Racing against racial discrimination- let love lead

2015-11-09 16:16

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine from varsity days was having a wedding at a beautiful venue about half an hour from Stanford in the Overberg region (just after Hermanus). Since it was going to be an afternoon wedding on the Saturday, we decided to rather drive out of town on the Friday so that we would not be rushed on the Saturday.

Come the time to look for accommodation and then something happened which has been gnawing at me for the past days. Although I have been a recipient of treatment which was downright discriminatory, I have always (and still) prefer to deal with each person on an individual basis rather than to work with generalisations or stereotypes.

Having decided on the budget and the potential places which I wanted my wife and I to spend the weekend. One Guest House in Hermanus whose name has to do with a ‘place where a certain bird type stays’ did something which appalled me. After I had entered my details online to book a room, with availability having been indicated- I came to the point where I needed to pay. This particular site unlike all I have used previously did not provide an option for you to pay but you still got an email informing you your booking had been processed but waiting confirmation.

Immediately after I received the email I got another one from the lady managing the guest house saying, “"Thank you for your interest in XYZ.  I regret I am booked for the dates requested.” I sent an email back asking how that could be the case as I had just completed the booking as it showed availability and I was about to pay. She responded that the deposit is only paid wants she confirmed the booking and sent through the bank details. I decided to let it slide...for that moment.

I however was not convinced that their guest house was genuinely fully booked. My suspicion led me to ask a colleague of mine whose name gives an impression that she is Caucasian (though she is not) to send a request to the same lady for accommodation for the same days. When she sent through the request (less than 15 minutes after I had received the reply), she got the following response from the lady, “Hi X, I do have availability in unit Y for Rx per unit per night. For how many people you are looking?”

This is what appalled me...the same place which had told me they did not have space suddenly got space when someone else asked. Being a bit hot headed, my plan was to let my colleague book (with me paying) so that on the day of checking in I would just rock up with my wife in order to school that lady that what she had done was not acceptable. I later decided against following this route as I did not want to spend the weekend in a place where my wife would have discomfort. My colleague eventually responded to the lady that she had managed to find alternative accommodation.

The reason I had utilised this approach to catch the lady out was because of an incident I had heard a few weeks before about some guys who had entered a restaurant here in Cape Town and experienced something similar. As the 4 guys entered (despite the presence of empty tables), they were told all the tables were fully booked. They ‘accepted’ this and walked out of the restaurant. A block or so away from the place one of the group whose accent is hard to decipher whether he is black or white called the restaurant to make a booking. Lo and behold! the ‘fully booked’ restaurant all of a sudden became available. The group walked back to the restaurant and gave the details of the booking...and there was now no way to deny them the table.

I did a quick search and came across an incident which happened in January this year where a family could not obtain a table at a posh hotel in Cape Town. A booking was however secured on their behalf by a white friend. When they got there they were told the booking did not exist until the person who did the booking ranted at them. [Read the article]

A few years ago my wife was looking for a flat (before we got married) and she had spoken to an agent who told her about a place which was available. The owner of the house was told by the agent that she (my wife) would be coming to view the place and the agent would pitch up as well. My wife's name is English so when the landlord heard the name she didn't know that my wife was black. When she got to the place at the same time as the agent and the landlord opened the door, the landlord then said to the agent "The flat is no longer available." The agent (who was and still is :) white) was surprised as she didn't know when the flat had become 'unavailable' since she had spoken with the landlord a few minutes before. The agent looked at my wife and apologized indicating to her what had happened. Once the landlord had seen the face behind the name...the accommodation became 'unavailable'.

Just recently we went house viewing in one of the Southern suburbs. I don't think it is standard practice for the agent to take pictures of people who come and view a place...more so without their informed consent. While moving around she held up her phone focused on us and since her phone was not on silent, I heard the whir as she snapped away. I didn't see her do this to any other person viewing and I was the only male of colour at that point.

Despite all the different instances and incidences of racial discrimination (or perceived discrimination) which I and others around me have been subject to in the past decade of my being in Cape Town, I still hold on to the same dream which Martin Luther King Jnr had that, “[we] will one day live in a nation where [we] will not be judged by the color of [our] skin but by the content of [our] character.”

I continue having hope that we will one day value each other as people created in the image and likeness of God. There is nothing that makes you and me more important than the next person regardless of the colour of our skin, size of our bank account, background etc. Let us run the race against racial discrimination and let us put an end to hatred which is prevailing in our society.

Let love be what we embrace. One of the simplest and clearest definitions of love which I've learnt from my pastor is "having a deep desire to see good happening to another." Imagine how our community, society, city, nation, country, region, continent and world will turn out if we embraced loving each other.

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