Black at Bayside

How naive I was. I think it’s because my high school years did not come with any overt racism. I look back at my time at UCT and see it then, but because I had never wanted to study that course, it didn’t stand out. I was truly naive. I argued that an article in the Sunday Times about how racist Cape Town is was a lie. I even dared to ask how they decided that something was racist. What if it was just normal idiocy that happened to be aimed at Black people but was not because they were Black? What if the person was just generally an idiot who also treated his fellow White people the same? After all, when my mother and I visited an appliance store in Natal, a shop selling large items like fridges, washing machines, the guard started following us. We asked him why he was trailing us. He told us his boss (a racist Indian) had told him to. Racism was everywhere. There was no ‘worse.’

Also in Natal… We were in Durban for my brother’s wedding. New to the area, we looked for a church. We found one on a map and drove there. Me, my dad and mom, my sister and a maternal aunt.

Relieved, we found the church and with our Bibles and hymn books, entered and sat down. They were singing, so we pulled out our hymn books. As we were getting ready to worship with ‘our brothers and sisters in Christ,’ a man whispered something to my father.

He suddenly told us we needed to leave. I thought maybe our car had been broken into, but why would all of us need to see the damage?

It turned out that while we saw fellow Christians, they saw Black invaders. We had not noticed nor cared that it was a church full of White people. Whites only.

THEY planned it that way and wanted it to stay that way. What the man had told my father was that we were “in the wrong place.” My dad asked, “Is this not a Seventh-Day Adventist Church?”

He was told in reply that there was a church across the street where “people like” us “would feel comfortable.”

None of us had felt uncomfortable. The absolute racism and hatred in that satanic church cloaking itself in Christianity left a sour taste in my mouth forever.

I had never guessed nor thought that in the New South Africa, colonisers would still be this hateful. I was so naive. How do you kick quiet, newcomers out of a CHURCH because of the colour of their skin? YOU, the invader of my country daring to still police where I go? Telling me your God has made you superior to me!?

You know where you were headed had you died that day? Not to the heaven you were singing about. That heaven contains “EVERY tribe, nation, kindred, tongue and people.”

Fool. I was a fool.

I truly thought Cape Town was better than that. Hey, no place can be more racist than another.

They say words only have the power to hurt us because we allow them to.

Lies!

It’s like a punch to the gut. If it hits you, it hurts. It has nothing to do with your mental resolve to NOT be hurt.

The first big (Read, full of venom) incident I can recall where I realised that the article could be true was in 2014. I was leaving Bayside Mall in Table View, headed for my husband’s office to go study. (I was doing my Psychology degree through Unisa and needed a quiet, childless place, so I used to go there on some evenings.)

There was extremely heavy, barely moving traffic at the traffic circle in the precincts of the mall. As I waited for traffic to let me in, a car came from the street directly in front of me. White driver and his White male passenger. They weren’t indicating , so I figured they were going straight, coming to enter the mall. So I slowly (Had no choice regarding speed) turned left into the circle.

Except the non-indicating idiot was turning, coming past me, so he almost hit my car. He yelled “kaffir” with extreme venom. I looked at his passenger in shock, wondering if he would remonstrate with his friend or relative. I hoped he’d apologise on his behalf.

Instead, he pulled out his middle finger.

I’ll never forget how awful that was. That word is like a poisoned arrow hitting its mark. It dehumanises. It devalues you as a human. I hadn’t even done anything that deserved it. I had not attacked him, had not murdered his mother, had not stolen his hubcaps. Had not even come close to him touching my car. There was still so much space in front of me that he was able to come past me. Why the vicious word?

And for his friend or relative to think it was ok and NORMAL to call someone that made it worse. I wish I could describe the feelings an unprovoked attack against one’s self, one’s identity evokes.

I was honestly scared. I have never even raised my voice at my children or husband, let alone some stranger. I felt violated. We know what road rage is like. I was scared they’d follow me and get physical. I was a woman driving alone to an empty house that the company was using as its offices. How would I defend myself from such hate?

They went on their merry way. I arrived at the office in Bloubergstrand shaking and shaken.

If I’d been at fault, I still would not have merited THAT. He was hating ME, not what I would have done. No matter how people treat me, I’ve never referred to them by race. If they’re entitled, they’re a spoilt, entitled person. Not a White idiot. And sad how we don’t even have a negative word for those who came and wreaked havoc on our continent. Contrary to what some would have the world believe, there is nothing derogatory about the word ‘umlungu.’ It’s NOT a pejorative. It’s NOT demeaning. Unlike the words we get called, it does not show how stupid, ignorant, less than we feel White people are.

There HAD been micro aggressions alone the way. Like the time in 2012 we moved to a complex in Somerset West and while opening the gate with my remote so my children and I could go for a walk, a racist woman told me only homeowners could use remotes, not domestic workers.

Seriously? Then she had the nerve to ask if we were renting or had bought.

The micro aggressions were there all along. The White man at Rennies who upon hearing my White-sounding accent asked why “the others can’t talk properly,” asking if “they are lazy.”

A Black person with a Black accent speaking English, which is at the very least their second language, taught by someone who is also not a native English man… Speaking what is usually even their third or fourth language is NOT someone speaking improperly. It’s someone with a gift for languages. It’s someone forced to learn a language not native to their country and doing so perfectly!

White is not right. White names, white accents… Those belong to White people. There is nothing lazy about Africans speaking like Africans.

After all, this IS Africa!

I thought I’d recount in one post, how it is being Black in Cape Town.

Or it’s surrounds.

But there’s much to say. I even changed my title from ‘Black in Cape Town’ to what it is now.

Stereotypes, micro aggressions and sheer hatred just because of one’s ethnicity is painful. Maybe if we express our pain more, less will continue to manifest in our genes through generational trauma.

Though Cape Town is racist indeed, I believe Pretoria is just as bad too. But that’s not my story. It’s what I heard from a young Black lady who committed suicide. But that too, is a story for another day.

It’s Sabbath morning. 4am. I wonder if those racists still keep their church pure of African souls. I hope not. For the sake of innocent people just looking for fellowship and finding it, I hope not.

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