Philip Copeman

Author and Activist

I recently was asked  if I was white. Here was my answer:

I am African. My name is Philip Donald van der Riet Copeman. However my own choosing of identity as African, black or white has about as much relevance as Andile Mngxitama of The BLF, who while calling himself black, clearly by his physical appearance alone, has white ancestors. It is in fact Andile's Ancestors that stole the land. Most of mine weren't even here yet!

Racially what we wanna be and what we are are often not the same.

Genetics is an interesting subject. Like most South Africans including most probably yourself and Paseko I am of mixed race. My paternal side consists of 19th century British settlers that mixed with Afrikaner and Cape Africans. My maternal side consists of German Jewish 19th century settlers that in a attempt to hide their Semitic origins mixed with the Eastern Cape population. I estimate that like me, more than 90% of South Africans have both black and white ancestors (my own estimate not a scientific report). This would certainly be the case in the coastal regions where racial contact has been going on for hundreds of years.

I have children from two women. I am married to a woman whose parents are both first generation British immigrants. I use sun cream a lot less than my children.

The majority of my family have emigrated to Australia, UK and Canada, where they continue to spread their African genes.

Don't get confused by the 19th century racial classifications of Caucasian, Negroid, Mogoloid and Australoids. Australian Aborigines are genetically closer to Swedes than Xhosas are to Tswanas! Sometimes the remnants of this historical classification stick to those of us who were subject to Apartheid legacy of arbitrary classification. For those with a tendency to think in these racist terms, the pencil test is as good as any for racial classification.

Even in-landers should not believe that they are free of the “cream brush”. Remember that while we officially denote 25% of Africans as "white", in fact the majority of the Northern Africans are of mixed race. These northern whites have been trawling Africa as slave traders, with a predilection for sampling the merchandise from long before 1652 and their genes have long since permeated almost all elements of the population, yourself and Paseko most likely included. You can't think of mixing races like mixing liquid. The transfer mechanism is measured through mutation rates of Mitocondrial DNA and X Chromosomes. Think of it rather in terms of the US definitions of slave material in reverse. “It takes just one drop to be white”.

For those of that get confused by science and evolution, I simply refer to the case of John Dunne a visitor and advisor to the court of Shaka Zulu. Dunne had 135 Zulu Wives, which means that approximately 10,000 modern Zulus,believing themselves to be black are actually descendants of this one whiteman. Dunne was one of hundreds of thousands of sexually active colonial single men visiting the area – you do the numbers.

I don't produce these arguments not out of any intention to be sexist or misogynistic, but it is a well know historical fact that the sexual composition of the Slave traders and the Colonial Settlers was skewed towards males. These men marauding through Africa for the last 2000 years, spread their genses. This means that most “whites” in South Africa will trace their genes back to “black” mothers, and most “blacks” will trace their heritage back to “white” fathers

If you want to push the bankrupt argument that internal Africans are more “indigenous” that coastal Africans , you should first deal with the fact that south coast Africans were far more reluctant to sell their children to slavers than Northern Africans and you should consider that while you may look down on us for having white colonial ancestors that is not as bad as having slave traders as your ancestors- weird isn't it?

When I explained this inconvenient truth to an young African nationalist who believed himself to be “indigenous” and myself not, he broke into a blithering banter of “Rape is not a means to pass on genetics”. He simply ignores the obvious fact that most people of all races find opposites of other races attractive. While social pressure may discourage this interaction, it takes as little as a 1% rate of transfer before a population is indistinguishably racially mixed with another. In seven generations, the rate for a 1% mix for a generation is around 1-2-5-11-23-47-boom. You have only to look at Brazil to see where South Africa's population will be shortly. (We are 20 years out of Apartheid they are less than 200 years out of Apartheid). However when my “indigineous” comrade cools down he can explain that to his own chromosomes.

South Africans get so hit up by their misplaced desire for racial identity. They should rather embrace the humorous approach of the Nigerians. When confronted by the arrogance of Jamaicans, who contend that they are a superior strain of African descendants by way of the fact that only the strongest survived the boat crossing Nigerians retort, “only the dumb ones got onto the boat”.

I cover these concepts in detail in my book Gods First Fishermen.

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