Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Us & Them


This is my Dad and my Mum. No, I am not adopted and neither am I from my Mum's first marriage (there wasn't one). My Dad just happens to be coloured, born in Umtata, Transkei and fleeing for his life to the UK during the Apartheid, and my Mum just happens to resemble fresh snow.

It was never a problem when I was growing up, I never saw him as different. I never asked about it. I do remember when I was 12ish, having an old farty man coming up to us both in the supermarket and telling my Dad that he should go back to his own country. I wonder how my Dad felt especially as I was standing next to him. He just shrugged the comments off and turned away. I thought the old guy was crazy.

Then I moved to South Africa following my parents who moved back in 2008. I thought I was coming to the rainbow nation where peace and love abounds. I was mistaken. Unfortunately, I have seen an acute sense of 'Us versus Them' and it is deeply saddening with no one seeming interested in patching relationships up.

Last year, I went with some friends to Stellenbosch to visit some wine farms. We were joined by a girl who was a friend of one of the people in our group. She unfortunately fitted into that annoyingly hard to squash 'stereotypical blonde' persona and she seriously began to grate on me. It got worse when over lunch, she started pointing at one of my best friends and asking her whether she was Chinese because she had small eyes. We laughed it off but then when she found out about my Dad she turned to me and asked if I didn't ever find that weird when I was a child? Her second question was:
"Didn't you ever think he was dirty and try to get him to wash?"
At that point I was imagining how well my glass of wine would look in her face but I remained composed as she continued to propose obscene questions about my Dad and my upbringing. It placed a cloud over the afternoon, I kept thinking about the word 'dirty' and I got so mad. My Dad is the most amazing man ever. He is defined by how brilliant, clever and funny he is, not by what colour he is. To be asked if I, because I am white, had a problem with my own Father, made me listen out more to the way people spoke around me.

There seems to be a lot of people with barriers up against colour. They treat 'Coloureds and Blacks' as though they are not human. I even got told by a white chick I once worked with that I had "no idea what my parents (whites) have to put up with and have been through over the decades". That is not an excuse to be degrading towards another human being.

Please don't get me wrong and think I'm ignoring the other side. I know that there is huge political unrest and that there are those in power who would mean to further separate people and are doing a 'great' job of pushing a divide between black and white but it does not mean we treat everyone harshly because of the ridiculousness of some. And it doesn't mean we throw around the Apartheid and use it as a baton for doing as one pleases - we should be confining it to history and learning from it (but that is a different story). My main point, is how can we expect to be treated well if we do not treat others with kindness and decency - as hard as it may be?

Perhaps some of you will believe I am naive and that I come from a completely different culture and do not understand the history that has taken place in South Africa. But I would rather die believing and hoping for unity and peace than settle for  bitterness and segregation.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.....this could spark something quite controversial.


19 comments:

  1. :) Nice to hear your view Shante :) I never knew bout this :) It reminds me of an article I read a week ago called - I'm a racist... did you see it?

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    1. I haven't seen it but I'm going to search for it now. Thanks Henri.

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  2. I fully agree with your comments about racial digs.Why can we not live together and get on with our lives and stop judging others irrespective of their colour.It would only be a naive South African to comment about your father shame for them they got a lot to learn about love one another like God loves us.

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  3. Great post Shante! It's sickening that there are still people who think like that girl. As a girl in a mixed race marriage, my Mr and I have heard some interesting comments and gotten some funny looks. We've learnt to laugh it off... most of the time. We've also learnt to surround ourselves with open-minded people and live in cosomopolitan neighbourhoods where there's a healthy mix of races and cultures. We made the choice to not let race define us. I pray that our one-day-children will grow up in an more open-minded society and that they never have to be hurt by racists with small minds and big mouths.

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    1. That is my same prayer. I refuse to believe that there isn't any hope in a reconciled Nation. Thanks for sharing Monique

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  4. People are dumbasses!!! They let their narrow-minded selfish points of view infect and destroy mankind. I see the little kids in my complex (black, white, coloured, Asian) running around, laughing, splashing water on each other on hot days, and being protective of each other when cars enter/leave the complex. They just see a buddy to play with. Why can't we just see a buddy to drink with?? Dumbasses!

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  5. Hehe, understand where you're coming from. My parents are both coloured but people always had issues around me because my dad is so dark and my mom is so light. You can imagine what digs I get for marrying a black man as well (one who happens to be lighter than my father).

    One important thing I have noticed, though, is that Cape Town is certainly one of the most racially conscious cities in the country. Whenever I come home, with or without Teekay, I'm suddenly made more aware of the colour I am. It's such a shame because I've had to accept that I could never (well, not anytime soon) consider moving back to Cape Town with my husband should we decide to have kids and have them closer to my parents. The way the two of us are looked at in malls, on the road, on the beach is quite annoying. And I wouldn't want to put my children through that.

    Johannesburg is a lot more cosmopolitan. It's not odd to see people of different races holding hands in the shops, or dancing together in a club. I won't lie and say there's no racism but it's definitely more of a fair game this side...until you go to Pretoria (where a begging [white] woman selling newspapers wouldn't even approach Teekay who dropped his car window asking for one).

    I definitely have the hope that you have and this whole "you dont understand" crap is just a big excuse to continue holding on to grudges of the past. BUT I'd just like to hopefully comfort you with the fact that change is happening in some parts of the country - Cape Town is just a bit on the slow side.

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    1. Thank you so much for your message. There are a number of us out there battling
      with the same issue but your positivity is awesome. The change we strive for is very dependent on how we raise the next generation

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  6. I remember that day, and I could see how it affected you. I'm sorry that you had to feel that way. Your parents, are pretty awesome :)

    On unity? I believe that we will only see an significant change when parents start teaching their children to respect all people. I agree we must learn from the past, but it must stop being an excuse for what you do today. Your past does not define you. Parents from all races must stop feeding their children stereotypes, and let them discover the truth on their own. That’s why I respect President Nelson Mandela so much, he has a forgiving heart and moved forward.

    I am lucky to have grown up in SA, and to have parents who taught me to call all older people oom or tannie regardless of their race. I remember one incident at the grocery store where I said thank you to an older coloured lady (I called her tannie off course). I will never ever forget the look on her face, the shock that some white kid called her tannie, not even to mention saying thank you to her. I didn’t understand it back then, but now I know that she felt of worth that day.

    That’s all the Chinese chick has to say :)

    LOVE YOU HUN!

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    1. I loves ya too Bee. Thank you for reinforcing my belief that there are wonderfully respectful and loving people out there all keen on making a difference and bringing people together

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  7. Heard about your 'episode' with 'friend of a friend' back then. You're waay strong than me, because my wine glass would've been emptied and dripping over her head... that or you love wine too much. :-P

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    1. Haha. It wasn't even nice wine! I've never held back so much

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  8. I absolutely love this article. I am of a mixed heritage as well (Mom, Irish from Dublin and Dad, Indian from Joburg). Everything you have said really does strike a chord - I myself have had a few rather undesirable encounters. I can proper relate to when someone comments about your father - it really angers and upsets you. Well done for keeping your cool, I don't know if I could have.xx

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    1. Thanks hun. Keeping my cool doesn't come easy

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  9. Geez, I would NAME & SHAME that girl. How dare she say something like that. I feel sorry for her actually...narrow-minded fool. I'm so sick of hearing the word RACIST or RACISM in South Africa...aren't we passed this whole colour thing yet?

    And on that note, lovely post as always. Thanks for having the courage to write and share the honest and open things you do.

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    1. Thank you, I'm so glad you liked it! You are so right as well, it's getting so 'boring' that we are still stuck in racial tension. It's saddening to think that we can't seem to move forward yet.

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  10. Hi Shante

    Been spying on you and catching up on your old blog posts. Been a long road but I am glad we are friends at long last heehee. In some ways we are sisters except my parents are opposites to yours. My mom is coloured and my dad was white (he died when I was much younger). Unfortunately for me I grew up in the midst of apartheid... my father's family disowned me and I was labelled coloured and had to make the most of life from then on.

    Race is still such a raw and ugly topic in South Africa today. If it were not for the redeeming power of Christ I would probably be a very broken person today. But thank u Jesus! My, and your, identities are found in Him alone.

    Anyhoo... looking forward to that catch up dinner and Angus keeps talking bout some craft beer?!

    Tammy Cornelius

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