Knysna, in South Africa, is a perfect example of the New Apartheid. Racism is alive and unfortunately “well” here.
The primary fault of racism is not superiority based on hate and greed but the belief in Aloneness. We are not alone in the human experience. We all cry, pain, laugh, dream, ambition, live and die. Right now, during this awful recession, poverty and depression attack all regardless of race or culture. We are in a class war, the rich versus the poor and the irresponsible corporation against humanity and the planet itself.
These criminals i speak of must be laughing. Instead of reality strengthening the common citizen and standing up for his right to health, education, a full belly and a roof, they fight amongst themselves. We fight amongst ourselves.
Here, in my beloved South Africa, and the microcosm of my home town, Knysna, racism has intensified. For the past few years i’ve felt more scared than in the late Eighties when we all wondered if the eradication of apartheid would be done peacefully. It was…to the benefit of big business, politicians and their cronies. These criminals are black AND white yet here on the ground level there’s no acknowledgement of that. Instead, there’s awful segregation of colours, pointing fingers at opposite races, and a refusal to look for common ground that would be a foundation for a common cause. Poverty is massive. As much as half of Knysna may be unemployed.
Until i came to Knysna, the epitome of the new apartheid was Rio’s enormous statue of Jesus. Arms held out wide, it’s Jesus welcoming and embracing the rich and the tourists. Behind his back, however, slums sprawl in smelly defecation of godly proportions. But it is our own world that should serve best as reality for that is what we can change.
Knysna is the most divided town i’ve ever seen. And i’ve seen a lot, as a youthful hitchhiker in search of answers and later when i monthly checked up on 72 offices across South Africa, from Cape Town to Nelspruit, Welkom to Richard’s Bay. The town centre, Leisure Isle and Thesen Island, are in a bowl rimmed by hills. Here, the overwhelming populace is white. On 2 hills, a few kilometres away, the non-white areas of Concordia/Khayalethu (mostly black) and Hornlee (mostly coloured) look down upon these white areas. It’s not only a colour barrier but an economic one too. There’s a vast difference between living in shacks and cheap RDP houses versus properties whose average price tag is over a million rand…and as much as R40 million.
There’s more to this scenario but i’ll discuss that here later, as well as double-up on my personal blog. The point now is that the world that a poor kid can see from his hill seems inaccessible. And, with a lessor education and tougher social challenges, that kid is unlikely to. The irony is that as a non-white he’d be part of the 80% population majority. In contrast, the average white teen i meet has an expectation of entitlement from their parents. A white family is more likely to take a holiday to Cape Town or overseas than travel 5km to see the poorer suburbs of their own town. A black kid is far less likely to take a hike at Brenton-On-Lake even though they can see it just across the Knysna Estuary.
Yes, yes, there’s much more to this! Both sides have wrongs and rights which i’ll, as said, address later. Additionally, before the next, expected criticism, there are always individual exceptions…but generalization holds more truth. I’m more concerned that white people make the mistake of thinking that their version of Knysna is in fact Knysna. Running parallel, i’m saddened that a kid in Concordia, for example, will think of his suburb as his town rather than Knysna itself. There’s a social and economic dislocation in thought that needs to change.
Before you respond, i ask that you take the time to imagine yourself in the other shoes. If you are white, then don’t be a denialist like most i meet. They complain yet never act…as if their fears will never culminate in a reality that will affect them and their families. But history shows that apathy is violence too. They may take their time but the poor and repressed will always rise.
We are not Alone. We are all human. We are all citizens of Knysna. Until we realize and accept ubuntu, that we are all linked together and should treat one another as we expect to be treated, Knysna will never be whole. Instead, Knysna will continue to weaken…maybe even fall. I don’t want that. Do you?
PS1: This is one of several essays that will fall under A White Man in a Black Country on my personal blog.
PS2: I hate words such as white and non-white for they could be black and non-black too. But i don’t want to use “African” and “Causcasian” as descriptions for i am white and African too. So, for the most part, i stick to what is most used (for now) as the problems we’re facing are far bigger than semantics.