Some stories never change

2012-02-07 11:49

My grandmother was a great storyteller.

She regaled us – her grandchildren – with tales of her childhood growing up in Libertas, right in the heart of the Free State.

Some stories made us burst out laughing, some instilled fear in our small innocent minds, while others were so vile they left us terrified of the big bad world out there.

One of these was how, as a young girl, she worked on Baas Phillip Haines’ homestead and a small boy, who couldn’t have been more than eight, looked her in the eyes while she was giving the young lad a bath and said: “Julle swart mense is gemaak om ons gat af te vee met jou tong. (You black people were made to wipe our asses with your tongues).”

I knew that I would never have to tell my children those kinds of stories because of the democratic strides the country had embarked on a few years after Granny’s heart-wrenching abuse at the hands of the little devil who was clearly groomed from a young age to despise black people.

Alas, things took a turn for me last month when I got verbally assaulted at the gym – the very sanctuary from the stresses of daily living in Joburg.

I found myself staring into the same piercing blue eyes of the devil my grandmother encountered in the 1930s. Only this time, it was me and a hefty bigot with thinning hair fighting over a spinning machine.

The big man claimed that a fellow trainer next to me, a black woman, had been on the machine for longer than 20 minutes. Shaken, the poor woman got off the machine and started packing her things – by the time he arrived with the gym instructors, the woman was already on her way out. Unsatisfied with his victory, he turned his wrath on me.

“You blacks want to take everything ... You are a boy ... You are useless ... You are a f**k,” he said repeatedly.

What do you do when a total stranger attacks you like this? Do I emulate my grandmother by gently smiling and subserviently casting my head down? Hell no! This is not 1930! It’s not even the 20th century.

This is 2012. I am not on a godforsaken farm in the middle of the Free State.

I am in Sunninghill, Sandton, the heart of liberal Johannesburg. People here are tolerant and open-minded – or so I thought.

I don’t look forward to telling my grandchildren about this episode. I had thought that this kind of incident was only common with my grandparents and parents’ generations.

I want to regale my grandchildren with stories of good neighbourliness, kind-heartedness and the goodness of spirit that racial harmony brought to the land of their ancestors.

» Mofokeng submitted a written complaint to Virgin Active, Sunninghill, on January 5.

Today, Virgin Active MD Ross Faragher-Thomas called him to apologise and gave the assurance that the matter would receive urgent attention. 

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