Taxi ranks mirror the society blacks live in

2012-01-14 09:25

I gather January is named after Janus, the Roman god of change and transitions.

Janus, the myth goes, had two faces, one looking forward and another looking backwards, for that is what he always did. A first column of the year is therefore a good time to look backwards at some things and forward to others.

Terrible things continue to happen as seamlessly as they always have. Take the humiliation of the poor women at Johannesburg’s Noord Street taxi rank because they were dressed in a manner the self-imposed experts of what is appropriate wear for women did not approve of.

Much has been written and many radio talkshows have had their season on how terrible the taxi business treats its clients, and not only the odd woman in a short skirt.

Too often the taxi industry gets the short end of the stick. They are cast as the oddballs in an otherwise normal society. Judging by the public reaction, one could have been fooled to believe that, other than at taxi ranks, South African women can go where they wish dressed as they want at any time of the day without arousing the Neanderthal trapped in many men.

You would think the people who use taxis are treated with respect as soon as they get off the minibus. They are not.

Taxi drivers treat people horribly. There is no question about it. But they are just one of the many segments of our society that seems to find pleasure in dehumanising black people. They are the most obvious and the most notorious face of this national pastime.

Many domestic workers tell horrid stories about how they have been treated by their black madams who do not even allow them to watch TV.

The state, black-run as it is, is no better at how it treats blacks than the taxi industry is.

While most white children will invariably go to a former model-C school, only black people with some means can access a marginally better education than they otherwise would have had. Only black children still go to school under trees and remain at the mercy of the elements.

They still make the majority of those whose matric pass is totally meaningless except that they are no longer within the school system.

It is hard to ignore that it was black children (and their parents) who crowded the University of Johannesburg with the tragic consequences we saw.

It is unacceptable that black people take their lives into their own hands when they decide to go to football stadiums or to further their education.

Each year, crime statistics reveal that most murders happen between people who know each other and have been drinking together. We know from anecdotal evidence that many of these are young black males. Unlike rhinos, they are not exotic enough.

Their early deaths are no big deal.

It is a miscalculation. No country can afford to treat the majority of its citizens as if they don’t matter, unless it is investing in its own ruin.

By their sheer numbers, black people are the future of South Africa. Their suffering under colonialism and apartheid makes them deserve a special dispensation. Unless they are properly educated; unless they see value in turning their backs on nihilism and misogyny in their own societies, we may all start packing for Perth.

It being a season of new resolutions, I hope the state and all of us – not just some right-wing supremacist outfits – will appreciate the value of treating black people with better dignity than we have done over the years. It is for our collective good.

The self-hate and nihilism in black society is a cancer that will not only annihilate blacks. Cancers kill the entire body not just the organ concerned.

It is in everybody’s best interest regardless of colour or class to heal South Africa before we all perish.

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