Only Skin Deep

Natai's 50th Bday (28) A few months ago, I had the privilege to participate in my host mother’s 50th birthday party—well it was at my house, so…

During the course of the day, I made a new friend in a ten-year-old boy and subsequently his mom. I was sitting chatting with his mom and he was chatting with one of my little cousins. He turned to ask me something calling me “lekgoa” (white person). Generally, when children refer to me as “lekgoa,” I reply, “Ga ke nna lekgoa. Ke nna Amanda.”—which loosely translates to, “My name is not white person. My name is Amanda.”

Usually that satisfies the child and they are content to call me Amanda from then on. But this little boy was not having it. He turned to my little cousin and said, “O lekgoa” (She’s a white person). His mom entered the conversation, saying in Setswana, “No, she’s not a white person, she’s Matswana” or that I was part of the Batswana tribe. Again, her son was not having it. To his eyes, and he was right, I was a lekgoa. No getting around it.

Natai's 50th Bday (10)The subject eventually dropped, but I could still see the wheels spinning in my little cousin’s head. Eventually she spoke up again. She asked the little boy if he knew Rachel, a little girl in our village who is albino. He said he did, and she responded, “Sissy Amanda is like that. She looks like a lekgoa, but really she’s Batswana.”

I was so proud of her at this moment. She knew that somehow I was a part of her, the same as her, she just needed a little time to work it out. I’m not Batswana, but at that moment I was really proud to be called Batswana.

South Africa is definitely still healing from the hurts of it’s past. There is still a long journey ahead, but if this is the future. If girls and boys like my little cousin are the future of South Africa—girls and boys willing to look past skin color at what is in the heart of another person—South Africa has a great future ahead of them.