Over the past few years allegations about Cape Town being the most racist city in the country have been growing. Lately many respected columnists and political analysts have climbed on this bandwagon (not surprising as its 'bandwagon' issues that best butter their bread). When the ANC was running/ruining Cape Town there were no fingers pointing at Cape Town as the Racist Capital. Could these new allegations have anything to do with the fact that the DA won the Cape Town municipality a few years ago? Is it possible for a whole city to suddenly become racist overnight? I think not.
Here's my take on the perception that Cape Town is the most racist city in the country:
1. For the past 400 years the Western Cape was exclusively inhabited mostly by malay, khoisan, mixed race families (coloured) and white settlers. Black africans only began trickling into the area around 100 years ago. During the first decades of last century the migrant labour system forced large numbers of black africans to look for work on the mines - all located in the northern areas. Cape Town was never a destination for these work-seekers until Apartheid established the Homelands in the 1960s, lead by puppet leaders who literally stymied any form of development in those areas. This led to the first significant migration of black rural people to Cape Town from the Transkei in search of a better life. Worse, the apartheid regime conducted regular 'clean-outs' of black migrants who were deemed 'illegal immigrants' to the area. I vividly recall places like Crossroads being brutally bulldozed and busloads of 'illegal's beings sent back to the Transkei.
2. Since the 1990s the number of black africans settling in Cape Town have increased dramatically. Many of them are from foreigners and all of them are Very Poor. Shacklands have mushroomed uncontrollable. And very visibly, because unlike Joburg or other cities Cape Town occupies a very small, geographically defined space. In Joburg places like Orange farm or Diepsloot are nowhere near as 'in-your-face' because there is space to spread out. Because these new settlers are extremely poor, and newly arrived, it goes without saying that the vast majority of black people in Cape Town live in appalling conditions. There are very few middle class black suburbs like those that have grown in Soweto over the past 70 years of its existence. This history explains why black africans are not in the majority in Cape Town today. It also explains why the wealth gap between black Capetonians and white Capetonians is especially visible - the vast numbers of poor blacks have only been there for less than 20 years … hardly enough time to establish themselves and build middle class suburbs like Soweto.
3. The complaints that Cape Town is the uber-racist city of SA appear to come from middle class black africans who have recently migrated to Cape Town, or are visiting the city. Perhaps black people from other regions like Gauteng, Limpopo and KZN, are subconsciously disturbed when they find themselves out-numbered by people who are not like them? It must be a serious culture shock when coming from their hometowns where they are the visible majority. Suddenly they find themselves in an environment where they are not seen in vast majorites in places like the Waterfront, or Cavendish Square, or Long Street, compared with places like Sandton City and Melville. Worse, the black Capetonians they do meet are mostly very poor. Its likely that this reality causes much discomfort, and even feelings of racial exclusion, despite the absence of any overt acts of racism. This is fully understandable. Also understandable is that this inexplicable discomfort raises hackles and hypersensitivity in the newcomers. This hyper-aware state of discomfort and feelings of exclusion will naturally drive people to find reasons (any reasons) that will justify/explain their unconscious discomfort.
4. Almost every complaint I have heard/read about Cape Town's extreme racism has been along the following lines .. "... the waiter looked at us like we were not welcome because we are black" ".. the restaurant told us to wait in the bar for a table because we are black" "... the club refused us entry because we were black" " ... the white students at UCT failed to invite me into their group of friends because Im black (not because perhaps there were no shared interests) These are Perceptions of Racism, not Real Racism, like being called the K-word. How do you know that the waiter hates you because of his/her facial expression?? Why did you not book a table at that popular restaurant? Perhaps the club had reached its legal maximum capacity? How do you know that those UCT students did not make you a bosom buddy because you are black? Were they rude to you?
5. The message that Cape Town is the Racist Capital of SA has now become super-dominant in the media, on Twitter and other social networking sites. One truth we know: the more you spread a rumour, the more the rumour is repeated, and the more believable it becomes.
As the old saying goes ... Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes accepted as the Truth. (because people are sooo gullible!)
Think about it, people. Are you a sheep who thoughtlessly follows the masses? Or are you an independent, thinking individual? Are you able to distinguish between your subject Perceptions and experienced Reality?
Basically there is NO objective evidence that Cape Town is more racist than any other city in the country. Perhaps people just want it to be ... after all, its so much more satisfying to directly point a finger at a defined locality than vaguely wave your finger around at a generally distributed population. And what better location to wag the finger at (PW style) than at a city that voted against the ANC?
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