‘If you’re from Africa, why are you white?’

Josh Buchel

I am proud to say “I am African,” and those around me can feel my sense of pride when I tell them my identity comes from the heart of Africa. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa — the rainbow nation. We have cheetahs, lions and zebras in our backyard. Mountains and safaris replace the bumpy streets and flatlands of Wichita Falls. Clean, fresh air fills my lungs and makes me feel alive. My heart lies there, but in 2015, my life changed forever.

I decided to move over to the land of the free — the U. S. of America. Growing up in South Africa, I was told that Americans ask the craziest questions, including asking if we had pet lions (which of course we do, why wouldn’t we?); however, nothing could have really prepared me for the ridiculous questions I’ve gotten in the last two years.

“If you’re from Africa, why are you white?” And no, that’s not a “Mean Girls” reference. I’ve legitimately been asked this.

“Have you had AIDS?” No, I haven’t, but thanks for being concerned with my sexual health.

“Do you speak African?” The language is actually called Afrikaans, not African, but yes I do.

“Where in America is South Africa?” is one of those questions I never actually answered, I just walked away.

It gets lonely sometimes, being so far away from my family, friends and everything I’ve ever known — but living in America, specifically Texas, has been a fantastic experience. For example, I had no idea deep frying an Oreo was even possible — I didn’t even know there was more than just the original Oreo. I’ve met some incredible people that I would’ve never even dreamed of meeting in South Africa. I’ve improved my English speaking skills and learned about a culture other than my own, while simultaneously educating others on South African culture (even if I do get asked those ridiculous questions).

I wouldn’t change anything about the last two years. I’ve learned so much about myself and gained an education unlike anything back home. I hope no one ever asks me why I’m white again…but we’ll get there.

Josh Buchel is an accounting and finance junior.

Comments

  1. When I see a white guy call himself African I always want to throw up inside….

    So many people are yet to wrap their heads around this fact…. That you live with us doesn’t make you one of us

    • Is your comment meant to be facetious? Perhaps I’m not understanding what you’re trying to communicate. Can you please elaborate?

    • Was he not born in Africa? So how is he, by extension, NOT African? You’re just as much of a bigot as the ones who broadly paint Africa as a place without modern conveniences, plagued with famine and human trafficking. I’m not sure what YOUR metric for being authentically African is, but her certainly does in my book, and I’m as black as the Caribbean soil my house sits on.

  2. What an elegantly written piece. Very proud of the way you chose to educate others. In our wonderful country if your color hue is different than your neighbor, you are asked outlandish questions. Taking the time to educate others using intelligience, patience, candor, and wit can offer healing and understanding.

  3. I am proud to say I know Joshua he is truely an inspiration to one and all. Thank you america for welcoming him in your country and giving him s future

  4. First off congratulations on your trip to the United States! I am blessed beyond words to go to a culturally diverse school because I learn more and more every day not only about peoples cultures and where they are from but I also learn how to respect those that are different from me. ^For those of you who do not see how he is African then you should think about signing up for the Human Diversities class (taught by a wonderful black professor). I am very offended by the comment above. I hope that someday you “can wrap your head around” the fact that he is African and respect that.

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