at least no longer a part of the system of government. There are still many racists of many hues in South Africa and many white South Africans still have a lot to answer for. That does not mean though that everybody there is racist. I spent a year at boarding school in South Africa when I was 13 years old. I can assure you that the attitudes of white South African13 year-olds then and now are drastically different.

As for me. I assume from the "Ask To Answer" you would like to know how I, as a white-African, see myself.

I am of Irish, Scots, Scots-Irish, German (German Jewish actually), French Breton and Cornish ancestry.

I was born in Zambia, to Rhodesian parents (although one was born in Cape Town and one in Northern Rhodesia, the future Zambia) in Zambia. I grew up in Zambia, Rhodesia (formerly Southern Rhodesia), Zimbabwe-Rhodesia (formerly Rhodesia), Zimbabwe (formerly Zimbabwe Rhodesia), Malawi (formerly Nyasaland), France (formerly France), England (only one year and it was too cold). As you can imagine I have given up long ago on the whole nationalism patriotism thing.

As well as English, I speak French (I learned French as a kid so it is very much a part of me) and Dutch (my wife is Dutch so this really is a part of me too) as well as two "African" languages (which I leaned at a young age) and Afrikaans.

I went to eleven schools in five countries and have lived as an adult in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, France, Corsica and The Netherlands and have traveled or worked in many more.

Now, just to well and truly confuse the hell out of everybody, I was made an Induna by Chief Simwatachela of the Zambezi BaTonga people. Therefore, although I am white, my tribe is Tonga.

Tonga woman with marijuana pipe.

So, if you ask me "straight" what I am..

My answer is..

I am AFRICAN!

View Answer on Quora

39 thoughts on “Do white people from South Africa identify as African?

  1. Hard subject. I believe you are a African if you are born on the soil of the country. You are a American if you were born on the soil of the the Americas. A very interesting topic.

    • Actually, being born on the soil is an American qualification for being an American. However, other countries have their own criteria. Being born in Africa does not make you African (Africa is a continent), you have to have certain ties to a particular country, tribe or ethnic group and know their culture. As he said, he is from the Tonga tribe meaning, that is the tribe he identified with. One may claim to be African if born on the soil but won’t be seen as one by others unless he identifies with a particular group. when others go back to their villages and tribes, you have no where to go if you are not accepted into or associate with a a tribe. The different tribes is what makes you African.

    • Haha Gary! Yes, the Ethiopians and the Berbers, between them the oldest continuous civilizations in Africa would have to be excluded for being non-tribal! Egypt too! Africa is a continent and the dictionary defines African as “pertaining to or from Africa”. Belonging to a tribe just means pertaining to or from that tribe!

  2. This article is crap. Living in Africa does not make you African. African is not a nationality because Africa is a continent, not a nation. And Africans are a race of people, which Rory and others are not part of. Hence the term African descent. There are many people living in Africa who are not Africans. Those Berbers you referred to are not the original people of North Africa. Berber is not a race and it’s not an ethnic group either. It’s pretty much a recent construct by white historians to frame anyone and everyone currently living in North Africa as indigenous . Everyone that is, except the real North Africans. Many “Berbers” are of foreign origin. Including European origin. Calling someone a “Berber” doesn’t mean they have African culture either. Not if you’re privy to the difference between what is believed in theory and what is the case in reality. There were no Caucasian tribes that evolved in North Africa. There are a lot of historical lies and technicalities that get glossed over when you and others use the Berber myth.

    Rory Young, and other white people living in Africa are not Africans. There is literally nothing African about them.
    They don’t speak African languages
    have African traditions,
    customs
    clothing/dress
    music
    or spirituality. They basically have modified European culture transplanted into Africa. They generally don’t intermarry with indigenous African people. They keep themselves separate, making themselves perpetual foreigners on African soil. And as if that weren’t enough they enslaved African people, colonized the continent, reducing it to poverty, AND instituted Apartheid. Calling themselves Africans is not only presumptuous, not only is it a brazen lie, it’s stupendously disrespectful.

    There are millions of non-whites living in Europe. Are they Europeans? Be honest. But to frame them as Europeans is actually a better argument than to frame whites as Africans. After all non-white immigrants speak European languages, have European mannerisms and nuances, have European culture to a certain extent and may keep European holidays. None of that can be said for Europeans living in Africa.

    Don’t call Dutch Afrikaans an African language.
    “It’s spoken in Africa.”
    So’s French. And English. In fact so is Hindi, Arabic, Chinese and Malay. Are those African languages also? And are the last four European languages? Because they’re spoken in Europe too. Let’s cut the crap.

    African descendants living abroad in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean are more African than any white person will ever be. Despite whites using slavery to strip every ounce of African culture from them, it’s wasn’t completely successful. Afro Brazilians, Afro Latinos, African Americans and Caribbeans all have African nuances. They all have African music and rhythm without having to step foot in the Motherland. That’s INNATE. That is something that merely living in Africa will never give you. Don’t tell me that white South Africans are “Africans” because they receive their mail in Cape Town instead of Cape Cod.

    The term “black African” is both stupid and uncalled for. Africans should not be hyphenated in their own continent. For Europeans to invade Africa and tell the Africans that now they have to hyphenate themselves as the BLACK Africans in their own continent is downright nervy. Africans ARE black, different skin tones notwithstanding. White people are in every nation on the planet like bugs. The definitions of each race/ethnicity don’t need to be redefined to include white people. That in and of itself is white imperialism all over again. Do indigenous Europeans have to call themselves the WHITE Europeans because other races live there? Do they have to hyphenate themselves in their own nations as the WHITE Swiss, the WHITE English, the WHITE Germans? No.

    Liberal whites may think they’re liberal, but attitudes like this show their impudence. White people in general are presumptuous and cocky and think they have the right to call themselves whatever they want. This cocky presumptuousness proves they are not respectful of Africans’ cultural/ethnic boundaries. Just like white people intruded on native people’s physical terrain, they are now intruding on people’s ETHNIC terrain. Their identity. If a white person were truly respectful of Africans and their descendants they wouldn’t dare call themselves Africans. Or African Americans. They would respect their space and not steal people’s name. I notice whites don’t play games like this for Asians or Middle Easterners. Only for Africa.

    During slavery African slaves weren’t allowed to own property. The same pattern applies to other areas. High culture and sophisticated African civilizations are still being attributed to foreigners. So Africans aren’t allowed to own their civilizations. African Americans don’t get credit for the inventions they made in US history. Africa is always left out of anything having to do with world advances in history such as sea trade, exploration, the sciences, mathematics, literature, or architecture. Africans don’t get credit for anything. Africans don’t even get to own the features on their face, since African beauty and any variation among Africans physically is attributed to foreign admixture. White people don’t let Africans own anything. Not even the word African. That’s extremely controlling. Controlling behavior is a sign of insecurity. Which means white people must be extremely jealous of African people to pull these shenanigans.

    And for the record, your definition of what an African is, is from a Western dictionary based on white people’s Western views. Not Africans’. You can call yourself an African all you want to. But that doesn’t make it true.

    Bye, liar.

    • Eve, So what are white Australians living in Australia…are they Australian or European or Austra-Europeans or whatever name you wish to call them, or white Americans living in America …European-Americans? No these people are Australians or American as are white people in Africa, Africans.

      Are all white people thus only European?

      Being African has nothing to do with slavery or knowing other cultures languages or customs. Do all Australians speak an Aboriginal language or American a Native American language and celebrate Native American customs? No.These white people are American or Australian.

      The Afrikaners are a sub-culture (tribe) in South Africa, so are the Indians in KZN, and other minority groups in Africa. They all have their distinctive customs, dress, music, spirituality etc, yet they are all African. Peace (and hence a sense of belonging) will never come to Africa if people continue to think like you do.

      • You’re clearly white and don’t get it. Yes African DOES have to do with culture, customs, languages and racial origin. Would you say that White people who live in Asia are Asians? No. At least the nationality of whites in the motherland gets acknowledged such as “white Zimbabweans, “white South Africans,” or “white Kenyans.” But in Europe non-whites aren’t even allowed to have that. If you’re not white, you just AREN’T French, you just AREN’T Spanish, you just AREN’T Italian. No hyphenation allowed. But white’s in Africa are going to tell Africans to scoot over and share their name with them. They expect to be accommodated no matter where they are, but they won’t give the same. The nerve.

        “The Afrikaners are a sub-culture (tribe) in South Africa, so are the Indians in KZN, and other minority groups in Africa. They all have their distinctive customs, dress, music, spirituality etc., yet they are all African”

        Oh no they aren’t. And most don’t see themselves that way. Their culture isn’t much changed from their homelands. So you’re statement is false. Chinese, Malay, Indians, Lebanese etc., have enough sense to not call themselves Africans. Their nationality is one thing. Being African is another. Only you are making that argument. They don’t give a care.

        “Peace (and hence a sense of belonging) will never come to Africa if people continue to think like you do.”

        Shut up Shelly. Tell this to whites who have been behaving this way for the past 400 years. Peace will never come as long as arrogant whites (like yourself) continue to trample on people’s identity by using political correctness to disregard their ethnic and cultural space.

        As for white people that live in Australia and America, that was due to Colonization and Imperialism. White people became the dominant majority due to sheer force and bulldozing the indigenous people’s off their land and many times out of their lives. The name Australian or American are not races like African is. Those Continents and nations are made up of immigrants, so it’s easier to make the argument that being “American” or “Australian” is not a race, (especially since Europeans don’t ORIGNATE there). The same CANNOT be said for Africa. Separating African from blackness is racist and incredulous. No one seriously believes that. I’m going to argue this with you. If you respond with typical white presumptuousness, I won’t banter with you. I’m through talking and what I said is the truth. I repeat if whites want to respect people of color, then respect their boundaries. If you respect someone you won’t take their name. Back up white people.

        Back up.

      • judging by your comments, you must be a white South African.
        For the record Indians, were not, are not, and will never be a sub-tribe of Africa, they are from INDIA in ASIA.
        You are deliberately distorting historical facts so as to fit in your distorted believes about the so called “afrikaaner tribe”. This group of whites who think that god has delivered the the Africans to them since they prayed on 16 December 1838, hence they have aright to claim Africa.
        By the way, there’s no collective way of rfefering to “blacks” relative to the continent in the “afrikaans”.

      • Shelli you got it right, i live in kzn and im white. Eve, who the hell do u think you are? Are you even south african? Eve u dont know what u talking about! You think u know it all, but to people like me you are an idiot! People in south africa do see themselves as south african! You my friend is the one who doesnt get it! Shelli and i do! Because we are south africans! Not white people living in south africa, south africans. Theres a saying; home is where your heart is, and my hearts here, in south africa . And thats what makes me south african, not my culture, language , beliefs or race. But the bond i have with south africa and the people in it. So i think you should go back to your sad confused life and stop telling people who they are because they know exactly who they are!

    • White people in the US call themselves ‘American’… Black people in the US call themselves ‘African-American’… The real americans have to call themselves ‘Native American’, though that just applies to the ones native to the US… The rest have to call themselves “Latinos”… That’s very funny.

      • “The real Americans”… Did not identify as American until a Spaniard came along….but that’s not my story for today. I think in this regard, young people of today aren’t looking as much in the past as the rest, there’s nothing positive to learn there. Acceptance is new to this world, and I like it.

        The reason I wanted to post however is for my massive, culturally diverse and forgotten country CANADA. We don’t give a hoot where your ancestors are from. If you come here and YOU LOVE it and you want to stay…. You my friend can be CADADIAN too.

        Note: the term Afro-Canadian does not exist.

        Now, and most importantly of all, Canada is on the continent of America, and I DO get quite annoyed if someone refers to me as American. The name of your country is “the United states OF America” or the USA…..my Mexican friends and I aren’t super cool with you thinking your country is America. It’s a continent shared among us.

        Let me add, before some ding dong decides to chime in with the Native issue. We are after all a bunch of asshole white people that took Canada away from Natives. Don’t get me wrong I don’t minimize that. But I was born here and I’m doing what I can to help diversity. What I’m not going to do is move to Europe because that’s where my ancestors are from.. My point here is. You can’t change where you are born, most people DO identify with a country that they were born in and self identify as being “from that country”.

        So if I try to apply these logics to Africa… Well I can’t. There is no country called Africa. And if a white person came to me and said they are African, I’d look at them funny and ask which of their parent is black. If your white and your in Africa I think you should stick with identifying what COUNTRY you were born in OR now call home.

        I can’t even comment on this morons view about Latinos… Clearly is is from the USA…..

    • Oh my god!!!!!!!! You just said EVERYTHING that has always been in my head but that I never knew how to FORMULATE!!!!!!
      You said EVERYTHING without leaving out ANYTHING!!!!
      and it’s not about being mean,racist or taking sides ( I’m obviously black,AFRICAN) ,but that’s just the name truth….

    • Omfg my brother truer words were never spoken. When the “white african ” living in Africa went on about tribes and conflicts of his culture being born in Africa healmost had me..UNTIL he said he married a dutch woman…I’m gonna claim ignorance and say she’s white….bear with me…I Dont believe he could ever immerse himself in the lifeblood of Africa. You can be born there yes. But please Dont insult blacks anymore by saying you are from there it just makes black people from all over the world kringe.

    • Eve, what you said is a load of crap! And i know, because i am a white male south african and despite all the crime,poverty,corruption and that im only 15, im proud to say that im south african and there is nowhere else id rather live. I have black, white, indian and coulered friends, and my friends and i are south africas future. And it looks bright! My black friends realise that BEE is stupid because its its unlawful, and yes ,we joke about our racial stereotypes. I feel south african, not european and ive been to europe more than 20times in my life and i feel i dont belong there , and thats because i dont! I am south african, and no1 can tell me otherwise! Oh and by the way, white people didnt bring poverty to africa, its always been there and btw young black ppl dont care about aparteid, and neither do i. We made mistakes and white ppl are sorry. I am south african and no1 can say otherwise!

    • Congratulations Eve on farting out the most laughable load of pseudointellectual, bigoted tripe I’ve read in a long time. Never mind all the guff about ‘innate’, ‘disrespectful’ and ‘perpetual foreigners’, the only disrespectful act is your status as an oxygen thief. The idea that ethnocentric twats like you are allowed to breed and contaminate the gene pool is offensive. I weep for the future of humanity.

      PS – White British is listed on every UK ethnicity census alongside Black British and Asian British. Do try checking stuff like this before making an imbecile of yourself. Actually, nah – please go ahead.

      PPS – Most ‘native’ languages spoken in Europe are part of the Indo-European linguistic family. Finnish, Estonian, Lappish and Hungarian are not (being Finno-Ugric); neither is Maltese (Semitic) or Basque (a language isolate, ie no known linguistic relatives).
      Going by your crowbar logic on Afrikaans (a language which split from Dutch and developed in AFRICA, not Europe, and is not spoken outside South Africa by anyone other than South African expats), we must assume that the aforementioned languages are not ‘European’

  3. Every race had slaves at one time or another. Blacks were not the only slaves that ever existed. We are all floating in space on this rock together. When we meet people from other worlds we will all call ourselves Earthlings. Who knows, they might make slaves of us all.

    • Everybody did have slaves,true,but trust me it had nothing to do with the slavery black people went through in all “those” countries.As Im African from Congo,I’m going to speak for my own people because that is what I know best ,even though I have lived for a long time in South Africa,Cameroun,Ivory Coast,Gabon and Ghana.
      My father’s grand mother(my father is 55 years old and the last born of 9 kids,his mum had him in her VERY late 40’s -to situate you on the time period) was a slave to the family of the man who became her husband later,which is my father’s grand father,and we know for a FACT ,that THOSE ‘slaves’ did do house chores,tooke care of the farms ,cooked BUT they were respected like everyone else just because that’s what the African culture is about,the “master’s” family members could get married to them and nobody would have raised an eyebrow,and the children weren’t looked at differently.And I have to INSIST on the fact that I am using the terms “slaves” and “master” so that Non-African could understand what I’m talking about,again Im not speaking for other countries but in our languages in Congo the terms “slave” or “master” don’t even EXIST.
      Those famillies had nothing to do with the European “masters”,they didn’t live in luxurious houses,drink champagne out of cristal glasses,their women didn’t wear diamonds and expensive dresses.it generally went from the fact that someone in the line was a great warrior,or a wise man,so people talked about them and they became known so people offered them lands,their daughters as wifes,or they “offered” them their kids (like MY great grandmother was “offered”-which at the time in OUR cultures was an honor because out of everybody, somebody would have chosen them to “raise” their kids)so that they would become “related” and their kids would hopefully one day be like them :brave,hardworkers and respected etc
      So the African “master”was NEVER born out of greed,it was their own people who made “masters” out of them which in our languages would just be “head of a FAMILY”,because they had so many people under them and they all were A family.obvioulsy there would have been some mean spirited people who would give a hard time to a particular person for a particular reason,but never just because they were “slaves” so they could tie tem up and spend their day whipping them because they got some kick out of it.
      So please don’t come here and say that even amongst African there was “slavery”,AGAIN,I’m speaking for MY country which is the Republic of Congo.

      • I will speak from my view. My mum’s tribe are the Shambala of the Usambara region in Tanzania. Slaves weren’t valued like in your family. Although they weren’t as badly treated, it would take someone of very high status to marry a slave without batting an eye. Someone like a chief who noone could question.

  4. I’m still little bit confuse,whites are still giving birth in south Africa,but why their kids can’t be called Africans,because,I think all this is history.now because we are one thing,why we still need to differantiate ourselves?

  5. White in SA came from europe why fo they call themselves white south african ? In europe a french dont call white french , white italuan etc… that is to say you can not separate the blackness from africa.

  6. Even arabic in north africa dont call themselves african, arabic come from saudi arabia, they came in africa for trade and islam.

  7. Im black africa from ivory coast, i live in europe but i dont feel european, im not european, i feel African this is it.

  8. africa is not a Bantu word and for you to say you are anglo african living on the Land of the Bantu is Madness. The Bantu People are not pron to Madness Such as this. Why do I say this? Among your people it is believed that one can reproduce without sex. But we know that children holy or unholy come through sex by a man and a woman or through IVF still needing male and female. But you say that you have an ancestor called Mary who had a child without sex or IVF and you tried to sell us such madness!

    Good luck to you.

    • Let’s do an experiment…have black Africans invade Switzerland because a god gave them a right to claim these lands and use the resources…watches, chocolate, snow. Who knows what the pfft comes from there. But we won’t mix with the Swiss. A few generations go by we oppress and suppress them some more. Now black Africans claim they are native to Switzerland! White people would say this dam 7&$4%- has lost his mind! Go back to Africa! Eve was so true its insulting and pompous and racist to separate black or colored from Africa. Africa is a race of people. Thank you for that.

      • Africa is not a race of people. I am Chagga and Shambala. I am not from any other ethnic group in Africa. Don’t include me in your groups. A zulu is not like me, we look different, eat different food, have entirely different cultures. A white person can be African so long as they have an identity that is in Africa. While white South Africans have a controversial history, they are now African and as long as we solve the race relations between us, there isn’t any issue with that. But I don’t like this bullshit where other black people in Africa try to put me in one group with them. Nah, I don’t play like that. I have my tribal ancestry, you have yours. We aren’t the same just because we produce more melanin than Europeans. Race isn’t even a scientific concept anyway.

  9. Wow, the number of racist comments on here are pretty extraordinary. If someone identifies themselves as African, why is that such a big deal? Why do you feel like you have the right to validate their beliefs?

    All these dumb “origin” games. Humanity originated in Africa so if you like going back in history so much there’s your starting point, case closed.

    I don’t think half of you bothered to read what was in the post. Africa is a continent with large diversity. It has many religions, languages, ethnicities and races. It is the most genetically diverse continent. You’re all so blinded by skin colour are you telling me that you think Austronesian are more African than an Afrikaner simply because they have a gene that makes their pigment darker?

    You’re all failing to see how your blind hatred is history repeating itself.
    Africa is the name of a continent not a race or a culture, it is a continent and that’s all it is. To be “African” the only qualifier is to have citizenship to a country within the continent.

    I’m Urhobo, Nigerian and African, I’d rather identify with Rob here as African than any of you racists.

    • Hi Tekevwe,

      Thank you very much for bringing a voice of reason to the conversation.

      I’m an Afrikaner. Afrikaners are African – our language and culture was forged in the harsh African environment. We have been in Africa for almost half a millennia. Our future is in Africa. Yes we came from Europe and we are proud of that part of our heritage – but it does not make us less African.

      Thank God that most African’s are moving past the type of blind hatred people like Eve carry in their hearts and propagate where-ever they go. Thank God that Africans of all colours, languages and heritages are starting to recognise that Ubuntu means sharing and helping each other.

      Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika!

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