Cape Town Cannot Be Racist

2012-01-02 14:27

Apparently Cape Town is racist according to some but the City cannot be racist, perhaps Capetonians are racist or is it a certain portion of Capetonians that are racist?

I spent a few hours trying to figure out just how an entire City with millions of residents could be racist and nothing made sense to me. Every line I thought of writing to entertain that notion did not make any sense as the Twitter trend made no sense at all.

When I saw the hashtag I could not help but laugh because I have grown up in this City, worked in all corners of the City from Noordhoek to Blouberg with black, coloured and white people; and never once did ever experience nor observe racial discrimination.

Whether its voluntary work, professional or academic, racism has never been a part of my life. Maybe because I was born in a community free of racial segregation or I am just too ignorant.

The only incident that some may consider racism could be when I was walking with my friend on Constitution Street in Town, there were two white women approaching and they quickly crossed over to the other side of the street as though they were running away from us.

For some black people that would constitute racism, don't ask me how. I did not see anything wrong with that because I do the same thing when walking in Khayelitsha or anywhere when I am afraid of the person walking towards me or behind me.

Some would argue that they ran away because we were black, if so then they might as well lock themselves at home and drive instead of walking because majority of the residents in the Cape are non-white, will they run every time they see black people? I would have crossed the road if I saw men approaching on that road, black or white; I'd run.

No one should deny that racism does not exist in Cape Town just because they have never experienced it. And nobody should ever generalise and label an entire City as racist as that simply exposes their limited ability to think critically, especially not on a public platform such as Twitter and expect to be taken seriously. Anybody can claim to have had an experience on Twitter, all that is needed is a phone or PC and a little bit of creativity.

And remember that you can be anybody online so the stories of a friend who experienced racism in the City came out. One such story was that of a woman who was turned away by a GP when she took her child to the doctor. I really wonder if the doctor turned her away because of her skin colour or perhaps the doctor could not do anything for her.

We will never know why, where or when because on Twitter; one is only allowed to post 140 characters with very little information. This for me could mean that the women had never been turned away by a doctor as she could not say who the doctor is.

Lindiwe, the woman who spoke out on this alleged racism with her story and encouraged others to do the same should perhaps find out just how to handle unfair discrimination instead of branding Cape Town racist as that does not in anyway help the victim get justice or combat this racism.

If someone had smacked her or punched her, I assume she would call the police. Now if someone violates or undermines any one of her constitutional rights, she must know that there are institutions established by the constitution to protect our rights.

Institutions such as the Equality Courts, the South African Human Rights Commission and a lot of human rights groups that would gladly assist Lindiwe in defending her rights.

But Lindiwe like most 'victims' chose to moan about it, no problem with moaning but it does not help when you moan and the 'racists' are still out there with their hatred.

If you have a radio show on racism you hear all sorts of nasty stories from 'victims' and the same goes for the web. But truthfully you cannot help when you hear such experiences because you do not have all the details but a version of a story from one party leaving the public with only one option which is feeling sorry for the 'victim'.

So if Lindiwe and all other 'victims' of racism stopped moaning for one second and took action against the perpetrators like the men who were violated in a Bluedowns factory charged the perpetrators, they would be doing a lot of good for our Cape Town instead of spreading racism through their posts which normally tend to result in both black and white exchanging insults.

When you put 'half-baked' stories on public platforms and do not show what action you took, it simply means you enjoy the story (bored with your life); if she wanted to be taken seriously she would have definitely taken action against the racists but maybe she enjoys the hatred that is why she chose to moan about it. She is a smart young women and I assume can afford to take the matter up.

When I was discriminated against by a security guard in a shopping mall on the basis of sexuality, I immediately wrote to mall management, got legal advice and approached the Equality Court.

Not rocket science, simple and effective. I could have gone on and on about it on social networks but how would that have helped? Perhaps it would have a few people boycott the mall but then again they are good at marketing so people would never stop shopping at the mall because of one man, even I couldn't boycott the mall heaven knows how hard I tried.

The bitching and moaning only serves to spread racial hatred, although some may argue that Lindiwe was simply voicing an opinion but a well informed opinion would have evidence to substantiate the claim such as explaining how Cape Town is racist when I, a Cape Town resident am not racist and have black, white and coloured friends who were born in this Town and are not racists.

So Lindiwe's tweet was actually quite stupid as it only served to invoke the emotional trauma suffered by South Africans Black, White and Coloured perpetrated by the Apartheid regime.

In a country with our history, race is a very sensitive issue and one must thread carefully when speaking on the subject.

In the context of our constitution, people have the freedom to associate with whoever they want to associate with meaning you can't force black people to interact with white people and cannot force white people to interact with coloured people.

I don't have to like you, speak to you or invite you to my party but I must share a country with you.

The law can be silly at times because you are allowed to put the 'Right of Admission Reserved' sign which gives effect to your constitutional right to freedom of association. But if you are white and I refuse to let you into my business establishment or to do business with you, you could simply claim racial discrimination when if you were black, you wouldn't.

Then a City Press columnist does the same, brands Cape Town as the home of racism. The funny bit is that he also had 'friends' who experienced this racism, again no names or exact locations where these incidents took place. One of his stories was that of a night club that refused to let his 'friend' in but let his white American 'friend' in.

The only story he shared where the victims actually took action is the Bluedowns factory incident. The rest of the columnist's stories had no evidence to substantiate the claims, no names of people involved, no action taken by victims and no names of the locations. Academics teach us that if a statement lacks supportive evidence then the statement should be regarded as nonsensical.

If those who claim that Cape Town is racist with their stories forget that some Cape Town residents can also use their stories of having relations with people from all the different race groups that live in Cape Town to argue that Cape Town is NOT racist.

I could tell you a story about Helen Zille, a white woman giving refuge to my gogo and other women when the Apartheid government was hunting them down to argue that Cape Town is NOT racist but is awesome. But I have already told this story before.

I could for instance tell you a story of Jenna Kretzmer, a white Jewish friend of mine who founded the Earth Child Project; an NGO that works with children from Sakumlandela Primary School in Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill primary in Muizenberg to argue that Cape Town is NOT racist but awesome.

I could also tell you about Elizabeth Meiring, an Art of Living Foundation volunteer who has worked on a lot of projects in Khayelitsha with women and the youth, I often joked that she knows Khayelitsha like she spent her lifetime in Khayelitsha.

I could tell you a story about Lisa Martin, another Art of Living Foundation volunteer who like Elizabeth has worked on a lot of projects with black people such as the Youth Leadership Training Program offered by the Art of Living Foundation and helping out during the xenophobic attacks but the most memorable experience with Lisa is when she and I were working with little boys in Bonnietouin, Wynberg.

Bonnietouin is where young children who have committed serious crimes are kept to see if they can be rehabilitated, this place is run by the Social Service department. She was so fearless when I thought to myself "what have I got myself into" and she said to me "Buja, they are just little boys".

We worked with those children for while with other volunteers and most of them were rehabilitated and released into the care of their parents. By the time we left the centre the staff reported that violence amongst the boys had been dramatically reduced.

I could tell you a lot of stories where my white friends worked with black people but that would be as stupid as those who tell stories of racism. Such stories do not and will never put an end to racism.

So if stories of racism incidents can be used as evidence to brand an entire City racist, then stories of black and white Capetonians working together can also be used to dismiss the claim that Cape Town is racist. I have seen T-shirts with the words 'Kumnandi Ekapa' printed on them, would love to buy one for Lindiwe and Simphiwe Dana

Like those who invited people to share stories of racism incidents, I invite you to share stories of unity where people of different skin colour have come together looking beyond skin colour.

The constitution gives us all rights and establishes institutions to assist with the protection of those rights therefore if anyone feels that their rights have been undermined, then they should make use of such institutions instead of moaning about the incidents. In fact the law gives anyone the right to approach those institutions to report an incident even if the person is not the direct victim.

So Miss Dana, Lindiwe, the columnist and anyone who has experienced racism or knows someone who has can simply make use of the institutions instead of creating the platform where people exchange racial insults or Miss Dana branding me a "#GoodBlack" for suggesting that anyone who does not feel welcome in the City can climb Table Mountain and jump or better yet leave Cape Town but no dear, more black people move to the racist Cape Town every year and they fall madly in love with the 'racist Cape Town'.

There will always be racists in this world, I doubt there is a racism free City in the world. If there is, please tell me where it is located and I will move to it soonest.

*Please note that the Art of Living Foundation and the Earth Child Project have a diverse group of volunteers and work with people of all races*

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