It may get hairy…


I’m not sure why I woke up thinking about this, but I am sure that this will probably result in negative feedback, that being said, this is something I’ve been meaning to write for a while. I have no intention of offending anyone and if I have, I hope you’ll understand that it wasn’t meant.

I grew up in this wonderful country and I was raised to treat everyone as equals, regardless of religion, culture, sexuality or race. Colour has never been an issue for me and it took me a long time to realise what an issue it was for everyone else. South Africa has come an incredibly long way and I, for one, am proud of us as a nation. We’ve kicked anarchy in the head and so what if we’re stuck with cretins running our country – push ’em out and move on. We’ve dealt with a lot worse.

However*, there is one thing that I’m struggling to deal with – how we as South Africans have started to deal with race. I was once taught that it’s not politically correct to refer to ‘blacks’ and ‘whites,’ but rather black or white people. We are not a colour nor an adjective. We are all people, we just happen to come in different shades. Having said that, I’ve always believed that talking about issues helps us solve them. I remember an interesting comment from a colleague in the UK who visited SA: “I have never heard a nation talk about race quite as much as in South Africa.” It was an interesting observation, but I think it’s healthy. Our history is based on race issues. We (I use that term loosely) fought apartheid and won, as much as the Germans have the Holocaust to deal with, our cross to bear is race-related. Talking about it, joking about it and bitching about it is our nation’s form of therapy.

However, what was once an open platform now seems to have one of those terrible signs that we used to see everywhere, with one change: “Geen Blankes.** It seems as though white people are no longer allowed to voice our opinions on race-related issues and/or South Africa’s political state. I’ve always spoken openly about political issues and race (and sexuality and religion…etc.) and while I’m well aware that I’m not black and that I haven’t suffered, I am African and I live here too. Don’t take away my right to speak.

While in University, I had a wonderful ‘diverse’ group of friends and we all felt free to say whatever we wanted and joke about everything. Just as someone will tease me for being ginger, I was teased about being white and alternatively, I teased my friends about being black. It was an open, honest environment – we made light of our history. When I started at Uni, there was one person who made a drastic change in my life, without even knowing. My friend Nonny rocked up and my door and decided to introduce me to everyone. Long story short, I got to know a lot of people in a very short time and found they actually liked me. I went from an insecure, shy and moody post-adolescent to a confident woman…and a lot of it is thanks to a girl I used to mission around arm-in-arm with, calling her my fashion-accessory, making light of a current fad of preppy white students, making ‘friends’ with a black student (it was strange, but it was definitely a thing for a while). My friends were my friends not in spite of our differences, but because we could make light of them.

Before you go off at me, I’m not advocating that everyone goes around slinging racial slurs, but I do think we’ve taken a little step backwards. I would like to be able to have an open discussion that mentions race.  For Pete’s sake, I was chatting about my cat and actually stopped myself from saying ‘black,’ in fear of offending someone. I know this is my problem, but it’s something that I think a lot of white South Africans feel these days. We even fall short when describing a person. Imagine this: A man forgets his change at Checkers. The cashier is a white woman, about my age (still under 30, thank you!), she asks her friend to run after him and give him the change, but I can almost guarantee you that when she describes him, she’ll say he’s tall, with a small nose and brown eyes. The poor sod would have disappeared changeless before she mentions that he’s a black guy wearing a checkered shirt. I want to be able to mention race without people assuming I mean anything negative towards that race. I am not racist. I have never been and I never will. By mentioning someone’s race, I am not showing that I have ill-will towards them, I’m mentioning it because it helps me get whatever point I need to across, even if it’s something as simple as returning change.

If we write a political statement, say on Facebook, we’re swamped with angry, sometimes violent, comments about how we don’t have a right to say these things. Yet, we live in this country too. I’ve never felt as separate from my black friends, even those I consider family, as I do lately. I don’t believe I have the right talk about politics or race anymore.

I generally don’t do politics… it’s not my thing and I couldn’t be arsed. This kind of post is definitely a first for me, but it’s my way of saying I love my country. I love my country so much so that it hurts. Unlike others, I have a British passport, I can bugger off to another continent if I so please. I don’t. I’m a first generation South African. My family chose to live here. My parents loved this country so much so that they moved back to SA right in the middle of what they thought was about to be a civil war. My grandfather was taken to that terrible seventh floor, where they used to make you bungee jump sans cable (obviously, as he turns 84 on Sunday, they couldn’t prove that he was helping out a Chinese couple, as they suspected and which he was). My folks were at every ‘Free Mandela’ thing in the UK that they could get to, wearing hats and sunglasses, as they knew that the SA government was watching and recording faces, so they could stop them coming back into the country. I was born here, 10kms from where Shaka was, out of love for this country.

I have the ability to drop everything today and move. I could go live on the dol and stare at people’s shoes on the tube in a second. But*** I don’t want to. I chose this country. If that doesn’t make me African, what does?

All I’m saying, is that it should no longer be a case of black vs white, but Africans vs our pathetic government.

*Those that heard my rampage on sentences starting with a conjunction, this is my poetic license. It applies to *** too. 

**After much Googling, I still can’t find the spelling, so I hope this is right. 

 

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Comments on: "It’s not a case of black vs. white" (11)

  1. Hear! Hear!

    I have issues when people tell me that I am not an African. On my maternal side, my ancestors have been in the country since the early nineteenth century (if not longer), and on my paternal side at least two generations.

    I am a South African, my identity is not European. I am a privileged South African, having received a quality university education, but that does not make me any less of a South African. I feel, as a South African, I have a right (if not a duty) to complain and ask my government what they plan on doing to ensure that next year schools get textbooks before August; what they plan on doing about the standard of hygiene in the public hospitals, and why when a friend’s employee’s daughter had a broken arm, the clinic only provided the child with adult paracetamol tablets?

    These are not complaints I have on the basis of my race or gender. They are complaints and queries I have based on my humanity. For humanity’s sake, why spend millions upgrading a village outside the President’s homestead instead of making one of the hospitals in the area world class?

  2. Great blog Sez 🙂 although it has made me feel the need to defend my claim to being African for choosing to live in the UK. I would love to come back to SA, I miss it everyday – the weather, the melting pot of cultures, the gorgeous landscape, the wonderful food, the lifestyle in general- I miss it so much I cried at the START (as in the opening sequence, for pity’s sake!) of the Lion King the other day, because it took me back to being 10 years old. There are two things I do not miss, 1) the severity of the crime ( I know every country in the world has crime, and that crime in itself is a poor excuse to use for leaving- but the level of violence associated with SA’s crime is something else), and 2) exactly what you’ve hit on in this blog- the persistent undercurrent of racial tension. Both make me angry, but the latter wins in terms of pissing me off, especially when it comes to our generation. You and I were born at the end of Apartheid. By the time we started school there were a variety of colours in the classroom. I lived in Botswana for a couple of years and when you look through my school magazines the white kids were few and far between, but as a child, I didn’t notice. Children don’t see colour. I grew up without really thinking about it. I understand that not everyone our age have had the same privileges as us because if Apartheid, and I am sorry for that, but I refuse to feel guilty because of it. I remember talking about the terms ‘black’ and ‘white’ with some black friends in high school – pre-Aurora – and they told me they didn’t care about being described as black because they ARE black, just like I don’t mind being described as white. My South African lineage goes back to just after the Boer war, but I don’t see that as necessarily relevant to my argument for being African. I am African because 1) I was born in Africa, 2) I grew up in Africa, 3) I love Africa. Just as I refuse to feel white guilt, I refuse to feel guilty for staying away to give my daughter a more stable start to her life, and most of all I refuse to surrender my nationality for either. Once again, I have gone off on a tangent, but I just wanted to get that off of my chest. Best blog of yours I’ve read x

    • Hey Tabz,

      Thanks for the comment 🙂 I’ve recently had a few people feel the need to defend their move overseas (picking up on that point of your comment) and, in my opinion, who am I to judge your moving. [In hindsight, after reading my response, I’m afraid I’ve used used your comment as a way to get something of my own off my chest, sorry! It’s not directed at you haha.]

      I wouldn’t move, because I can’t, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand it.

      I’d like to point out something, though, that I think a lot of saffas that have moved don’t realise. Yes, we have crime, we have terrible, horrible crime, but the crime we have today, compared to when most of you moved, is not comparable. The problem we have as a nation, is we never focus on the positives (this is not at dig at you, or even aimed at your comments). You’re right to assume have terrible crime still, but it’s because we fail to post/report/talk about the vast improvements we’ve made.

      I remember that in Matric, everyone I knew had either been hijacked or had someone close to them be hijacked. I knew a family that had been held at gunpoint 8 different times. Now? I can’t tell you of a single person who has been hijacked. Yes, it definitely still happens and yes, our crime is a lot worse than other countries, but I’d just like to point out (for my own sake) that it’s getting better…a lot better.

      That being said, though: I chose to live here for my reasons, there is no one who has the right to judge you for your reasons for moving.

      I hope that came out positive and not critical!

  3. Some rather disturbing nickname given to me by my dearest cousin that I can never remember! said:

    I really enjoyed reading this, I did, but you may have broken one of the cardinal sins by posting about politics on a social networking site. Along with religion and race, politics tend to bring out the worst in people. You know my reasons for leaving, and as South African as I am (and will always be!), I know I will never return for the sake of my kids. You are correct in saying that we grew up during a time when we were in mixed classes, so like you, I also went to school and grew up with Black, Indian etc and I never saw them as being different to me. I was never brought up a racist and my kids will be brought up the same way. They are half South African, but will most probably be brought up Irish, even though the oldest sounds like an Afrikaaner** when he talks!

    I don’t know what kind of response you’ll have to this post, but I hope it’s not too negative. Even here (Ireland) I tend to not use the term Black or White to loosely when describing someone as some of the Irish can be rather dense as well, and automatically call you a racist. But* the Black girls that I went to school with have no problem saying Black or White or Indian when describing a person’s colour, and normally I wouldn’t either. It just shows, the generation we grew up in was the last neutral generation. Somewhere between 2005 and now,the majority of South African people -all races included- changed their perceptions of race, and maybe that is why race has become the number one subject. It’s a shame really, considering how far SA has come, only for it to reverse back in time. The question that stands is what caused it to reverse?

    (Have to make a note of the fact that Google insisted on Indian being a capital, yet not Black?!)

    *According to you, it’s allowed.. 😉
    **I come from Afrikaaners on my mothers side, so I’m entitled to use that term! haha 😉

    Good Luck with this post Cuzzie! 😛

    • Hey ‘Elfcrack,’

      Yes, you’re right, this is a ‘risky’ post. I knew it would be, but so far, haven’t had any negative criticism, which is also why it pushed it further out into the ether where people can see it and bitch and moan as much as they want to.

      I am scared and worried about hurting people’s feelings, though, especially those that are friends, but that will only happen if they take this post the wrong way and I really, really hope they don’t. I just had to write it, as I find my open and easy conversation with my friends is changing and becoming superficial and pointless, because I am too scared to say the things I want to.

      I’m glad your friends are happy and open enough to talk about race, but my problem lies with friends who talk about it, but don’t seem to want to let white people talk about it. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone, but I’ve known many of my ‘friends’ go off at people and posts similar to this, merely because it was written by a white person and, instead of reading the post the way it was intended, the moment they see ‘race’ mentioned in a post by a white person, racism is assumed…and anarchy reigns (ok, slight hyperbole, my bad).

      This comment contains a lot of generalisation, sorry, but it gets my point across. Not all black people mind white people talking about race and not all my friends mind it either (thank goodness), but there is a definite problem with white people believing that they’re no longer allowed to mention race. I spoke to a friend yesterday who said she was asking someone to move a pot and she found herself telling him to move the ‘dark’ pot, insead of the ‘black’ pot, as she subsconsciously is too wary of using the word ‘black.’ It’s silly and I just wanted to puke up all my thoughts, so that people could see what it’s like and why I feel the way I do.

      Man, I waffled, sorry!

  4. Some rather disturbing nickname given to me by my dearest cousin that I can never remember! said:

    And once again, I’m awaiting moderation – Sies! FYI, remembered the name… Elf Crack

    • Did you use the same email address as the last time you posted (although you used a different name), think it works on that 🙂 If you’ve been approved once, it should go through 🙂 No worries, I’ll make sure they’re always approved 🙂

      • Some rather disturbing nickname given to me by my dearest cousin that I can never remember! said:

        Why thank you 😉 Yes same email addy!

  5. […] – lurching from politics, to literature, to ramblings and dieting. After writing the political post a few days ago, quite a few of my friends and family have suggested that I concentrate on political […]

  6. […] concerned that my political blog says that I write like H.P. Lovecraft, but my blog on weight implies I write like Cory Doctorow. […]

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