Afrikaners and Whiteness

Featured image: “Oom” (Uncle) Paul Kruger

What does it mean to be “White” and how much “non-White” does it take to disqualify you?  That question has garnered a lot of discussion with the advent of DNA testing.  Is a blue-eyed blonde with 6% East Asian DNA via a half-Japanese great-grandmother a White girl or a Hapa?  Does a smattering of Asheknazic blood improve your financial skills? Will 1% West African ancestry make your penis longer, your temper shorter and your free throw shooting more accurate?   Most of us agree that DNA matters when you need an organ transplant or want to make Aliyah to Israel.  How much does it matter when we are talking about who is and is not White?

For some, the very existence of this question proves “Whiteness” does not exist.  Often these same people will insist a Y chromosome has nothing to do with whether or not one is male or female: they will then point to Kleinfelter Syndrome and other uncommon anomalies as proof that asexual demiromantic genderfluids need protection from cisgender tyranny.  Yet without “Whiteness” there can be no White privilege and without “gender” there can be no gender dysphoria, gender variance or gender fluidity.  These terms have meaning in common use. That meaning varies, just as “ocean” can mean different things to a family playing at the beach and a man lost at sea.  But that doesn’t mean that “ocean” is a mere social construct, or that we could end drowning if only we dismantled the patriarchal maritime structures of power.

The Afrikaners are arguably the most endangered White population in the world: they are surrounded by millions united only in their uncompromising hatred for the White “Boer.”  And yet most Afrikaners have non-White ancestors.  The first person recorded as calling himself “Afrikan” was Hendrick Bierbouw, who in 1707 said defiantly “”Ik ben een Afrikaander – al slaat de landdrost mij dood, of al zetten hij mij in de tronk, ik zal, nog wil niet zwijgen!” (“I am an African – even if the magistrate were to beat me to death, or put me in jail, I shall not be, nor will I stay, silent!”) But Bierbouw’s origins remain unclear: while he was the son of a German colonist who later married a Dutch orphan girl, he had half-caste siblings and might well have been what colonists of the time called a baster — the illegitimate son of a colonist and a non-White woman. (It is telling that at this time “Afrikaander” was a term most often used to describe ethnic Africans and half-castes, not Europeans).

Cape Town Malay Brides

The earliest European settlers to South Africa were overwhelmingly male, with a smattering of orphans and transported prostitutes from Germany and Holland and a few hundred French Huguenot families. Not surprisingly, there were many liaisons between these settlers and non-White women.  Slaves from Java and later India mingled with the Khoisan, Bantus and European colonists: this resulted what would become today’s “Cape Malay Coloureds.”  (It is interesting to note that South Africa’s “Coloured” population typically speaks Afrikaans, not English, as a first language: while today English-speaking White South Africans tend to be more liberal, early Afrikaners often honored racial differences in the breach as much as the observance).

This is not to say there were no distinctions between the groups: as early as 1685 anti-miscegenation laws were passed to discourage interracial relationships.  But men left alone in a sparsely populated land often ignored these laws.  And “coloured” was always a nebulous term: light-skinned persons of mixed ancestry who professed the Christian faith and spoke Afrikaans were often accepted as “White.”  Even in apartheid-era South Africa distinctions between “White” and “coloured” were made by skin tone, skull structure and hair texture.  (This sometimes led to controversies when “White” parents gave birth to “coloured” babies: the case of Sandra Laing is among the most famous and most tragic).

As a result of this, the average Afrikaner DNA test reveals around 5-7.5% non-European ancestry, mostly San, Esan Nigerian, Indian and Malays — the same groupings found, in higher percentages, among Cape Malay Coloureds.  This may come as a shock to many but it’s old news to most Afrikaners.  Many Afrikaner families list among their ancestors Krotoa, a San woman who served as an interpreter and who became Eva van Mierhoff after marrying a Danish soldier in 1646 in “[t]he first marriage contracted here according to Christian usage with a native.”  F.W. de Klerk, who helped dismantle the apartheid system during his term as South African President, has both Khoi and Bengali ancestors in the deep roots of his family tree.

This small admixture of non-European DNA didn’t stop Christiaan Barnard from performing the world’s first successful heart transplant: neither did it stop J.M. Coetzee from winning the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature.  And while he failed to credit some of their ancestors, Arthur Conan Doyle had nothing but respect for the Boers:

Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth. Take this formidable people and train them for seven generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive, place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman, and the rider. Then, finally, put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming patriotism. Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in one individual, and you have the modern Boer—the most formidable antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain. Our military history has largely consisted in our conflicts with France, but Napoleon and all his veterans have never treated us so roughly as these hard-bitten farmers with their ancient theology and their inconveniently modern rifles.

“Purity spiraling” is a common hobby among the White Right. Enemies are regularly accused of being crypto-Jews, gypsies, Slavs, Irish, Italians or Hispanics. The “Is [insert group here] White?” horse has been beaten so thoroughly that posting it can get you banned from the generally friendly, tolerant and accepting  The Afrikaners have always followed the path advocated by David Lane(*):  “If someone looks White, acts White, fights White, then until their actions prove otherwise, they are our Folk. On the other hand, regardless of pedigree or appearance, those who oppose, criticize, hinder or fail to support our cause are no friends of ours.”  We might do well to follow their lead.

(*) I know, I know: David Lane was a racist, a terrorist and a murderer.   Get back to me after you burn your Che Guevara shirt.

2 thoughts on “Afrikaners and Whiteness

  1. I hope to dispel here a growing misconception which serves only as a distraction to your work: races are not proper nouns, and thus are not capitalized. There is a largely-unspoken idea that capitals letters can be used as an honorific; in English, this is not correct usage. Races of black and white and yellow are just common nouns describing common variation of genetic characteristics broken out along largely visual parameters.


  2. Since “Black” is capitalized when referring to people of African descent, I capitalize “White” when referring to people of European descent. I see no reason why that would be a problem unless you claim that “Black people” are a separate and distinct group but “White people” are not. If that is the case I am happy to hear your argument and respond accordingly.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s