Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Rainbow Nation no more

Reverse racism in South Africa. A sad story by Sharon van Wyk. This one is a familiar tale for many of us. We know of these type of queue jumpers, those who feel a sense of entitlement simply because they belong a certain race.

Gold Reef City, Joburg - I’m standing in a queue. It’s my son’s 14th birthday and we’ve brought him and two of his mates from school to Joburg's favourite theme park and one of its biggest tourist attractions. And another six people have just shoved their way past us, joining a growing group further up the line, extending our wait for a few seconds of adrenaline pumping thrill for a few more minutes.

The man next to me is getting angry. So the next group of queue jumpers that barges through is blocked by him, as he asks them, politely, in English, not to push in and requests (again, politely) that they join the end of the queue, far behind us, out of sight around one of many landscaped bends.

“Don’t you tell me what to do, you white pig.” My mouth drops as I look at the dark-skinned young man who has challenged my neighbour’s right to send him to the end of the line. “I am joining my people up there and you can’t stop me.” He and his four friends push past, muttering in their vernacular as they go.

The man next to me is as gobsmacked, and as white as I am. He is from Oxford in the United Kingdom, here in South Africa on holiday with his wife and two teenaged children.

A lady to the man’s left is Xhosa-speaking and tells me sadly that the young men swore at the man as they pushed past him, saying that he is a boer and needs teaching a lesson about who is in charge now. She is disgusted and apologises for the young queue jumpers. She is also Mr “Oxford’s” wife of twenty years.

Another group of three young women pushes past us.

“Don’t make trouble, mum” asks my son, looking perturbed, which he shouldn’t be on his birthday. But I needn’t worry.

The man’s wife challenges them in their own language and a full-blown argument breaks out.

A small group of oriental tourists behind us in the queue looks shocked at the disturbance and one can only assume that the hurried whispers between them are explanations for what they think is happening. They stop talking and look decidedly worried when, from ahead of the queue, a large, black man pushes his way towards us. As he reaches us he asks, in English, what the problem is. Mr “Oxford” explains that the girls, now in a heated Xhosa exchange with his wife, were jumping the queue. The man says “Let them through, we are a group.”

Things are getting tense now, and a white couple to my right start pitching their 10c worth in, causing the oriental group to start jabbering, excitedly this time.

“We are a group too,” says my neighbour with an Afrikaans accent. “But the rest of us are further down the queue. What gives you the right to have your group push in front of us?”

The black man’s repose now crumbles.

“You boertjies must wake up, neh. You can’t call the shots any more. These are my people and they are joining me, and if you have a problem, take it up with Zuma.”

With that, he herds the three girls, still arguing with Mr “Oxford’s” wife, away, pushing past people now looking the other way, unwilling to get involved, to his position far ahead of us.

Mr and Mrs “Oxford’s” children are near to tears, their mom is shaking she’s so angry and Mr “Oxford” apologises to everyone and leaves the queue.

“I’m sorry,” he says to me as he leaves. “This has spoiled our day.”

I am livid. My son and his friend are embarrassed.

We take the ride in silence. The incident leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouths.

In three subsequent queues similar incidents occur. My husband challenges one group, to be similarly accused of being a racist boer, this time by a strident black woman who doesn’t see anything wrong with allowing eight adults to join her “group” of six by pushing past families waiting patiently for their turn.

We opt to go home, preferring the drive to Pretoria to the tension steadily building with the heat of mid-day.

My heart is sore for Mr “Oxford”, branded a racist by a young man who is more a bigot than the Englishman will ever be.

But more than anything my heart is sore for South Africa.

In a couple of days’ time it will be a whole new year. And another year further away from the day when this country supposedly became a rainbow nation.

Obviously, for some, the rainbow’s significance is lost, hidden by a brand of racism more insidious than anything which prevailed under apartheid and one which threatens to tear this country apart.

You see, I can forgive that black man his enmity. He is old enough to remember the dark days of disenfranchisement and riots. But his kids, and the majority of his “people” who joined him in that queue are not. From the looks of them they were not even born when Mandela walked to freedom and this country supposedly changed for the better.

They have learned their bitterness and hatred for whites from him and others like him. And learned that to get by in life all they have to do is play the race card and watch the wit ous cringe and cower.

They are bullies, pushing their way through life like they do queues, demanding that everything be given to them because they are black.

Watching their behaviour in those queues at Gold Reef City, and watching how so few people, black or white, challenged their rudeness and bad manners, I suddenly realised how people like Robert Mugabe are able to stay in power so long and how our future, and with it that of Africa, is so tenuous unless someone, somewhere has the balls to stand up and call a spade a spade (for want of a better phrase) and tackle the inherent racism that still pervades our society and this new breed of racists who have never known discrimination, and yet persist in perpetuating it.

For those of you who think that those queue jumpers were just being rude, and not racist, I say wake up and let’s call a thing by what it is, and not what it is not.

There’s a bad joke which goes along the lines of “What’s the difference between a tourist and a racist - about 20 minutes.”

I leave the last word to Mr “Oxford”, a tourist in our country, and the husband of one of its proud daughters. I bumped into him as we were leaving, checking out of the Protea Gold Reef City hotel.

“I thought apartheid was dead,” he said, sadly. “I was wrong.”

6 Opinion(s):

AlmostExpat said...

Wow. This is quite something. Doesn't surprise me one bit though.

Happy 2009 People. I'm just so grateful that my family and I will be leaving SA within the 1st 6 months of 2009.

My hasband I are in our mid 40's, we were born and raised here. Our teenagers were born and raised here, but Goodbye SA. We're never coming back. As far as we're concerned, you're beyond hope, gone, dead, buried.

Anonymous said...

It is that black feeling of entitlement which is going to push South Africa into another Zimbabwe.

I don't feel sorry for those in Zimbabwe because they got the government they wanted. They made their bed now they must lay in it!


Best not to visit establishments were the managment is not able or willing to plan and execute procedures that avoid such type of conflict. Sad fact is that this type of undercurrent hate is ingrained in a lot of blacks and can make simple situations rather volatile. I avoid as a rule to go near places were they congregate as I have no desire to be harmed or killed before I finally get out of the RSA . The soccer event of 2100 will be interesting .

Albeus Ergo Cogito said...

Gone forever.....

Anonymous said...

Another case of fuck-you you white pig. but shame should we not hear the poor black mans side of the story- this white Euro-african probably started the trouble. he should have just let it ride (scuse the pun) and hoped the the big fucking machine crashed into the ground. To my fellow Euro-Africans that are jumping ship, my heart is with you. Unfortunatley, I do not have any means (qualifications or training-my fault) so i am basically stuck in this hell hole. I will live beneath the radar as long as possible and SARS will not see a cent from me. RIP helen you fuckin bitch!!!

Anonymous said...

The last orderly queue in South Africa was during the 1994 destruction, sorry i meant election. Accept it and your life will be easier. Toss a banana to a bunch of monkeys and see what happens.