The first black person to…


A few years ago we had a young kwaito sensation aptly named Lekgoa [sic] because he was white and lekgoa [sic] is Sesotho for white person.

But never have I read anywhere that this young musician was the first white artist to choose kwaito. Neither were many eyebrows raised when Johnny Clegg and PJ Powers branched out.

Are we wittingly going back to the days when we read about “Two men and three blacks killed in a car accident”?

Themba Molefe here touches on a subject I’ve harped on for a long while, as have other people. He talks about black people always being labelled “the first African to…” or “the first black female to…” and so on. While white people who do firsts are not (Themba mentions Johnny Clegg, PJ Powers and a “young kwaito sensation.”).

My interpretation is that people don’t expect blacks to do something, which, when they do, comes as a surprise that warrants “the first black man to…”. But they expect whites to do any and everything, hence no surprise and no firsts there.

Themba also mentions the Senegalese singer Ismael Lo, whose music I admire. Apparently when asked if he was the Bob Dylan of Africa, he replied that perhaps Bob Dylan was the Ismael Lo of America. My sentiments exactly about my country, Lesotho, being named The Switzerland of Africa, but Switzerland not being named the Lesotho of Europe.

I have been told before, whenever I’ve brought this up, that of course Switzerland is famous and well-known, so it’s normal to compare Lesotho to it. But that’s just due to whose standards are being used, and therefore doesn’t work for me.

Question: is a colourless society impossible? I think it is. Here you are, walking down the street, and this white guy is in front of you. You can’t not see that the person is white. And if you’re black, they can’t not see that you are. We can’t achieve a colourless society.

What we can achieve is enough maturity to understand why our outsides are different. Understand that there is occurence of albinism and melanism in America,  in Africa, in Asia, everywhere. That when people are afflicted with these ailments, their characters and what is contained therein do not change. That nurture plays a bigger role than nature in differences among us. And that’s just for starters. There is a long way to go before we mature enough to pretend to live in a colourless society. Even then, the colour will have been ignored only by the force of the spirit, and not by anything else.

So, Themba, the kind of reaction you lament here is gonna go on a lot longer than we’d like it to. Unfortunately. I googled “the first black” and got 3 400 000 ghits (1). Some of these were about Bill Clinton as the first black President of the United States. Then I did “the first white” and got 744 000 ghits (2). Draw your conclusions. First black woman and first white woman get you 157 000 and 21 200 respectively, while the guys get you 82 100 and 67 200 respectively.

Public Enemy’s Chuck D mentions Elvis and Eminem (3) in the same breath, and I add that they haven’t and aren’t being called “the first white men to…”