Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Stuck in Between

Last weekend I went to a reunion of sorts. It began with meeting some friends the night before and catching up in a restaurant that objectifies American Indians. A fact that is entirely lost in the hype that surrounds what would be no more than a TGIFs stateside.

Why you may ask would a South African franchise need to identify itself with an Indian mascot? Does the Indian mascot symbolize a time when Indians ate steak and calamari on "steak ranches"?

And what the hell is a steak ranch anway? Huh?

Nothing real of course! The imagery is a fiction of the racist white imagination. A degrading fiction that Allen Ambor added to when he founded Spur in 1967. Someone told me that Ambor laughs off the criticism that he is using a degrading mascot. He sees nothing wrong with objectifying Indians into Mohawk Spur, Cherokee Spur, Apache Spur, among others.

And what about this concept of a spur? There is a little more than just irony in the fact that a spur is a legendary device that cowboys use to dig into the sides of the horses they command. The purpose is to goad the horse. What do you think Ambor intended the relationship between a spur and an Indian to be?

I'm not surprised. Why would Ambor be anymore sensitive than the Atlanta Braves, for example? And apparently, many South Africans are none the wiser. The Spur is the most successful franchise in South Africa.

Even Oprah said it was her favourite restaurant in South Africa. On a trip here in 2006 she took a busload of folks from the 'township' to eat at a Spur. Should she not know better than to lend her name to the Spur? But then again we are talking about Oprah ... the sometimes living reincarnation of Aunt Jemima.

I am guilty of going to a Spur at least three times since my return to South Africa in 2005. Each time I went with trepidation ... but I went. In the apartheid days of my youth the Spur was a "whites only" establishment. Last Friday night there was only a hand full of whites in the Spur.

We have overcome ... enough to trample on in much the same way. I am sorry. I know better.

Next time we are not going to the Spur! Ok? See the Pudgy Indian blog for many other reasons why.

The reunion turned out to be what I expected. A couple of close friends made the time seem more valuable than it really was. And I got to spend time with she who knows me.

Ummmm, you may ask what I'm on about. Many strands here but I'm stuck in between stuff and struggling with knowing and not knowing. Much of my thinking tonight has to do with re-reading parts of Cedric Robinson's "Black Marxism". It is a hard book to read. But it is a book that critiques the subject matter very thoroughly and has made me re-think some of my thoughts on racism and capitalism.

Robinson argues that we can't seperate the two. He is right. In South Africa capitalism has advanced on the backs of Blacks. There is no aspect of capitalism here, or anywhere, that can be entirely deracialized. I remember how in the apartheid days there were department stores like Edgars that had Black sister-stores called Jet (jet Black you think?). Edgars, a clothing store, was for white people. Jet was for Blacks.

Some may be surprised to know that these stores, and their racialized positioning, still exist in the post-apartheid era. Why would it have changed though? Apartheid lives/persists.

What is different is that some Blacks have access. Access enough to eat at the Spur and have accounts at both Edgars and Jet. However, Jet stocks Black-wear! You know, stuff Black people wear and white people don't ... geez broer.

So there I was standing next to a 'coloured' man while he looked on with envy at a Black man driving past in a flashy C-class Mercedes. He remarked with notable disdain: "All Blacks drive a Mercedes today. They are the ones with all the money in the new South Africa."

They do? They are? And I was thinking that our country is filled with desperately poor Black people living in the impoverished margins just like when that racist and murderous sh*t P.W. ruled us.

But then again, this is capitalism. It disfigures us. It wants us to forget. It makes us forget. It raises false markers and draws us to its products and its f**ked up values. This we do even while the vast majority can never live the capitalized life. If even we imagine that they do.

But our leaders persist in programmed conformity while the masses are still the downtrodden who 'pay' for the failure of capitalism. And the Spur continues to front like it is just a "steak ranch" ...


Eugene said...

Wow! It sure is odd knowing about this shit happening in South Africa. Lord knows we get enough of it here in the states.

I'm an Indian, and yes this is offensive and RACIST. It dehumanizes my folks. It makes us an other. An object. Not unsimilar to "...nits make lice," a comment by Chivington just prior to slaughtering hundreds of PEACEFUL Indian folks. The only difference is that it isn't followed by instant gratification killing. The killing comes in different forms today.

The killing of Indians comes with medical incinerators leaving cancer causing toxic waste on our reservations, dirty mining, diabetes, occasional racist killings, economic oppression, apartheid light, and so much more.

As an Indian, I must say I for one do not appreciate knowing that we are not only getting this shit here in this racist fucking nation currently known as the U.S., but we are also getting it in other nations. South Africa surprises me.


Ridwan Laher said...

Thanks for looking in Eugene. I hope my readers here will look in on your blog for more on your thinking.

I certainly will.

I was travelling in India recently when I came across a liquor store called Apache Liquors in New Delhi.

I had to stare long and hard at the mascot of an Indian and just shake my head.

The Spur franchise begun in the apartheid era but it is very much part of this post-apartheid reality. I would be very surprised if any Black folk own a franchise ... many eat there though.

Just recently they had TV ads using people of East Indian descent playing the Indian role ... replete with Tee Pees and bows and arrows.

Sick sh*t. But no-one said a damn thing. It is pretty much a non-issue in race debates here.

Folks are just so disconnected from the racism and history you point to.

And that is a great shame!

The struggle continues no doubt.