Growing up, I wouldn’t dare look at black boys in a romantic way.
Black children in my class were there to ridicule during Afrikaans orals. Lord knows, my proudly coloured family would have a field day roasting me if I ever came home with a black boyfriend. My uncles and father would probably laugh openly.
I am not even a child of apartheid.
I was born in 1988. I went to a school that was previously reserved for white people. And in the struggle to find my identity I knew 2 things.
1 – I don’t belong around the white people.
2 – At least I am not black.
The atmosphere for me growing up was very anti-black. I cannot speak for anyone from my time, or even from my neighbourhood. I can only ever speak on the things I have seen and experienced first-hand. As a coloured, I was taught that I didn’t have to respect black people.
Black teachers weren’t respected when they taught classes at the schools I attended. Children would openly use the K-word, and question why ‘this D**kie is teaching us’. I even remember one natural science class in which children complained that a new, black sir’s accent was making it impossible for them to learn. I understood him fine, but never spoke up about it. The kids almost banded together in what they believed was their dislike for this specific man (but in retrospect, it was the anger of having to acknowledge a black superior. It insulted them.)
I have used the K Word many times as a youth on the cape flats. I have told jokes with racist punchlines. I have even not wanted to drink water from the same cup as a black person, because I was made to believe that it was riskier than drinking from the cup of someone from a different race.
Every single prejudice I ever acquired was taught to me by people I identified as my ‘crew’. Whether my family perpetuated the idea, or my friends. I bet if you scroll down my timeline far enough, you will find something racist that I have said at some point in my journey.
There is an idea among coloured people in Cape Town that we are better than black people, and it is assumed that we can use racial slurs towards them because we are not white. It is a false idea.
Is it okay? Of course not. Is it who I am now? No.
I am admitting this, because to me, transparency is necessary. Especially when I am about to openly speak out about something in the same vein…
In my last blog, almost serendipitous, I mentioned an instance I remember from my childhood regarding a woman of colour. I would like to paste it here, for those who may not have seen it.
As a child, I attended a predominantly white catholic school in a very leafy southern suburb.
I didn’t take my Xhosa teacher seriously, based solely on the fact that she was black and a woman. From the reactions and words of my elders and peers, at the time, I thought that this disqualified her from any respect.
I never did her homework.
I made jokes at her expense.
I didn’t even attempt to speak to her in the same manner I addressed the white teachers.
She didn’t last long at the school, and even though I don’t have many memories of her, I know it wasn’t me that made her leave.
It was a whole school full of my kind
Now in 2019, I am a business woman of colour.
I walk into spaces in which I am openly not welcome. I want to cry when men with less knowledge than me speak down to me like I am a little girl – whether I am their professional superior or not, I remain a coloured girly.
People see me as cheeky for insisting on the acknowledgement of my authority.
The world has changed since I was a child. I have changed since I was a child.
When the article from the writer of Noem My Skollie dropped, many people sent it to me, I assume in the hopes that I would relate, regarding my own harrowing experience at GrooteSchuur Hospital that I had written about in 2018.
I read the entire article written by Mr Fredericks, and I promise you I wanted so badly to relate to him. The initial excitement that another person, a person with a larger platform than myself had spoken out against the terrible treatment ALL people face at most government hospitals was short-lived, when I saw the not so subtle bits of racism peppered all through the article.
Here is one such extract, as an example:
All the staff were black and a single hard-arsed white female doctor bluntly brushed off Janine’s request and the skollie deep inside my belly stirred ever so slightly and my war cry of; ‘Don’t touch my family’ echoed in my mind. As soon as this hard-arsed woman turned her back I slipped out of the room with my file in hand and hid in a bathroom like an escaping prisoner. I could hear Janine talking on the phone with her own Doctor. I brushed past her like a convict and headed to the room where Una and my daughter Sonia waited and my wild eyes said it all, I was not going to stay there, I was going home and the following day to St Helena for a joyous weekend … returned to the emergency room and I was bundled onto a broke back bed, a screen was pulled around me and I was told to strip naked. I was spitting bullets of profanity as I started to undress, Janine was crying I was not prepared for this and I asked the dumb-arsed black nurse; ‘What about my phone?’ ‘Take it with you at your own risk.’ She replied.
Another cringe worthy paragraph is below, which not only insults the race of the staff, but also shows the terrible ego and entitlement portrayed by Mr Fredericks. (I do not take away his accomplishments – but at what point do we call ‘celebrities’ out for thinking they deserve better treatment that the rest of us?)
“I managed to doze off again for a few hours when yellowbone returned banging a metal bowl against the tap in the basin at the foot of my bed. ‘Did you wash already?’ she snarled at me. I told her that I was not sure that I could bath with this thing in my arm and she replied; ‘Maybe you don’t like to wash!’
I could not believe my ears. Here I was, the writer of the iconic film NOEM MY SKOLLIE which won 17 National and International awards. Which was the South African film nominated for the 2017 Oscars and this yellow-boned Florence nightingale thought I was just another bergie.”
Writing award winning content does not permit anyone to be racist, classist or disrespectful.
Now, for those who are not familiar with my own GSH experience; I was mistreated after the birth of my youngest child.
The article did very well, and in it, I documented the awful treatment I experienced. I call out the nurses for sub-par service, but at no point do I say (or believe) that the treatment I received had anything to do with the race of the employees of the hospital.
I also do not believe that because I am a well-known blogger on the Cape Town scene, that they owed me special treatment. My mission was always that EVERY WOMAN WHO SAT IN THAT MATERNITY WARD DESERVED RESPECT. BLACK, COLOURED, WHITE, RICH, POOR OR ‘JUST ANOTHER BERGIE’.
I aired my views about the ‘article’ written by Mr Fredericks on my private Facebook page, and of course amidst the outrage at his blatant racism and all around rudeness, there were apologists for the man who should apparently be allowed to berate others because he is old.
If we allowed everyone who was old or ‘from a different time’ to act out or speak out their outdated beliefs, we would have chaos. We would not move forward.
Should he be allowed to shoot a black person, because that is what he was conditioned to believe is right?
I understand that that is extreme, but where would we draw the line when we coddle the ‘old school mentality?”
And I am not naïve, I have a father of a certain age, and uncles who wiped my bum when I was a child… but you better believe that I call out anyone in my family who exhibits racist, classist or abusive behaviour: especially in front of my children – the new generation.
I am by no means an activist. I know very little about apartheid.
I cannot imagine the anger held by Black people all over the world.
But I am responsible for what happens in arms reach of me… And Facebook has lengthened my arms.
And THEN, THE Daily Voice and IoL COVER THE STORY AND DO NOT MENTION THAT THE MAN IS saying anything RACIST.
It seems that whole Journalists have decided to only report on the story of GSH being incompetent. This is the problem with journalists going to events and rubbing shoulders with ‘celebrities’, and then feeling loyalty when the said ‘celebrity’ does something that is newsworthy.
In Cape Town it truly is who you know.
I bet if someone else had written the same things about the ‘black staff’, we would have cancelled them… no matter what era they grew up in.
I will save you from the further 100000 words I can write about this subject and take you to the conclusion.
Someone commented on one of my posts:
The beauty of telling a story is keeping the reader intrigued. Being honest and blunt about ones emotions, while writing, is very rare in this time. To hold so many of us eager to read the end result, because so many of us can relate by either first-hand experience, or a loved one….makes us want to read his next piece, as he shouts out 🆘 for us all. Yes, he mentioned each staff member by color or creed, but thank goodness for his honesty because now the world knows, that it is the entire health system and practitioners who lacks empathy. Even the yellow skins. Perhaps if one can attempt to read from an open mind, one can enjoy almost a reality of his experiences he puts down so intellectually.
I remember reading your first pieces of stories a few years ago Shana Fife, your honesty is what kept people reading, these days I actually scroll pass because it seems almost fictional. Writing is all about keeping the reader locked and intrigued for more of the writers work.”
It is very important to me that my readers know that my blog is optional. If you are not reading it because it isn’t sensational, then I respect that decision. I am not going to pretend to be anything in order to receive views. But racism isn’t intriguing.
I am also not the same woman who wrote ‘Just a Hoe with Babies’. She is part of me, and always will be… but like all of us should, and like South Africa, I have changed.
Now, as an adult, I have taken it upon myself to unlearn all of the racist tradition that was taught to me while growing up. As an adult, mother, and person – my growth is my responsibility; and therefore I cannot stand behind a man who had spoken so disrespectfully about black people. People of colour. My people. People.
No matter how much my race has idolised him. The mere fact that he is a published author, and his book has been made into a movie shows that he is not some ignorant old man who knows nothing better than to perpetuate decades old hatred… he is educated, whether it be academically or streetwise or both. He is capable of thought. Independent thought. And he CHOSE to use his large platform to equate the terrible treatment he received to the fact that the staff was predominantly black.
And the coloured people who are speaking against me in his defense are either racist themselves, or acting out of loyalty to him, solely based on the fact that he made a movie about gangsters. Is that truly all we need to defend someone when they are wrong? Then we might as well ignore the rape allegations against R.Kelly because he made lekker music. OR we should free Bill Cosby because he was a well-known actor and comedian.
One does not inform the other.
Age, race, accomplishments shouldn’t matter when bringing people to task for unacceptable behaviour.
I don’t care who unfollows me.
I am a person, not a brand. And I do not stand by racists.