Black brilliance still needs opportunities to shine

2010-02-02 10:52

I WAS eight years old when race first fell upon me. My mom and dad

had ­decided we needed a dog. So into the stationwagon we got and off to the

suburbs we went to get our dog from a white family.

During this excursion, I found ­myself wondering why it was that

white people lived in big houses with big yards and why the likes of our family

physician could be so successful – big cars and big houses – and still be

confined to the township.

That’s when my parents broke down the racial dynamics of this land

to me. The link between race and privilege. I still feel it.

My teenage self went to the ­University of Pretoria in 1997. My

koshuis at the traditionally Afrikaans university was huis Jasmyn, which was

getting to grips with the multiracial and multicultural identity which was being

forced ­upon it.

First-years had rites of passage that included passing a Saturday

selling dried fruit and RAG magazines. We were stationed at a Shell garage. The

darkies smiled and put on polished accents to try and get a lily white clientele

to buy. Some bought, while others dismissed our sales pitch and sauntered off to

buy from the white girls.

Later on, a Beetle-driving red haired member of the house committee

called Rickie tallied the day’s earnings. Noting the huge ­difference between

what the darkies and the whiteys had brought in, she said to my face in

Afrikaans, “they sit on their arses claiming that people will not buy”.

I ­announced to the committee that I was done with RAG and

residence activities and went some length to remind them that I was not going to

play on an uneven playing field.

Like many black people, I thought that affirmative ­action and

­employment equity were necessary corrective measures aimed at levelling the

playing field.

Yet, lately I look at my life and prospects as a black female

journalist and wonder if I stand a chance in South Africa.

See, black professionals have ­always been talking about

discrimination. White economic power claims we are spoiled and feel ­entitled.

Yet I do not know a group of people more hard-working.

We’ve got the education to match white professionals; most of us

got it through loans we had to pay off ourselves.

It is now close to two decades since the almighty advent of

freedom. Yet, some of the most well-educated, skilled and brilliant black talent

still counts as the tea lady, cleaner and driver as the only other black person

at their place of work.

Black brilliance still has to fly to get to places white mediocrity

strolls to. Soon we will tire of playing nice in the name of nation building.

Maybe we should all adopt the Capetonians’ “members only” attitude to those who

don’t match our race and social status.

 

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