Being Black in Cape Town

I heard a story of an Italian man who married a black woman, adopted a couple of black kids and lives in what can be termed a wealthy, white neighbourhood. The kids attend the local wealthy schools like all the kids around them, they all live in a nice house and they are living a better life than what most black people in the Cape are experiencing.

The problem with this  South African story is that no one wants them there.

The children have never been invited to any birthday parties that their neighbours have thrown for their kids,nor have they been to any parties that their classmates have organised. The neighbours wanted to know if the man was trying to turn “their” neighbourhood into Khayelitsha.  To top it all off, this family has had apartheid style raids conducted on their home, with the police claiming that they are looking for drugs; yet it just so happens that they are the only house where these raids happen. Not only that, they happen during the night when no one else can see (except maybe the neighbours who called them in the first place) and these have taken place more than once.

When sharing this story with some friends, I was informed that  in Port Elizabeth, there is an area where black people find it very hard to buy any property, because it is said that black people bring down the value of such places.

So how does one begin to think about interacting with the white population, especially in the Cape? Many black people have left to go to Johannesburg, because that is a place where a black person can not only find success in their career, but also have better life opportunities that do not seem to exist for black people in Cape Town. Those of us who are left behind try to make a life for ourselves, but it seems all the decks are stacked against us. As much as I try to interact with most white people here, it seems impossible to relate to them at all.

There are some anomalies though, those whites who not only lend a helping hand to try to lift one out of a rut, but also want to know who you are beyond the colour of your skin. Every time I meet up with them or talk to them, they leave me in awe at the idea that they are those who are willing to go beyond their comfort zones and make an effort to reach into a black person’s life. And when they welcome you into their family as if you belonged there, it usually leaves me stunned for the whole time I am with them.

So being black in the Cape seems to be a disadvantage from the start – from shop assistants that don’t give you the light of day except to take your money, to those who still think you can’t afford anything they have when you walk in. As a black person in the Cape I am not treated the same way as a white guy, simply because your financial capability as a black person is judged by your skin colour. But it doesn’t matter how much money I can make, being black means I still will not be accepted in the rich white circles, unless I have shown the slave mentality of trying to please all the members of that group by licking their boots and looking stupid. Only when superiority has been established am I fit to even listen to their conversations, while remaining the token black guy who carries the opinions of all the black people in the country.

Just like during the days of slavery, black people have gained their liberty, but what constitutes freedom is dictated to us by the very whites who oppressed us. We lack an understanding of what freedom really means; we see it as having the same liberties as the white people do, so you see black people buying cars they can’t afford, living off credit to make themselves look good in white people’s eyes and doing everything else that can make black people as white as possible even in their black skins.

And it seems the slavery days will continue for a while to come, because the very white communities that are still discriminating against the blacks are teaching their children the same thing, which is that black people are beneath them. And so racism refuses to die, because behind closed doors, being white is still seen as having might, since the economy is being controlled by rich white people.

Coming back to the original story – what the white affluent neighbours don’t realise is that one day, they will wake up and they will be surrounded by rich, black neighbours. And we all know that most black people don’t live in a big house alone; they will bring loved ones in and truly make their own Khayelitsha.  And for those white people who don’t know what it means, look it up and you will see why it is so appropriate that all oppressed people turn their place of residence into Khayelitsha.

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