« Look! I can do something 'naturally'! | Main | A special book for new Dads »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

It must be the "u" that classes it up ;-)

A word is a word, its interesting how some words can be so inflammatory to some and mean absolutely nothing to someone else. I do live in America so you wouldn't catch me using that word in reference to a person out of respect and not wanting to upset a person who would be offended.

I do love to hear about the differences though!

I'm an American soon moving to South Africa (long story).
But yes, I refer to my South African niece and nephew as "black" instead of coloured unless I have lots of time to explain it.

The best is when people get all arsy and try to tell me "black" is now out and they are "African-American" - err, no - the American is me, they're South African - not American at all.

Meanwhile, my husband LOVES going to the US and telling people that his white children are "African-Americans." Which, technically speaking they are. . .

There is something to be said for that t-shirt that reads, "My race is human."

Far less complicated - but possibly not as interesting.

Strangely I've started noticing how in the U.S. "colored" is becoming a popular term again, among the most p.c. types.
Once we got to "people of color," it wasn't a stretch to go to colored, with a very different connotation than racist 1960s colored.

I agree with eM, the "u" definitely classes it up a bit. I love how you got called on it by some Americans, though. When I read your Twitter, I immediately thought, "Oh that must be perfectly OK in S.A." not, "Oh, better tell Tertia how offensive that is here in the center of the universe, uh, I mean America."

I remember seeing Charlize Theron doing a bit on Saturday Night Live, bonding with one of the black cast members because they were both African American. V funny!

In the US, there's actually now "persons of color" (and, perhaps more frequently, "women of color") which can mean anyone who isn't Caucasian -- Indian, Native American, Hispanic, Black, you name it! Political correctness is indeed running amok here!

Everything is offensive to someone in the good old USA. Always gotta be politically correct and watch what you say. It's kind of annoying.

Ignore my e-mail, looks like a little controversy was brewing over here under my radar!

Ya know, I saw that on twitter and did a double take but then realized it was you and started to giggle.

I am from the Deep South in America, so my ancestry goes back to plantations and slaves and the whatnot. I still have family members that use the word "colored" to refer to their friends and coworkers...other words are used as well and boy howdy would they make the PC crowd pale a little.

People need to get over it.

I agree, even in the US it depends on the group. At my college it was p.c. to say "people of color" (actually, "women of color" since it was a women's college) which always annoyed me. I am colored, too! Just happens to be pale. :-) Some people here use the term "coloreds" with the intent to hurt. It is the same with the term "nig*ger." Certain people use it to refer to their friends. But it is low-class, and in fact a community meeting was shut down in my area for someone using the term. Another term like that is "bitch." I see people refer to themselves or their friends as a bitch, in a good way, but god help the man that calls his woman a bitch. So much is about context...

So, what then? Is my skin devoid of "color/colour" simply because I'm Caucasian?

I don't think there's any good way to classify people based upon their skin color. It's all just variations of shades, anyhow! For instance, I have 3 daughters... all 3 are 100% Caucasian, but they have totally different skin tones! One is milky white (truly... practically translucent), one is dark beige, and one is in between!

Why, when there are so many colors of skin in the world, did those who are neither black (I'm assuming dark black?) nor white get tagged with the term "Coloured?" We're ALL colored, for Heaven's sake!


Sorry for the vent. This kind of ridiculous terminology just cheeses me off. Glad to know it's not an offensive term in SA though, T.

I wish people just wouldn't classify people as anything other that being a person. It also bugs the shit out of me here in the US when company's have some sort of quota for how many non-white people they have to hire. But you can have a whole company of non-white people... very odd... anyhow I think whoever, in the case of a job, is best qualified for the job should get it, no matter what your freakin skin looks like... Kid of like if your non-white you can get most of your college paid for.

Ok enough ranting.

When I saw your Twitter post yesterday, I thought how interesting, obviously in SA culture this is totally acceptable and not considered pejorative; especially since from reading your Blog for a while I've never known you to be intentionally disrespectful towards anyone. But leave it to my fellow Americans to point out the error or your SA ways, as some seem to feel as though it's their self-righteous American obligation. Like Sarah, I too, live in the Deep South, and feel as though I can relate to SA culture in that we here are just a couple of decades apart from some similar experiences with our civil rights movement and your post-Apartheid society. I also sometimes feel we are under the microscope from others who would stereotype us and look for the inkling of racist motive in our behavior. This can be especially hurtful for those of us who try to live every day overcoming attitudes of the past by treating everyone with respect and dignity.

If you want to learn more about coloured culture in South Africa I recommend Shirley, Goodness and Mercy by Chris Van Wyk http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shirley-Goodness-Mercy-Childhood-Africa/dp/0330444832

The so-called coloured thing is for two reasons. First of all, when Apartheid was instituted and people were being divided up into racial groups, they created the coloured category out of many different groups of people who didn't have much in common with each other except for the fact that they had a mixed racial heritage. So to some people it's an artifical category, created by the Apartheid founders, not an actual community or culture. The coloured community is very diverse-- some speak only Afrikaans, some speak English as their primary language, some are Dutch Reformed, some are Muslim. Some are descended from Javanese slaves and others are the product of the early Dutch settlers mixing with the indigeneous population.(At one point in South African history, racing mixing was accepted and interracial relationships were normal.) Secondly, when the author mentioned above (Chris Van Wyk) was participating in anti-Apartheid activism he would identify himself as black rather than coloured. Under Apartheid, coloureds and Indians had a few more priviledges than blacks, for example they had their own parliament house... only thing was that the coloured parliament didn't have any real power and they were still shut out of many jobs and could only live in certain overcrowded neighborhoods. So, Chris and other activists would identify as black to show solidarity to their black counterparts and to reject the little additional token power they got out of being classified coloured.

Hey, now you are talking about something that I actually do know about South Africa. I took an Introduction to Africa class in my undergraduate program, and our professor had a special interest in South Africa. So, we learned about the four major groups, the ANC, the pass laws, etc.

In the U.S., the word does have a negative connotation, though there are people in their 70's and older who still use the word without meaning to be insulting. It permeated the culture of their youth, and they just never got out of the habit. And you cannot tell them that they are being insulting and offensive (over here). They just don't understand.

After reading other's comments, I wanted to add an extra of my own.

To Woody's girl, its funny how you explained each of your daughters having different skin tone. I am of Irish decent and my husband is of Italian descent. When my kids would bathe together (under the strictest supervision ;-) it would crack me up to see 4 little butt cheeks - 2 a dark olive almost tanned looking and 2 fair and like you described, practically translucent.

After reading Sakuro's comment, I am able to envision the word colored without my American glasses on. I'm imagining it to mean colored like a rainbow is colored. Almost sparkly in its diversity. I'm liking it! I still won't use it here because I like my nose just where it is on my face but now I can see it as a non offensive way to describe a group of people.


In the US, especially in the South, Colored is an outdated term for Black people. It was last popular eons ago, and if you were to say it now in the wrong area, you might easily get beaten up. Here in the South we are very particular about racial terms. The only acceptable terms are African-American or Black, or those of Mixed Race.

HOWEVER - people use different terms in different parts of the world. I wouldn't expect you to call Black South Africans African-South Africans (we're very big on the -American designation) or something... they'd just be Black, I suppose. I understand that.

I just come from an area where people are SO uptight about it because so many people are sadly, still racist. And they talk like they came right off a veranda on some plantation somewhere. I was just taught from a young age that it is UN.AC.CEPT.ABLE to use words like that.

I saw the update on twitter and immediately made contact with Melanie @ Nurture.
As for the coloured thing, it is really so difficult to get into. Sakoro gives quite a good background but there is obviously more to it. The so called coloured thing applies to people who have issues being "labelled" as such. But this is really such a long story to get into. There are some really good authors that you can read to get a better idea of the coloured culture eg Rayda Jacobs, Pamela Jooste just to name two of them.

hi tertia. it is a bit of a tough question to asswer. what does being 'white' mean to you? being called coloured is in no way derogatory (to me at least). although i feel that being labelled like that just re-inforces racial stereo-typing. for example: "this white chick i work with is a real cow". does that mean all white chicks are cows? or "this coloured guy that sits opposite me is sooo lazy" does this mean all coloured guys are lazy? not being very eloquent here but do you get my meaning re racial stereotyping? can't i just be a south african?

but i am proud to be a coloured. so-called coloureds refers to those people who don't really like to be called coloureds. i am proud of my heritage and all that comes with it. being coloured (or non-white) to me in south africa is to be a survivor. apartheid and the notion racial supremecy threw (and thows) everything (including the kitchen sink) at me and my people and guess what - WE SURVIVED. with all the odds stacked against us (and i do hate the 'us and them analogy' but in terms of sa, it definitely was) we survived and thrived. we forced our way into 'white' universities, forced our way into 'white' companies, forced ourselves into 'white' careers.

now, most of that is in the past and i would like to remain a value adding, non-corrupt, south african :)

Another thing that grinds my gears it the current trend in the US to call dark-skinned people "African-Americans."

What if they are from HAITI, or some other nation? What if their heritage has NOTHING to do with Africa?!?! How insulting to imply that all people with dark brown or (nearly?) black skin could *only* come from one country or continent. ***pfffftt***

Okay... going to take my Chill Pill now. LOL

I don't get it... in Australia we say 'indigenous/black/coloured/(some other inappropriate terms i despise)...' to me "coloured" or "indigenous" is a much more kind thing to say than black but that's just me...
You will find this happening in all cultures and subcultures... for example the area I live in has many different tribes people from indigenous background, and up here it is a compliment to call an indigenous person a Murray (meaning a person who is of Murray Island descent) whereas indigenous people further south do not like this term at all!
I think another important concept to consider is the way in which you use such words... If you intend it to be an insult and use the tone of your voice to convey such messages, it is likely that it will be taken as an insult.
But I must agree everyone in the US appears to be caught up in being PC! I thought the twitter was brilliant, I was like 'what an honest, straight to the point request... and I never thought about the need for a variety of egg donors!

The 'labelling' topic reminded me of something... a young girl who used to work for me would label everyone according to their skin tone and she stuck with ice cream toppings... hope this doesnt offend anyone, its meant for a laugh only!
Black people = chocolate
Asian people = honey
Mixed race = caramel
Caucasian = vanilla

So I get to be boring old vanilla. I wish I could be anything but!

well i am south african, black or formaly known as black and now in sa reffered to as african, xhosa as amaxhosa. I am cool with any of those lables. lovely blog

Woody's Girl - agreed. Same with Mexicans. Every time the subject of "illegal aliens" comes up in the US, all brown folks are called Mexicans. Because they can't be Guatamalan nor Puerto Rican nor any other name. And not all illegal aliens are brown, but that's another story for another time.

I am not sure if some (a South African, presumably) pointed this out already ... I am American but have spent a lot of time in the RSA (Peace Corps Lesotho plus multiple visits back to Africa since then) and want to just clarify that in South Africa, "Coloured" and "Black" are distinct racial classifications. I think some Americans above think that coloured = black (like it used to at least in the US). Just clarifying. Also ... in our area here in the states (where my daughter is a minority at her school as a white kid) it is acceptable to say " --- of color" to describe a non-white person (Asian, African-American, Latino ... ) but to call someone "colored" isn't done.

I think I would starting laughing if someone used the term Afrikaans-Nederlands here, especially since most of "them" have never been to Africa, nor have their parents or grandparents. We have a lot of "zwarte" (black) people here; they usually are from former Dutch colonies like the Antilles and Surinam: former slaves whose roots are usually in Africa. We say "Antillianen" or "Surinamers" because that's where they were born and raised and seldom refer to them as black.

Then there are many non-caucasian-but-not-black people from Europe, the US, Asia and Africa living here. I guess they are usually called "western" and "non-western immigrants". Western being European, American and sometimes Asian (although that's Far East), non-western being all the rest. No one (I know) calls someone yellow or whatever, people simply refer to their motherland or, call them asian, african etc. We don't even have a name for 'colored' here, I think.

When a black person (that sounds so weird?) and their "blanke" partner have children they're often called "gorgeous"!

It really depresses me when South Africans are polarised over racial issues. In a perfect world, we'd all be oblivious of race, and sympathetic to one another as human beings.
I understand the need to differentiate for your egg donor thingy, but I'd love it even more if we could all just accept each other as we are. I'd love a Black, Coloured or Asian baby as much as my white babies. I don't know how mature we are as a society yet to cope with multi-racial families: the stares and comments could be very hurtful for a child, but hopefully reace will become less important. Conversely, I do understand that one needs a sense of cultural identity to feel part of society. My irritation is that that society has such shallow values. T, as they say in the movies, some of my best friends are *insert racial group of preference here*.

It seems to me that most people that want the issue of racial identity (as opposed to racism) to go away are white. It's easy to say that race isn't important when your own racial characteristics have never caused you a problem or been much of an issue. I think that most white people in white-majority countries don't even think of themselves as white. They just think of themselves as human. (Full disclosure here, I'm white.) Non-whites in white-majority countries don't have this luxury. The fact is that some elements of our lives are different as a result of differences in our appearance, and when you're in the minority, that can be hard, even in the absence of overt discrimination. For example, my friend's BEAUTIFUL mixed-race daughter told her mother that she wished she were blonde when she was about six. Her mother is blonde and her classmates were mostly blonde also (and just for the record, this was in enlightened Holland!) Human variation is a fact of life. Whether we choose to embrace it or deny it is up to us.

I hope that you can find all of the egg donors that you need, Tertia!

Danni - that's interesting to know. I always thought it was spelled "Murri", and had no idea what the connotations were. Around here, we generally call those of Aboriginal descent Koori (their preferred term), though many still use the very "off" terms of Abo and Boong. (Dare I say, those of less than stellar persuasion themselves, quite often?)

I'm of Irish descent, with skin that shows it, and I always find it funny when Kooris I know call me "cuz", or "sista".

quote: When a black person (that sounds so weird?) and their "blanke" partner have children they're often called "gorgeous"!

*lol*!! that's exactly what i grew up thinking!

i grew up in papua new guinea (north of australia) where we differentiated between white-skins, brown-skins, asians and mixed raced people. it's interesting to me that no-one has mentioned the term 'mixed race' as that's what coloured in SA seems to refer to...

The the write-up said. Coloured people here in South Africa are cool. As far as I know, many of us whites (at least as far as the Western Cape goes), see them as part of us, and we part of them. It's a kind of a "blood covenant" thing. They are amongst the most resilient, survivor orientated people out there. In spite of the previous political system and even the present one (the present one seems to discriminate against them just as much as the one in the past did), they survive and are extremely creative. They give the Afrikaaner community an extra bit of an edge and adds to their collective culture.

If there are any coloured folk in S.A. out there that can read this, all I can say is ............... "DUIDELIK!!" :)

absolutely amazed at how the original question was for donor eggs. For those of you who think people should "just get over it", would you say that to a mental health sufferer, or a rape victim?
And, the one who thinks that decendents of Africa don't have the right to be called American - where did your immigrant arse come from? I'd have thought only the first nations people of America could say that.
some of you people have said stupid and ignorant comments. lets hope that you don't donate eggs to anyone. At the end of the day, someone who wants a baby, just wants a baby, not to read your raving.

absolutely amazed at how the original question was for donor eggs. For those of you who think people should "just get over it", would you say that to a mental health sufferer, or a rape victim?
And, the one who thinks that decendents of Africa don't have the right to be called American - where did your immigrant arse come from? I'd have thought only the first nations people of America could say that. At the end of the day, someone who wants a baby, just wants a baby, not to read your raving.

Hi I am also from South Africa, and agree, it is cool to be coloured, or whatever. I am proud of mu Irish, Jewish, Indian, Khoi and Xhosa roots

I'm a 32 year old man who was born in Cape Town, South Africa. My family moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1980 when I was about 5 years old. We are coloured people, more to the point, Cape Coloured.

I've grown up here in this great country (Australia) and am proud to be an Australian. However I am just as proud of my South African heritage and proud to call myself Coloured when explaining my heritage to non-South Africans. I've never used the term "so called colured" as I don't feel the need to. I am very aware of the term's recent popularity in a politically correct sense. My grandfather was born and grew up in District Six, in Pontac Street. He would have been a young man in his early 20's when District Six was demolished and residents forcibly removed and poorly relocted by the then Apartheid Government.

I know of many Coloured ex-pat's (some of my generation, but mostly those in their 40's to 50's)living in Australia who deny their roots and refuse to refer to themselves as Coloured, and who are ashamed to be themselves around other Coloured people, even to talk Afrikaans, which let's be honest, is the lanuage of the Coloured people. How sad...someone once said that once you forget where you came from and deny your roots, everything in your life will go wrong. How true. So to all you people out there who have only just discovered the term and this amazing culturally hidden side of South Africa, don't be shy ro use the word and say it with conviction without hesitation. It is NOT a racist term when speaking to any Coloured South African...yes you may offend the one pretentious Coloured out of 100, but you won't offend me, you'll only make me smile with pride.

Paul Oliver

Really interesting to read peoples opinions on this. I definitely love being a South African coloured...i wouldn't identify myself as anything otherwise. I am aware of the many coloureds out there that do not like this term-they usually prefer (from my experience) to be classified as 'mixed race' or simply 'black'. The reason for this, as one of my friends' has put it, is that 'we as mixed-race people were given the term coloured under the apartheid regime- and thus the term coloured is not rightfully ours'. However I'd like to think that the term 'coloured' has given my kind a sense of identity-I was told of many stories (particularly from my elders) of how mixed race people were once seen as outcasts-because we were of no pure descent-we were not black enough to be black or white enough to be white-and didn't seem to fit in with the main races. Which is why I think that the term 'coloured' has not only given mixed race people a place in South African society, but has also unified us-we are no longer just those mixed people with no pure descent-we are 'coloureds'.

I'm a Black American. My spouse is Filipina. In America, our children are African-American when the "other" box doesn't exist. In Asia, our children are Amer-Asian. If we were in SA, what would the classification of the children be?

How does a person find out if they are coloured? Of course, in some it is obvious but when your family move you away from SA at a young age and there are no records available regardless of how hard you search, how do you find out? All I can do is find out my grandparents names and one of them certainly seemed to be coloured. As We have an English father and out of 6 kids, 4 are darker than the average 'white' person, even with a slight kink in the hair, we have to wonder. For me, my daughter is marrying a Zulu guy soon and it would be awesome to know if we are indeed 'coloured'. We go to a Church that is of all nations but mostly sourthern Africans and so many say we are. Where are the records and how can we find out the truth?????

i think most coloured people look more latino than anything else

For everything you wanted to know about the South African Coloured community, visit www.bruin-ou.com, register and interact. It's the biggest online community for Coloured South Africans.

"The Coloured culture seems to have inherited all the best aspects of both white and black culture and the are a damn fun bunch of people. Ek is baie lief vir die bruin mense."

Do you realise how patronising this sounds, Tertia?

I'm a beautiful Xhosa lady in S.A(Black). I find nothing wrong with people calling themselves Coloured. It's about recognizing that they are not only black but of mixed heritage and causes less confusion. The Americans confuse everything by calling people like Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Halle Berry black-in South Africa they'd be rightfully called Coloured(a name for the mixed race). There's Blacks,Cloureds(mixed people)-different races with different cultures and languages.

I am a 29 year old Coloured women who currently resides in the USA. I have to say that I am extremely proud to be a Coloured South-African. Every person that has asked me what nationality I am are actually very surprised when the word Coloured South-African comes out of my mouth. They don't understand that the terminology in South-Africa is completely different to what they know of as Colored here in the United States. After giving them the run down of the mix they understand. To explain the race Coloured in one word it would by COLOURFULL. We are a mixed race. We should be grateful to have a little bit of everything :o)

ugh, too many racist comments on here.

race issues in america are different from south america and south africa and other places. in america, everyone goes by skin color (race), not your title (ethnicity).

and people of color have a right to be uptight about things, when people stop directing racism at people of color then no one will be upset anymore.

the only people who need to get over it, are the white people with chips on their shoulder.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • Medsitters Au pairs

More Ads

| More


Bloggy Stuff

  • Living and Loving

  • SA Blog Awards Badge

  • Featured in Alltop

  • Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

  • RSS Feed
Blog powered by Typepad
This is the Reviews Design