“You’re going to die, kaffir,” repeated Uncle Steven, more as a wish than a statement, to the black man dying on the ground behind the supermarket that was part of our everyday lives in the suburbs outside Durban.
My teen self was caught between horrors.
The first was the poor man who had been stabbed so many times with a short tool or knife that I battled to count all the holes in his shirt through which lung bubbles escaped with blood.
The second was the hate in every word and motion of Uncle Steven. He wasn’t family but I’d known him almost all my life, as the butcher beneath the flats in which i stayed. In those days, reverence for your elders was mandatory but, that day, whilst Uncle Steven taunted the dying man to die, it began its descent within me so that all respect would have to be earned. But that was a journey, within, just beginning. Right then, there was still enough fear in me that I never reached for the human hand I wanted to give comfort to and, thus, my third horror became myself.
That poor man received a racist farewell from a white country that never loved him. Steven got his wish.
1994 was a false start that never restarted. Nelson Mandela’s hope for racial unity never reached reality. The Rainbow Nation got trampled and is still being trampled, beneath different boots of indifference, denial and hate. Apartheid was a crime that never died. We killed the word and the laws but we never killed our attitudes as a nation. As South Africans, it’s undeniably part of our country and part of our lives. Racism is sometimes the elephant in the room whilst other times violence for damaging words, terrible actions and manipulative weapons of politicians.
These thoughts revisited after two incidents involving racism and the community of Leisure Isle which is considered to be one of the rich suburbs of Knysna. Despite having their own security box as you cross the road over the estuary, this is not a gated community. I’m thankful for that because it is one of my favourite places in South Africa. The view of The Heads from Bollard Bay is spectacular and tranquillity awaits at Kingfisher Creek.
Like all rich areas in Knysna, there are many holiday homes but the difference here is a strong contingent of mostly white retirees who have ensured that it’s a well-maintained, pretty suburb. The sports club is commendable and the contribution made to Steenbok Nature Reserve laudable. Annually, the Leisure Isle Festival raises much-needed cash for several charities.
Because of these deserved compliments, I held back from reporting on an incident of racism involving LIRA (Leisure Isle Ratepayers’ Association) almost a year ago. I didn’t want anyone to mistake it as tarring and feathering of all – I know and like several people who live there whom I know not to be discriminatory. But, today, after encountering a second intolerant view, I’ve decided to share my experience.
It shouldn’t be ignored that people with anti-humanity views have been placed in leadership positions on the island. It’s up to all residents to get rid of these racists so that they are not represented by them. I ask that readers, especially residents, avoid cognitive dissonance – don’t ally your opinions with your neighbours if it goes against your beliefs. Rather do something to fix the situation.
Read Part 2 tomorrow to discover the archaic attitudes that pissed me off.