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Youth Radio: The Lingering Legacy of Apartheid

ED GORDON, host:

It's been 11 years since South Africa began forging its democracy. The changes have helped that country's black and colored youth make important gains in employment and education, but many young people say when it comes to race, the attitudes of the older generation can make it difficult to completely leave apartheid behind. Youth Radio's Fadia Williams has this perspective.


My dad is colored, but he looks white. His dad is Scottish and his mom was Egyptian. So under the apartheid rules, my dad, he was colored `other' because he had foreign parents. My mom, she looks very Indian, and she was plain `colored' because she had some African-colored parents. So when they walked down the street, he'd walk on the one side of the street and she'd walk down the other side because together that was against the law.

For me, it's always interesting to see how people react when they find out I'm colored. Actually, I exaggerate my accent so that they know I'm colored because I want to be open about who I am. For example, I work for Clinique so we're working with beauty products. We're working with makeup. And it's in a really posh mall, predominantly white ladies coming up to you. And the funny thing is when they realize, well, you're colored and you're not white, they treat you differently. They'll ask, `Do you know if your supervisor is around?' or `Can I speak to your manager?'

Our parents made us feel that as young girls growing up in the colored community, makeup and beauty and things were for older white ladies and we shouldn't even go there. Because our parents were a part of the apartheid era, they are making us more aware and more conscious of, `You're colored. You have the opportunity to do this now. You're colored. Where are you going?' I mean, `Do you have white friends? Let's invite your white friends over to dinner.' We are becoming self-conscious and more conscious of our blackness and our whiteness and our coloredness.

We have to grow up with this and teach our own children that is not what you're supposed to be thinking about. How do you teach your children `Don't look at color' and `Don't look at race' if it's all over and all around us?

GORDON: That was Fadia Williams of Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Fadia Williams