Pam pirenzee's complexion is paler than most Chevy Chase residents would be after a week at the beach. Alan Boesak's skin has a soft cafe-au-lait tint. John Hartney is swarthy.

In South Africa's racial scheme of things, the not-quite-white trainee-teacher and the two brown clergymen are lumped together as "colored" - the brand put on the 2.5 million people who are the ultimate product of sex across a color line that the government says must not be crossed for any purposes.

By their own definition, the three are "black", Rejected by the white society they have adopted as their own, they and thousands of other mixed-race persons are breaking with the past and identifying with the black majority that is struggling to break white power and discrimination here.

Increasingly in this community, black is not a color but a condition.

"The chickens of apartheid are coming home to roost," said David Curry, another "Colored" who has gone "black," although he looks virtually "white" in South Africa's pigmento-cracy.

"We are all oppressed by apartheid," the insurance broker said. "The boomerang of apartheid has created a consciousness of being black and oppressed among us all. Apartheid is like a drug the whites are taking for lumbago and it's giving them diabetes instead."

A decade ago, the vulnerable and isolated mixed-race community that has opted for white religions, white middle class values and white languages could have undoubtedly been recruited easily as allies by the ruling white community. "Trying for white" described the attitude of the Mixed-race elite then.

Instead, the white Afrikaner government cast them deepinto a racial limbo of insecurity and disruptions.

Coloreds have been stripped of the right to vote for Parliament in that decade. They have seen 75,450 of their families uprooted, many out of central city districts to be exiled to barren townships, to accomodate housing segregatio n. They have been outlawed from attending universities with whites in all but a few special cases.

Now, South Africa's mulattoes have begun to fight back. To the shock of the white population, "Coloreds" joined black students in revolting against apartheid and fighting riot policemen in recent disturbances. More than 50 persons of mixed ancestry died in the apheasal.

One of the greatest slaps is the government's symboic statement that they should not exist. It is entrenched in the Immorality Act, which makes interracial sex and marriage crimes.

This has heightened what many Afrikaners admit is a strong sense of guilt about the treatment of Coloreds, the majority of whom speak the Afrikaners' Dutch dialect and identify culturally and ancestrally with the Afrikaners rather than with English speakers of the white minority.

While there is disagreement within Afrikaner ranks about their treatment of the black majority of 18 million, there are no signs of significant moral doubt or torment. But apartheid's restrictions on the "Coloreds" from the point of bitterest dispute and most severe test of unity within the ruling nationalist party government.

"There will be no light at the end of the moral tunnel if we cannot find a way to accomodate them," Nationalist editor Piet Cillie said. "We can't just go on saying that the future will work itself out. We need a declaration of intent now about what we are going to do."

Apartheid arrived to disrupt the lifes of mixed-race South Africans and the traditionally relaxed race relations of the Cape Province - where the big majority of mixed-race community lives - just as they were breaking out of the culture of poverty, lastitude and massive alcoholism that had gripped them.

The despair that led the "Coloreds" of previous generations to call themselves "God's stepchildren" or "the leftover people" has been transformed into anger by the sting of segregation.

For many of the younger "Coloreds" that anger now appears to overshadow the feelings of being caught in the middle between white and black power, and the distinct fear of being swamped by the large black majority that lingers for their parents.

Activists are struggling to find new political and cultural definitions for the mixed-race community, and to mobilize the paradoxical moral power that the Afrikaners' ambivalent feelings give this group. The very existence of "Coloreds" contradicts the theoretical heart of apartheid, which says that white and blacks are so different they cannot and should not peace mix peacefully.

South Africa's 4.3 million whites lustify their plan to take 87 per cent of the country's land and give the remaining 13 per cent to 18 million Afrikaners by saying that the African tribes should live and exercise their political rights in traditional "homelands".

For the "Coloreds" - who say their "race" began "nine month after the first Dutch settler came ashore and saw an African woman" - the traditional homeland is on the white farms and in the white cities were they have been bred and raised.

Those classified as "Coloreds" by the race bureaucracy here range long a broad spectrum from dark-skinned illiterate farmhands who are just short of being classified as Africans to doctors and college professors, who are virtually indistinguishable from whites in color, speech, manner - in everything but the identify cards they carry that say they are "Colored".

The continuing discrimination against them seriously undermines the government's contention that it does not discriminate because of "Color", but because of the separate "nationalisms" of the country's population groups.

"A white Greek or German immigrant in the country two days can go to restuarants that I will be chased out of. He can get an apartment in the center of town while I have to live out on those windswept sand flats where they have stuck us," a 35-year-old mulatto teacher said. "Don't give us that crap about nationalism. It is color, man."

"Our parents would rather be anything than be black," said Pirenzee, whose father ordered her out of the house when she came home with an afro hairdo. "But the younger people refuse to be non-beings, to let the whites define us as 'non-whites'. We express our identity in our blackness."

"Rejection of my afro was a rejection of my original African parent-age," she continued. "The older generation instilled inferiourity in us systematically by teaching us to reject what we were. They still think the whites will buy us off in the end, but we will refuse to be part of the oppressors."

At the beginning of the decade, it was diffcult to find any persons of mixed race who were ready to identify "downward," ie, with the economically and educationally deprived black community. But the corrosive radicalization of politics here since has altered that.

A government commission surveying "Coloreds" reported last year that 24 per cent polled were willing to say that their future lay with the African majority, while 32 per cent said they were uncertain.

The poll was taken in 1974 - two years before the rioting, and before Prime Ministry John Vorster's government brusquely dismissed the commission's long list of recommendations for moderate concessions for "Coloreds". The commission was composed of prominent Afrikaner intellectuals.

Frustration has grown as such actions have made it clear to many of mixed-race that economic and educational advances will not win them white acceptances.

Often paid in whiskey on the white-owned farms where they worked, "Coloreds" developed South Africa's highest rate of alcoholism and crime. Twenty years ago, five whites out of every thousand were alcoholic and 35 "Coloreds" were.While 13 whites per thousand were convicted of crimes, 60 "Coloreds" were.

Broken families were a virtual trademark of their urban community with women being the principal bread-winners of District Six, a housing and commercial area in central Cape Town that was part spiritual homeland , part vice capital and ghetto for "Coloreds".

But industries and more skilled jobs opened up to mulattos gradually and they have surfed ahead. Average wages have increased 150 per cent over the past six years. In 1960, 38 per cent had no schooling; that had dropped to 24 per cent a decade later. Ten per cen of the population, "Coloreds" now provide 14 per cent of industrial work force, 16 per cent of construction workers and take home 7.2 per cent of the national income, a figure that is steadily improving.

They are aware, however, of other statistics as well. The government spends about $600 per capital on each white student in public schools. For mulattos, the figure is $150.

District Six does not exist any more. The families that were there are among the 75,450 "Colored" families who have been scattered by an apartheid policy that has affected only 1,700 white families. The bareness of the distant townships the "Coloreds" have been resettled in immediately next to black townships - stands in contrast to the gaiety of District Six.

"A home is the most elemental form of security," said Adam Small, a poet and educator generally credited with being a major voice of Black Consciousness among mixed-ancestry persons.

"When you realise that first they took away the vote and then your home, you react. The young people among the so-called 'Coloreds' are reacting by saying they are finished with being humiliated and lorded over by the whites."

Like many others in the "Colored" category, which has seven subdivisions ranging from Malays - the thousands of descendants of imported Malay slaves who have retained a tightly knit Moslem community - to Chinese and to something called "other Colored," Small asserts that the eventual goal is to be accepted "as humans, without racial labels."

"We are not thinking about blackness as an end, but as a way to an open South America," he added. "The so-called 'Colored' is in many ways the South African of the future, if there is to be a nonracist South Africa.

In the past two years, the government-sponsored effort to install "parallel development" policies for "Coloreds" by giving them political parties and an elected Colored Representatives' Council with limited powers has been more of an embarrassment than a strongpoint for the apartheid system.

Registration for the council's election dropped from 79 per cent in 1969 to 59 per cent in 1975, although anyone who does not register risks being fined $55. Only a quarter of the electorate voted, and they gave the anti-apartheid Labor Party an overwhelming majority.

After a series of disputes, Vorster's government ousted Labor Party leader Sonny Leon as chairman of the council, appointed one of its supporters in his place and passed a law giving the Minister of Colored Relations full powers to act in the council's place, ending all pretense of the council's independence.

In Steptember, the party's national chairman, the Rev. Alan Hendrickse was arrested by security police and held for 59 days without charge. He was released only after promising not to make any political speeches outside the council's hearing room. Even this antagonistic participation in apartheid's structures has cost Labor Party support in the increasingly radicalized community it is supposed to represent, Labor Party Leaders admit.

"We have destroyed the pro-apartheid forces within the 'Colored' community," asserted David Curry, the insurance broker, who is the party's deouty leader. "But it is getting harder to work within the system. If the white had offered to make a deal 10 years ago with the 'Coloreds', it might have been acceptable. But it's too late now. The whites have showed they can't accept any people of color."

The growing concern in Afrikaner-dom over the anger of "the brown Afrikaners" has sparked a determined drive for change in the unlikely precincts of the "daughter" church established for "Coloreds" by the Afrikaners' Dutch Reformed Church.

"It is vital for the Afrikaner to have a moral basis for what he is doing," said the Rev. Alan Boesak, 30-year-old minister in the church and chaplain at the "Colored University" at Bellville. "He depends on the so-called 'Coloreds' to say that it's all right, to give his policies credibility, even when the police are shooting our people in the street.

"We will not give that approval," he continued. "As blacks and ministers of God we are standing on the side of the opressed. It is time the Afrikaners faced their guilt.

The Rev. John Hartney, who supports Boesak's campaign to get the Dutch Reformed Church to end its segregation of congregations and to condemn apartheid, maintained that black Dutch Reformed ministers could have special impact by ending their silence on apartheid.

"The Afrikaners have a saying that your own dog bites you the hardest. We are in a good position to confront them. The church has to deal with us."

Next: The Uncertain Future.