Pass My Shotgun

This morning when I woke up, I was ok.

On the train to work, I paged through the book that I am currently reading for the second time called For Whites Only by Charles Cilliers. In it, Charles explores the issue of race and how white South Africans’ should see and relate to black people, he explores the history of Apartheid and general race relations and perceptions in our country. In the middle of a chapter entitled “The Deafness of Apartheid” I stopped reading and I was no longer ok.

Maybe it was brought on by the movie “Race to Freedom” that I watched the other day about runaway slaves who wanted nothing more than to be free. Or the thought of how black slaves were treated; and how in South Africa during Apartheid, black people were not considered as citizens but as foreigners in their own country. In any case, I was rather upset.

Living in Cape Town does not help my mood. Many white people have entrenched themselves in the province and try by all means to stop the advancement of the black populace and this is reflected not only in the salaries that black people are paid, but also in the opportunities available to them. If I was to move to Joburg, there are many opportunities for me as a black man to advance my career, with extreme alacrity. Yet in the Cape one has to fight to get wages that would allow one to break free of the cycle of poverty, without having to move provinces to prove your worth. However, moving would not solve anything and if I wanted a quick BEE role, it would be easy for me.

So I think that black people are too forgiving. Ever since the “miracle of ’94” black people have been the main ones expected to forgive. The rhetoric is focused on forgetting about the past and moving on to the “rainbow nation” that we all have been told to aim for. But the white minority holds on to the money, exploit skilled workers and still pretend to want the black people to succeed. And still we have to forgive – forgive and move on.

As a black man, I am not afraid of work. In fact, it is good for one to work for their money and not sit around and expect a handout, while doing nothing. What happens, though, when you do your best and still people hold you back? You work to the bone to be a success but if you do not have connections, you will take years to establish yourself anyway, if you don’t happen to be one of the favoured few who show potential at being a protégé or puppet of those who own you, who pretend to have your best interests at heart yet see you as someone who is beneath them. And yet we have to forgive and move on.

Not all whites in the Cape are like that and it would be foolish to think that way. Yet the few who are like that give the rest of the country’s white population a bad name. Either way, it’s hard to forgive when the playing field is imbalanced. Forgiveness is for people who know they have done wrong and wish to change and it does more to heal the forgiver than the forgivee (made up word!). Forgiving should happen with people who show remorse and want to change – not those who speak to black people with a condescending attitude, or who expect others to use toilets out in the open without any shelter, while they would cry foul if that happened to them.

I am not just another angry black man blaming the whites for everything. I just believe that it does not have to take me going for a shotgun and running wild on the streets to affect change. Nor should we be afraid to face the past and confront what happened so as to move on, so that we can tell our children the stories of those times without letting bitterness creep into our hearts. This will only pass on the resentment against the whites to future generations.

And I’m not a racist – some of my best friends are white.

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