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You Know Nothing about Me!

10 August 2012, 14:41

You Know Nothing About Me!

Fisrtly I just want correct Claudia Meads she says i quote "The ANC stuck its middle-finger down the throat of South African Soccer and demanded the 2010 SWC present an almost exclusively non-white team" please give me one white player that you know.

My mother worked  as a domestic,waking  up at 4 o’clock in the morning & comimng back at nine O’clock in the evening . I could see her coming home late after work , it is 21:30 she is in the kitchen making us food, going to bed at 00:00 in the morning(if that’s not working hard i don’t know).I finished school passed with distinction,after that my mother didn’t have money to take me to school.I started working as a security guard saving the little money i was paid for registration.In 2010 I started going to school,attending at unisa doing National Diploma in IT, i’m still working as a security guard paying for my studies with the little money that i earn.I work hard like most black people,we are trying to make it in this world but the odds are against us, despite that we keep trying.You can call us lazy,stupid & uneducated because you have never been through what i have been through.

At the end of the day, I don’t care what colour you are, everybody has something to bring to the table. And life is short ,you don’t know what you are missing. Why deprive yourself of a great human experience, because you are mad at someone who’s different from you.

“Apartheid is over, these people need to get over it” – it is not uncommon to hear white South Africans say this or a variation of this sentence in referring to what is often termed the “the chip on black people’s shoulders” – the history of oppression under apartheid. Commentary informed by this very thinking surfaced again this weekend, with many white South Africans reducing the whole incident to simply a misunderstanding rather than a racial issue, bringing me to my core point of modern-day South African white privilege: denial.

South Africa has a brutal history of oppression mostly perpetrated by white South Africans, it is only natural to want to quickly forget this segment of history, naturally; it is an uncomfortable part of our history. But to simply dismiss everything that is connected to this history, will not serve to improve racial relations in South Africa.

White denial manifests itself in many ways but most telling is the vilification of corrective policies taken in post-Apartheid South Africa such as affirmative action (AA) and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). While indeed, the implementation of both AA and BEE leave much to be desired, white South Africans have gone beyond just criticising the difficulties related the implementation of these policies but have argued vociferously against their existence in a democratic South Africa.

Which indicates to me that 1) white South Africa do not understand the true nature of systemic suffering that black people endured during apartheid – suffering that will most likely take decades to alleviate and 2) do not fully appreciate that much of the problems we continue experience in present-day South Africa are more connected to the Apartheid design more than anything else – and that solving such problems will take measures aimed at targeting the core principle of Apartheid; racial parity, or the lack thereof. So as a result, such policies are needed to affirm the previously and still disadvantaged black South Africans.

Naturally, the implementation of such strategies will lead to positive discrimination of white South Africans even though as many white people often point out that not every white South African necessarily benefited from the system imposed by the previous government. The malign crafting of AA and BEE by white South Africans as this sinister and almost genocidal policy could be addressed if they understood its necessity, not everyone, particularly those (mostly black South Africans) without any networks of value established through generations of education and privilege – as with most white people, can “work their way up”.

There is also a typical argument used in opposition to AA and BEE policies, white South Africans often argue that when white and black South Africans attend the same schools and universities they, on the basis of receiving the same education, become equal – nothing could be any further from the truth. Why?

While attending the same university with their white counterparts, black South Africans are usually the first graduates in their families and the vast majority of their parents are usually uneducated; and if educated are mostly nurses, teachers or clerks earning paltry salaries and rely on the black students to alleviate the rest family (which includes parents and siblings) from poverty. Also, most black students usually rely on financial aid or governmental assistance for everything related attaining an education: tuition, accommodation and food.

Contrast this to white South African students attending the same universities, usually the fifth or the sixth generation to attend university, their parents usually have well-paying jobs; some even working for some of the universities, resulting in some white students receiving fee remissions. When white South African students complete their studies, unlike their black counterparts tend not to have the burden of poverty alleviation within their immediate family.

In any case, the hardships faced by the black South African students to complete their universities studies are far greater than those faced by white students, which among other things may include: orientating themselves to the English language and the ‘white’ system of education due to an inferior educational level at secondary school and often studying on empty stomach with no parents or networks of value to call upon.

Compare this to the white students who their only worries are studying and contemplating which party to drive to – a notion quite removed from the reality of black students, usually walking during their whole university life – not necessarily because they want to, but poverty is too deep at home for their parents to even contemplate of a car as a birthday present – as with some if not most university-going white people.

The context depicted above would to my mind or any other rational mind for that matter, suggest that the black South African is more deserving to be ‘affirmed’, because the significance of his affirmation is far greater than that of the white South African – a seemingly harsh conclusion, but true. A failure to ‘affirm’ the black student now turned professional, would be tantamount to entrenching the status quo – white privilege.

White privilege also manifests itself in a inexplicable way in South Africa. Have you ever heard of ‘Eshowee’, Toti, Ezingolweni? “Ikopo”, or better yet, ‘Zimbabwee’? ‘Seepooh’? Umshanaga? Umshoti? Yes, all names, pronunciations of places and people intentionally perverted by white South Africans over the years, especially during apartheid because it was not convenient for them to bother to learn how to pronounce them correctly – a phenomenon that continues to this day.

There is something about being the preferred language and dominant culture over the years that creates an impression that you as part of the the dominant culture do not have to bother learning, interacting or even considering other cultures in your worldview. English and later Afrikaans culture was a dominant force in South Africa which meant that all cultures (those of the black majority) had to conform and accommodate English and Afrikaans preferences.

This led to the trivialisation of other cultures and languages to the point that Amanzimtoti is referred to as ‘Toti’, Ezinqolweni as Ezingolweni, Ixopo as ‘Ikopo’, Zimbabwe as ‘Zimbabwee’, Umhlanga as ‘Umshanga’, Umdloti as ‘Umshoti’, Sipho as ‘Seepooh’ and the incessant asking by white South Africans for a shortened name, English name or nickname when they meet a black South African – all habits that have remained even in post-Apartheid South Africa.

I continue to be baffled by the seemingly intentional mispronunciations by white South Africans who can pronounce the Afrikaans word ‘gaan’, rather effortlessly while proudly proclaiming that they cannot pronounce ‘Kgalema’ or ‘Radebe’ – which require exactly the same intonation. I am equally perplexed and at times appalled by white South Africans who pride themselves of not knowing any other official language; other than English or Afrikaans, as if it was something to be proud of – disturbing to mind given that the majority of the country’s population speak neither English nor Afrikaans.

On the other hand, the mastering of white South African languages, particularly English and perhaps to lesser degree Afrikaans continues to be used as civilising tool for black South Africans. It is not unheard of for what people to shower complements to black South Africans that do not speak typically ‘black’, with most white South Africans passing remarks such as “you speak better than me”, “you are so different when compared to other blacks” – complements supposedly affirming black as “equals” unlike when they spoke ‘black’ –whatever that means. Again, like its Apartheid construct, language or the speaking of it as a white South African continues to be used as a civilising tool.

A variation to this same dynamic can be seen when it comes to South Africa’s perceivably rampant levels of crime. Black South African areas and ‘white areas’ that have a tincture of black become “dodgy”, a term which I found means the area is dangerous or it  has too many blacks. In fact it, it is quite common to visit perfectly safe areas only to find out that “the area is dodgy” simply meant that the areas is black or has a shortage of whites – therefore as a white person you should stay away. Much of Johannesburg CBD’s gentrification in the 90s and early 2000s in favour of the ‘white areas’ in northern Johannesburg was driven by this very dynamic, rather than this purportedly drastic rise in crime as originally stated.

South African cities; with the exception of Cape Town, have become chaotic myriads of estates with exclusive suburban areas and gated communities, some lying 40 km from the original CBD, all in the name of escaping crime – which in actual fact is escaping all that is black – classical white flight. To this day white South Africans continue to paint crime as a phenomenon exclusively committed by Black South Africans despite the fact that there has been a rise in white orchestrated violent crime and that white South Africans have even before 1994 been the leading perpetrators of white-collar crime.

The foregoing text is insufficient in fully articulating the pathology of white privilege in South Africa but it nonetheless provides an adequate context to understanding South Africa’s deep seated racial problems, informed among other things by white privilege and denial which turn hinders any meaningful progress improving the South Africa’s racial relations.

In the final analysis it is clear that if South Africa white population wants to feel part and meaningfully influence of the affairs of post-Apartheid South Africa, they may need to: 1) acknowledge and accept that South Africa’s history has led to deep-seated problems which remain unresolved 2) that resolving such problems invariably needs policies of positive discrimination; not to punish white South Africans but correct past wrongs 3) seek to be part of the South African experience by learning long ignored cultures and languages of the black majority and 5) View crime as a countrywide problem, affecting all and as needing suitable and joint solutions by all South Africans. A failure to take heed of the above, may indeed lead to a self-imposed  “genocidal policy”.

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