Race at Work

I was paging the 1970 Census of South West Africa for my work and I was astounded by how lengthy the document was for such a small population. The reason for this was that people could not just be counted, they were counted within one of nine different ethnic groups. People were counted according to their race, a classification scheme they did not chose but was imposed on them by the apartheid regime. Now that we live in an independent Namibia, one would imposed racial classification died 22 years ago with the birth of Namibia. However, it persists, not just in the way people describe each other in the street, but in employment. Yes, I found out that one is either ‘previously disadvantaged ‘ or ‘white’ when it comes to reporting to the employment equity commission and I for one had no choice in being classified as the former.
I never chose to be born to what where then considered ‘a white mother and black father’ and had I been born in Namibia in 1986, I surely would have been classified ‘black, coloured’ or something of the other. Yet in the independent Namibia I find the classification ‘previously disadvantaged’ prefilled on my profile on the human resources website of our company. This ‘previously disadvantaged’ is number 2 on drop down menu of categories, but I cannot see what is number 1, because the field is faded, immutable, just like the field of my ID number.
I now open the discussion to you and I ask you, who decides who is ‘previously disadvantaged’ or not and what would be the other category – is it white or ‘previously advantaged?’ How such categorizations made and what is at stake for a company that does not classify all of its employees as such, per instructions of the Employment Equity Commission which apparently requires all employees to fall into one of two categories. Naturally, how do these categories relate to the way employees see themselves, especially in place I find myself feeling neither ‘white’ nor’ black’?
I could write all about how race only really matters for in terms of inherited susceptibility to different diseases, such as ‘bad’ cholesterol in Europeans and protection from this same risk factor of heart disease in a subsection of African American and West Africans, or the classic case of sickle-cell trait in West Africa as protection against malaria, but first I want to hear from you!


About writinghealth

Wannabe Epidemiologist? Wannabe med anthro person? I guess. Christian, scientist (not Christian scientist), i mean like I studied molecular biology and I part of the RC Church. I also completed a Masters of Public Health, at the University of Cape Town, in Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
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