People of colour do what they can to give their children good lives and education, breaking their backs trying to secure a bright future in the “Rainbow Nation”. As a result, most of us who went to these so called prestigious white private schools speak lovely English, we don’t even need to think of how to structure sentences, the language just floats off our tongues. How wonderful. How nice…
So growing up i dated guys who came from the same background and had the same privileges as me, spoke well and attended these black hating, white loving sweat shops. I matriculated with these blacks, attended varsity with these blacks, but it was during this time that I got to know more closely other people of colour. They didn’t fit my mould. I won’t lament much on the differences and similarities; you can fill the gaps yourselves. But suddenly found my social circle speaking more vernacular, not less English, but more Xhosa, more Zulu, more lokshin kulcha. I liked it. I loved how our languages sounded; I liked the guys that spoke them so easily.
I dated a guy from ekasi. I was drawn by how smart he was, not just book smart but the kind of intelligence that came with being a lokshin boy from a poor/working class family that has very reasonable dreams: to graduate, make an honest living and know that he’ll never again need to worry about his life not meeting Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs. He was gorgeous, I lusted over him more than I loved him. I didn’t love him, in fact
Moments with him were amazing, genuine, and my heart swelled in anticipation when I was with him. Finally came the day I went over to his res for a “movie night”. I remember I shaved that day. I usually don’t shave at all, but on this day in did. I reclined next to him on his bed, resting my head on his arm. We watched some rom-com with an all-white cast and a lot of pretty intense love scenes. Of course… So, sex happened, inevitably. It was entrancing, his body was amazing. However great this moment was, I caught myself being snatched violently from it at the sound of his Xhosa sex talk. It was unusual and uncomfortable, and I would respond with a dramatic moan at best. I just did not know how to respond, in Xhosa. I understood his words, but just could not find them. I feel stupid looking back on it now, but my growing up environment didn’t ever indicate that vernacular could be playful, or lustful, or romantic for that matter. I’d never seen Xhosa romance or Xhosa porn, and the most honest form of intimacy id seen between black people that didn’t cause a type of awkwardness was a hand shaking. Handshakes were firm, sure and shared with people you liked.
Anyway that was years ago. After this kind of experience, i thought hard about what the problem is. Im Xhosa speaking myself, but the idea of sex in my language was odd. Did this taint my black consciousness? I really thought I was one with my blackness, especially as I made an effort to become more and more informed as iv grown, keep my eyes were open to things I was blind to before. I knew I was too black for Camps Bay, but too white for the hood? Id never thought about that. But wait, surely not everybody had sex in English… As I dated more and slowly tried to decolonise my mind it became easier, I becoming okay with my blackness in a context that was hardly ever spoken about. I decolonised the ideas of how my body should look, how and what I should speak and feel, decolonised my sex life.
I had a conversation not so long ago with some friends, the topic was brought up by my guy friend, saying him and his boyfriend use English sex talk. We all contributed to the conversation, but the general consensus is that we’ve all had sex using English, even with partners with whom we shared the same language, and we all struggled with the idea of speaking our mother tongues during intimate moments with our partners. It was a mix of English and venac on streets, and strictly English in the sheets, and no one felt odd about it when in fact, it should’ve been the opposite. I’m sure a lot of “model c” (I’d never really known the history behind term, but I just accepted being referred to as one) English medium scholars will relate.
Before sitting to write this I created a Whatsapp group with my girlfriends so I can have a conversation about this topic with a bigger, diverse group of people. Those that did share really helped iron out the issue of black intimacy and how there are parts of it that still need to be decolonised. It’s easy to identify some ways in which blackness has been white washed, but sex is such a private thing, one does not wonder to think if we take it into our bedrooms as well. Of course not everyone’s intimacy has been scathed, there are those that naturally engage in intercourse in their mother tongue, but most of the women admitted to using the English language, most unconsciously. And faced with a partner who spoke vernacular during this moment if felt odd. I identified. We spoke broadly, and realised that most of us were having to unlearn what has been taught to us, having to detach ourselves from what we read in books and see on screen, because frankly, these platforms, that are majorly influential in the time were living in, don’t represent us. So, how do we normalize us, be okay with hearing/seeing black intimacy and accept our languages in all spaces, but especially deep, meaningful moments? The issue here is not that we speak English, the issue is that speaking our languages possibly causes clitorises to retract and render penises limp. We also discussed the finding beauty in our languages, as we’re all trying to learn to love the sound of our mother tongues during heated moments. We exchanged some phrases and terms that affected us positively. Below are a few beautiful and sexy e-cards created by Amandlezulu as an initiative to normalize black intimacy, we should see and hear them a lot more. Like a thesaurus of black kink…
The objective of these intimate ecards is not only to normalize, but also educate those that are still a bit uncomfortable with vernacular during moments of love or lust.
It is only when white wash thoughts and behaviour is perpetuated in all black spaces, without the presence of the watchful white eye and influence that one realises how deeply embedded whiteness affects us. To see blacks holding hands, or kissing, or simply endearing each other romantically will rouse feelings of dissonance, and if you’ve watched My Perfect Wedding, you’ll know it can cause social media uproar. Even the producers of the show milk this angle; the “hideous hilarity” of black people expressing love. One may argue that blacks aren’t really known for intimacy or public displays of affection. OK, however, that theory is not to say that we are void of feelings associated with love and lust, or that blacks do not perform those feelings. By virtue of black procreation that theory does not hold water. This leads me to the question, is the expression of black love hidden behind closed doors because the generational training enforced that it is ugly, or perhaps it’s just understood to be a private moment between two people? I think the latter is true. However we cannot escape that with colonisation came “the standard”… in all that we do there is the white standard that is often glorified and aimed for. Sometimes the line is blurred. Wanting to live in a spacious, resourceful residential area doesn’t make you any less black, wanting a nice car and nice clothes and money in the bank does not make you any less black. These are just the times we are living in, we all want comfortable lives. Speaking English if and when you want does not take away your blackness. What does show fractures in the black psyche is the lack of self-assuredness, needing the white template as a reference for everything we do.
As I’ve grown and familiarized myself with wonderful things that I hadn’t realised could be black I’ve come to love truly love hearing my language and like how its evolved and can shift form. The phrases, the colloquial, the gestures, it is poetry. One cannot dictate how all these inherent problems should be destroyed, but they must be as they are just as urgent as those that are performed physically. It doesn’t need to be a “movement“. It can just be you, and your partner, then friends, and likeminded people, then family and so forth. People like to wait for heroes, but heroes are often busy or also waiting for a hero, just as much as you.