The apartheid era in South African history is characterized by laws that strictly delineated the place in society of people based on their skin color. Although Chinese immigrants to South Africa date back to the 1660s, the Chinese were hard to define so South African authorities threw them into the category of “coloured” which theoretically meant a mixture of black and white. The Chinese Association of South Africa(CASA) has sued for redress of the situation because by being classified as “coloured” people of Chinese heritage are not eligible for affirmative action programs. As Patrick Chong of CASA, “under the apartheid rule, we were classified as colored– a term used to describe a mixture of black and white races. After the democracy came to power, our status was no longer recognized as coloured so we were in between.” This meant people of Chinese heritage were not eligible for gaining jobs as part of affirmative action programs.
A Pretoria high court responded to the CASA petition by deciding that South Africans of Chinese heritage will now be classified as being “black” and thus eligible for affirmative action program. Once societies begin classifying people on the basis of skin, they invariably wind up with confusion and a bit of madness in trying to determine who is who.