I am not about to lie and say I have never said “Thank you” and gained some level of confidence when some random individual said I did not look Tsonga at all (Tsonga is a South African language mostly spoken in Limpopo province) but it always left me with some amount of sore guilt as to why I would think of it as a compliment when it actually should have offended me for my people, I should have inquired about what they thought of Tsonga people if I didn’t look anything like them in a good way from where they stood. I shouldn’t have taken pride in being placed within a tribal group I did not belong to, but I did.
It made me wonder why we, African people think low of our own tribes that we think it best to belong to another within the very same Africa. It excites a Venda (another language spoken in Limpopo) to be mistaken for another tribal group but Venda, think of how it would be for an African man to be mistaken for an American. “Jubilation of humiliation”.
I befriended a Nigerian whom in the beginning of our friendship I thought to be a South African because he just didn’t have that accent and that full black hair and eyebrows they usually have. My mistake was saying it out loud when I discovered he was Nigerian, he began to tell me about all the events when people wouldn’t tell that he was Nigerian and actually said “thank you” with a grin so full of pride. “Proudly South African wanna be”. I hated myself for using that line ‘I thought you were South African’, everything about it suddenly felt wrong, I felt guilty for making him feel good about being someone he would never be, not even after ten years in South Africa.
It pleases a Zimbabwean in South Africa to be mistaken for a South African, it pleases an African who is in a country which he or she considers better than their own to be mistaken as a citizen by birth. It is more like we think of ourselves as more visible and important once we are identified with the dominant group in the environment we find ourselves in, when we should be standing firm and representing our own people.
African people; we ought to take pride of who we are. We ought to stop saying ‘thank you’ when people misplace us. We shouldn’t let people tell us we are too beautiful to belong to our own tribe, we shouldn’t let people win us over and forget where we came from. You are not too beautiful to be Tsonga, Venda, Pedi, Sotho, Xhosa, Tswana, Shona, Yoruba or whatever language you speak but your people are that beautiful.