Monday, July 09, 2007

Race

Into the polite but lucid hour of Friday evening’s cocktail special, the table’s conversation turned to Apartheid and how people feel it today. The convo was between a young black girl, a white “rocker” guy, me - a young white chick, and my darling Friday drinking partner who chose to sit this one out, mainly cause of rising music levels. Clever of her though, cause at some point it felt like there were three conversations taking place across the emptying & refilling glasses & cherries & nachos, rather than us all discussing the same point.

I had an internal brain wave, put it out there, realised the over-kirred champagne might not be allowing my articulation free reign and vowed to get back to the thought at a more sober stage.

Yesterday it surfaced again, when seeing a review for “Race”, authored by Ryland Fisher, in the Sunday Independent. The book looks blatant and in-your-face. Good. A conversation generator then.

Anyway… the black girl was saying (and recognise that I was not hearing its subtleties too well by then) that she is still “suffering from Apartheid” and that this needs to be recognised. I was saying back that she could not claim to be “directly” suffering from it, as “directly” it no longer exists. She would lose people’s understanding and sympathy as soon as she lays down such a claim. Perhaps, how she should rather be putting it, is that Apartheid is indirectly still holding her back in certain circumstances, particularly socially and psychologically. And that these ways need to be publicly recognised already.

The guy was arguing about “political correctness” and how it can become the greatest obstacle to realising our exact position today.

These issues we all know. But what, I think, the three of us were trying to get to, is what exactly is lurking in each person’s subconscious when it comes to other races?

Enough with the polite way of how each of us SHOULD be thinking. How is each of us really thinking? How were we programmed to think, back when we were raised during an era of legalised racial segregation? Are our years of early development in such a political environment still influencing how we subconsciously act in 2007?

On a rational level, I do not think that my skin colour means I am intellectually superior to any other race. Or physically inferior to other races. I do not think that because a man is black, his perceptions of sex are more animalistic than those of white guys. That a woman from the rural Eastern Cape does not have the ability to lead a corporation AND do so with utter respect from her employees, especially when many of them are white men.

But right now I am trying to probe my irrational side, the elements of my mind that were formed during the earliest years of my development. What was I made to believe about black men and women, about Indian people, or coloured people, or Asians or or or. Hell, there are even stereotypes of Jewish people, Lebanese, Afrikaans, people who choose religion. Of any group that is outside of the basic stereotype that is me.

I do not need to feel guilty for having these ideas exist in my head. But I definitely need to recognise them. And it ain’t easy. Because we do try to be so “PC”.

What I think that girl and I were saying to each other was, what are the unconscious thoughts and assumptions that govern the way we converse between each other. Do I sit down and talk to her with a notion of, “that’s cute” or “look how white and western and civilised post-94 has made you”. Does she speak to me like she is inferior, or that I wouldn’t really have a clue how to understand her, as I am a rich white girl….which means I have a closed-off mind and unchallenged life and ideas.

Are there any racial thoughts that you do have that you try to fight against or suppress within yourself? What do you really think about another group of people? For whatever reason – lessons, parents’ influence, experience?

What about your experience is governed by what your upbringing put into you? Are your experiences shaded by labels you were taught by Apartheid-raised parents and teachers?

Do our conversations and actions still hold traces of Apartheid and the enforced notion of the benefit of separation of races?

I do not believe I have to defend myself to anybody else. Bugger that. But I do want to know how my own mind is shaped and how it operates. I do know several years back I realised and accepted that I did own the idea that any poor black man was a rapist. In recognizing it, and brining it into my consciousness, I was able to work through the idea, that it was an outside notion, and that I do think it is ridiculous.

The same way that people hold the idea that poverty means lawlessness. Bullshite. I have met and worked with many destitute people who do not turn to crime. Who work their asses off, in principled manners. How more derogatory can you get than saying, “Oh, it’s ok if you steal from me, I understand you have so little”.

You take value and respect away from a person by holding onto such stereotypes. With your interactions occurring though such ideas, so is your learning of the world immediately shadowed and limited. And the longer you try not to recognize that such stereotypes do exist in your head, cause it’s not “PC’ to think that way, so the longer and harder do you hold onto them.

I have not been raped by a black African man. I have not caught a disease from sharing the same toilet with black women in Orange Farm. My mate who is Indian has never tried to con me out of my money. (Hmmm…. I don’t think…. But she is always one step ahead of me….Chikita, I am watching you! ;-) ) My streetkid never stole from me and still loves getting hugs (saw him Friday, and he is no longer homeless!!). An Afrikaans mate does laugh her head of at the notion of having to pronounce clicks when saying a Zulu name. A white friend from the Far East Rand is bouncing off walls cause of her engagement to a doctor, who happens to be a Eastern Cape Xhosa guy. My coloured mate…hey, hold on, do I currently have any mates who are coloured? Well there was that one cute business guy on Friday night….but hmmm, nope. And does it matter? Do I need that for my quota? Do I have friends of other skin tones who I say are my good friends, but when it comes to the crunch, such as inviting them into my house, do I hesitate? And if so, why? And what do I need to do to work through this odd but very real notion?

Do I hold people back when I consider them inferior in thought, mind, body and soul? And how on earth do I expect us to become THE developed country of this globe if I subconsciously do not believe that the people I am aiding to gain all opportunities can cope with these opportunities and the goals at the end.

As Ryland Fisher points out, do we see South Africa as having a Black Government, or a South African Government. And if the former, what does this really say at the back of your head? How much support and respect are you giving to these people who pull the strings of your state? Or are you just waiting for them to fail?

Then I sat back, sipped more cocktails, which turned into bad white wine, I collided into past mates, ended up standing on a bar counter on my ace singing about being a “Sweet transvestite” and no longer maintained comprehensible conversation.

And everyone of every colour just shook their collective head.

Sweet.

12 comments:

ChewTheCud said...

No one is politically correct in their head. What you say and do can be PC, but there's whole realms of PC besides the race card, and we all think our own thoughts.

You can't really catch anything from toilet seats, unless you lick it or something. You're more likely to get flu from the faucets than Hepatitis from the seat.

Your thinking does depend on your upbringing though. As a kid we were the few english speakers in a heavily afrikaans school. That there influenced me a lot.

I don't tend to think about race much. A friend pointed out on Saturday, after his Chinese girlfriend got in the car, that we had pretty much full representation of all race groups (Black, Indian, Chinese, White)in the car - I hadn't noticed. But then again I am the token white guy ;)

Daedalus said...

Shampoooooo MWAH!

Token White guy ... Chewy? LOL!

6000 said...

Interesting post - insightful and honest as ever.
Did you see my "Big South African Crime Post" over at www.6000.co.za?

Would welcome your thoughts.

6000 said...

Oh - and P.S. I saw Ryland on SABC2 this morning - hope he's a better writer than interviewee.... ;@(

iScatterling said...

Out of the entire piece I came away out agreeing 100000% that you will be doomed if you allow Political Correctness in.

PC is bad, bad, bad. Here in UK it is recognised as doing nothing but bad.

Ever heard the police call you, their 'customer'? Oh yes.

So rapists, burglars, murderers, etc are their custometrs? No we are! Yep, we are the customers who cannot get good service because the PC world made them adopt leniency instead of strict discipline and adherence to the law.

Ever heard a cop talk PC? It is the most laughable inane and embarrassing bit of non-speak you will ever hear.

PC was adopted at all levels of life. In business and in local councils. It was just sick. And it still exists. Got a letter from an idiot at West berkshire County Council telling me that they 'encourage their customers' to communicate blah blah blah.

What a load of bollocks. Some spineless arse (male) at the council can't call a spade a shovel because the PCers say so. Crap.

So please do not let PC in to dictate what you say. Conversations become so stilted and you do end up having a useless and unresolved discussion.

Being PC does not help solve society's issues. You have to be free of PC shackles to get anywhere along the road to full and unbiased intergration.

Champagne Heathen said...

Chews - there are so many ridiculous assumptions and myths out there, which is why everyone needs to reflect occasionally on their own perspectives & thinkings of the world. Especially the thinking that takes place on a more unconscious level...which is usually created during our development years. This post happens to be about my thinking of this nation's thinking of "race".

Daeds - Hello! I won't send you smooches. I'm sick. *Cough hack cough*

6000 - Hi! Long time! I will def. check your post out today. And thanks for the compliment - but as long as it made you think...

Damn, must have missed that interview, although I do think I missed most things this morning! Mondays!! ARGH!!

Robaloni - I like to think I am diplomatic, rather than PC. I choose my words carefully when in such convos, to get my point across as clearly as possible as it is such a delicate subject that it might be mistranslated in someone's filters when they hear/ read when I am explaining my view point. I want people to engage as openly as possible on such a topic, rather then battling defenses right from the start.

And yes, when someone is too PC, you don't even need the defense. The convo is blocked already, as no one is speaking openly!

Revolving Credit said...

OK, I saw the post title 'Race' and thought the article was about the Durban July...oops, my bad!

Radar said...

I am new to this blogging world and have been going through many, many blogs to find things of interest to read, as well as finding like minded people. What I didn;t expect to find was a means to educate myself about an entire group of our population that I really knew nothing about.

Firstly, the youth (comparing your Mellville/ Sandton jolling to mine in the 80's is an eye opener - and encouraging!)..and then, the black, urban youth. I live out in the sticks, so where am I going to have the opportunity to sit down and chat to these guys and learn what they think of life in our new SA? Its incredible, and each time I read a blog I learn and I'm encouraged and I have so much hope for this country. You guys, your generation, you are the future.

One young woman was talking about the subtleties of racism these days (white on black), and she's right. She ended her post by saying perhaps we should all be going for counselling to learn how to deal with our new country and each other.

I know racism and prejudice exist in all cultures. I also believe that it is based on ignorance. And ignorance promotes fear and fear promotes racism...and 'isms' of all kinds. Maybe through Blogs we can learn more about each other and be a little more understanding of each other.

As for PC - its the single worst thing that could ever have been invented. It prevents people from learning about each other, it promotes 'isms' and its a deadly virus to humour.

We have such a frikkin amazing country with such diverse and interesting cultures. We could learn so much cool stuff from each other and maybe one day emerge as a united nation.

I feel strongly about this. :)

Heddles said...

Champs, wow - really good post. Agree with you that it's all got to start with looking at what shapes our own thoughts and perceptions, because knowing yourself is the best way to really get to know others.

Radar, I do agree that ignorance is ultimately the most dangerous aspect of ourselves we have to deal with. And yes, we come from an incredible, amazing country and I have never loved it more.

Dolce said...

Unbelievably excellent post. Seriously, Champers. I've never read something that so exactly articulates what goes through my head when I'm trying to unravel a situation where my instinctual responses might be construed as racist (or for that matter steeped in inflexible and irrational thoughts about religion, age, gender etc etc)

I do believe we were all, collectively socialised by the mores and laws of our pre-94 lives. But as you so beautifully put it, if we can look, acknowledge, review, understand and change, we're not chained by that socialisation. We can choose to make new paths.

Champers, you rock!

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks so much for these great comments!! ...that I want to comment back to when I can think again. So...we'll get back to this discussion once Vit C kicks in.

Radar, do you have a blog? Couldn't find it through your profile.

Heddles - it is our ploy to remind you to not get too attached to that desert.

Dolce - aaah, you do make me blush! Thanks! Especially from someone I already think rocks!

Anton said...

There is one true stereotype, that Japanese are deadly. I know this.

This is my (word-rationed) tale.

My name is Anton, and I was born, and abandoned, by stingy Jews to a Japanese. I was brought up in the martial arts of Psycho Ninja Style.

I am not Immortal. But you will die (fighting me).

I reached minor mastery of Gun Gata, and then decided to move to Africa, because I wanted to ride lions to work, but I was disappointed when I arrived. I was chased by others of my clan [word ration moment]

And then there was blood everywhere, but, fortunately, not on me. So I went for a drink with a few Irish alcoholics I knew from the IRA Days. It was fun. Until some Iraqis stole some motor oil from a poor rich Kuwaiti guy, and nearby Yanks decided it was fist-i-cuffs time.

And then the night descended into one hell of a fun time, bru...