Colleen Figg

Resentment under the surface

2009-01-30 08:05

Colleen Figg

"Three die over penis size in pub brawl", said the news headlines last September. At the time it struck me as rather funny, in the way that the often bizarre deaths that earn Darwin Awards are funny.

You never expect, when popping over to the local for a jar or two, that you may end up dead after a fracas about penis size, which is, after all, not supposed to matter.

On closer inspection, the trouble seemed to start when one of the gents inspected another's genitals at the urinal and made some derisive comment about his own Asian penis being superior in size to that of the white man's.

Looking deeper at this though, funny side notwithstanding, the incident is disturbing because of its racial undertones.

I am not one to see undertones where they do not exist, and am usually the last one to start shouting racism, but I do believe that in this case, race was at the root of this.

Simmering resentment

Or rather, the simmering resentment between the races that exist just under the surface of the South African psyche was the cause.

As much as there is a feeling of hope for a way to make this country of ours work, the deeper issues that divide the races have not been practically or realistically dealt with in the lives of many ordinary people. Moreover, the mindsets that caused those issues have not changed and in some cases, will not change.

The people on the ground, who were not part of the writing of the new and noble Constitution, are still subject to and influenced by bias laid down over generations of white families, Indian families, black families and coloured families.

Since my daughter started school she was called whitey, or stupid, because of her blonde hair.

Other factions were calling blacks ignorant or ugly because of their curly hair, flat noses or dark skin.

Coloureds were insulted because their parents have no teeth, and half of them are drug addicts while the rest live at the bottom of a vat of cheap wine. And so it goes on.

Harmony and acceptance

If our children are saying this at Grade One level, and carrying it through to high school and beyond because their own parents are not trying to change and find a way forward, this same bigotry will be repeated in the next generation and the generation to come.

The flames of the same hatred, lack of understanding and intolerance will burn gently until another seemingly innocuous remark fans them into another conflagration years down the line and other youngsters of different races clash in the local pub, with tragic, yet understandable, outcomes.

We as parents, teachers and mediators of such playground arguments really need to stop paying lip service to the ideal of understanding and tolerance and demonstrate, through our own actions, the true nature of harmony and acceptance.

Send your comments to Colleen.

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