Born a Crime

Welcome to Our Hillbrow lays its foundation in a dark part of South African history. Hillbrow, a town that has recently escaped the Apartheid, still abounds with xenophobia and discrimination, legacies of its dark colonial past. In the attached video, Trevor Noah gives a personal account of his childhood in a comedic manner. During the Apartheid, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act(1949) forbade people of color from marrying white people. The child of a white father and a black mother, he was “born a crime.” Not even allowed to acknowledge his birth, his family had to pretend to be strangers in public, risking arrests when caught. Trevor faced additional discrimination from black people – people he considered his own.

Called a “half-breed,” Trevor was ostracized even from black people for not being entirely black. We notice a systemic discrimination that has permeated even the everyday lives of its victims. Xenophobia becomes commonplace, a mode of life. Such internecine violence and discrimination brings to mind Fanon’s picture of the colonial society. “Whereas the colonist or police officer can beat the colonized subject day in and day out, insult him and shove him to his knees, it is not uncommon to see the colonized subject draw his knife at the slightest hostile or aggressive look from another colonized subject” (Fanon 17).

Fanon, Trevor, and Welcome to our Hillbrow all bring a common question to mind. What are the legacies of colonialism, and how do people cope with them?

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  1. That is a really good question: how do people cope with colonialism and its consequences? Surely, one of the issues colonialism brings is identity crisis and a question of where to fit. I think it is relevant to think about the type of colonialism in the context, might some perhaps have had advantages on the people? and to what extent did it help a community be exposed to different ideologies?

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