The bondage of racism on a 'born-free'

Ideas

The bondage of racism on a 'born-free'

Why the Nguni phrase 'Huu, Abelungu!' is slowly becoming a South African proverb

Journalist

In a small farming town called Groblersdal in Limpopo, there's a butchery that sells meat so appetising it usually sparks a debate between my father and my brothers as to which breed of cattle the beef came from.
My father would speculate it's from the glorified Boran cattle or Simmental. Then my brother, the self-proclaimed animal husbandry expert, would jump in and say: 'Maybe it's from the Angus breed or Braford (a cross-breed between Brahman and Hereford)', which he claims is ideal for meat production.
Inevitably, laughter follows.
Back home, enjoying the meat, there is something niggling at the back of your head. You retrace your steps, trying to find the source. And, yes, there it leads you back to the butchery.
Truth is, there is something unsettling about the butchery. When you walk in you are greeted by a mama who cleans the floor on her knees. They don’t have mops or any tools that could make their job easier. Just their knee caps.
I don't need to tell you they are black.
Then I wonder. Maybe the meat merchant cannot afford a stick mop? I’m not even talking about an advanced micro-twist mop: just a simple stick mop. Yes, the women needed a job. Everyone needs a damn job. And so they took it because that’s what desperate people do – grit their teeth and get on with it.Maybe that’s why the Nguni phrase “HUU, ABELUNGU!” [Wow, white people] is slowly becoming a South African proverb.
I am just a village girl born in 1995. I am the ideal child. I was supposed to inherit the rainbow nation and share the same comfort of the democracy that many have died for. But for some reason I have inherited a muddy situation.
I am constantly exposed to racism in its most subtle and its most aggressive forms. I have met it in that condescending smile white people bestow on us, the way they hold on tight to their handbags around us black folks. It is in how the whites back home have beautiful homes on top of the mountains while we live in comic houses (absurd houses built with mud without proper construction or roofing).
It is disheartening that till today you won’t genuinely reconcile with us but would rather rest your logic on your relentless “swart gevaar” perceptions. The longer this blatant and subtle racism continues, the wider the rift of mistrust and the more dangerous and anxious things get in our country.
Don’t get it twisted. We don’t want to move in with you and have flavoured rooibos tea while channelling the Madiba dream; we just don’t like the deliberate disregard of our existence.
See, like an abuse victim, I often lack the vocabulary to describe the depth and distance covert racism travels in my soul.
We really don’t like it when we wake up to trending videos of racial attacks. Like when the national 5,000m athletics champion Thabang Mosiako almost lost his ability to run after a group of white young men beat him unconscious a few weeks ago.
The thing about racism in this country is that it’s not always subtle; sometimes it smashes your head on the floor like it did the Potchefstroom athlete.
I don’t even want to talk about Vicki Momberg.I refuse to believe that every single white person is racist, but by being silent and sometimes reducing yourself to being apologists for these racists, we might view you as complicit.
Live life to your heart’s content; we don’t care what you do as long as you don’t water and nourish the establishment of communities such as Orania and Kleinfontein. These are the whites-only cultural settlements which show that some people are not ready to let go of segregation.
Just as black people are slaves to imposed inferiority, some white people have become slaves to an imagined superiority complex. I would suggest a cleansing ritual for purification, but then maybe you would think I am uncivilised, even barbaric.
You can do better. Unlearn your hate and intolerance. In Africa we greet by saying “sawubona”, meaning I see you. You can start there; you can start by recognising our soul, energy and physique. Start by actually greeting us.
Are we asking for too much? When will you learn to live with us in the harmony that your favourite, Nelson Mandela, envisioned? If not for us, do it for him. Stop making us mop your floors on our knees when you have already built your riches on the backs of our grandparents.
Think of it this way: If you cheated on your partner, got caught and now you wish to reconcile, the best thing to do is to listen to their story and try to understand the pain you have caused, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. All we ask is respect; to ask for love would be pushing it.Don’t worry; this is not another racial rant. I just wanted to talk. I too have my shortcomings.
I know for a fact that belonging to this group has made me sensitive to racism but I could be an inflictor of discrimination on other marginalised groups in society too. It’s not like all white people don’t greet with genuineness, but I am too suspicious. It is unfair, really.
We all have to look into ourselves and fix our act to end prejudices such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and many thriving unfair treatments.
And as the saying goes, the best apology is changed behaviour.

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