Wednesday, December 12, 2007

That Familiar Dread

In the days of apartheid I remember the dread I felt each time I stepped onto a plane bound for South Africa.

Most of the dread had to do with being in the presence of white South Africans and hearing them grunt through Afrikaans as they pontificated on this about America and that about South Africa.

I remember trying to stay away from the waiting area for as long as possible. I was never ready to feel the weight of the apartheid gaze even as it hovered above my body at JFK.

As the years passed things changed as changes marched in South Africa.

The dread for me has, however, stayed much the same. I am still not entirely square with being among white South Africans.

And yes, I recognize that some white South Africans have embraced changes.

Still, the vast majority are unrepentant and often very vocal about their lost privileges.

My trip home this time was uneventful in these terms. I sat in-between two mothers and their infants on one leg of the journey and found myself liking the experience.

On the final leg I sat in-between two sistas from Zimbabwe. Except for the last hour we mostly slept in silence.

In the last hour we pondered all things Mugabe.

It was not till I got to the airport that whiteness pressed against my consciousness and reminded me that not much has changed.

To my dismay, I was standing behind a white man in the customs line who thought it his duty to bemoan the lack of efficiency of "black South Africa" ...

He went on and on complaining about Africa and Africans and the embarassment he felt being South African.

I said nothing. My tired head wanted to feel the presence of being back home. The last thing I wanted was to engage another white racist about the content and character of my "Soil".

But try as hard as one may to escape the hands of whiteness in South Africa, it is just a moment away at most times.

Today I had the pleasure of having a white woman smash into my car from the rear only to have her grunt with dismissive condescension in my direction.

"I am not a thief" she said to me in Afrikaans after she tried to escape the scene of the accident. "Who do you think I am?" she asked as I tried to get her insurance information.

"Get me a pen" she demanded as I stood by the crushed rear of my still very new car.

My being filled with familiar dread and disgust as the interaction progressed. I felt her contempt for my skin and presence in the manner that she ordered her position around me.

I was, after all, in her way.

Some white South Africans will take exception to my description here. But I know of what I speak. And so do most Black and Other South Africans who have had their lives ordered by whiteness.

I know there have been changes and I am not painting with one brush. But let me be clear, most white South Africans are hardly a repentant lot.

If they were, they would confront the past and change the racist manner in which most of them live among the majority of us.

Until they do, I will always expect apartheid to define our interaction in any context, and the dread I know too well will hardly go away.



Dione said...

Thank you for your post about your voyage home. My thoughts were with you at that time, as they are now:)
I feel sadness, followed by anger when I hear about Apartheid's evil affect on society.

While no one deserves to be treated as a second class citizen, it's a greater more complex struggle for you to return home and have white south africans who most likely don't have your level of intellegence, and for sure lack your level sophistication treat you such in such horrible way. Karma will take care of the lady who hit your car, and I hope shes paying for that even if she doesn't want to.
Just remember how good you are, and what happens to racist cowards in the after life.
I wish for your days to be filled with happyness and enjoyment.
Your writing here about your experiences is well apreciated :)



Shus li said...

I am both infuriated and heartbroken that my brother Ridwan is treated this way by whites.

And I am infuriated and and heartbroken that my brother Alvin Franklin, whom I've never met, sleeps under a bridge in New Orleans close to the Lafitte housing. He has been barred from there, along with I believe 240 families who also lived there. FEMA plans to tear this housing, pre-Katrina 100% Black occupied, even though the housing is perfectly livable.

And it goes on and on.

I'm sorry that you have landed in the middle of being treated like this, Ridwan.

Blessings to you,


Ridwan said...

**Hello Dione. Thanks for your comment. As you know I write about race and racism because it is important to be straight-up and put it out there.

I expect that most white SAfricans would contest my version of their reality but then again I am not in denial.

**Shush li it is so sad to hear about Alvin Franklin and FEMA's plans.

If Katrina showed anything it was that American apartheid lives on. It is a sad and infuriating reality for sure.

Are there plans to protest?

Thank you for your blessings my sista. It means the world to me and I feel your spirit close.

Peace and struggle!


Dione said...

Continue to stay strong Ridwan. It hurts me to hear about how you are treated in South Africa. I cried when you wrote many of us about your hair cut story when you returned home in 04. I admire your courage to continue to be a good person when others are not as conciderate; and that you do write here and tell people how it really is. Blogging is another form of getting the news to the people from the people. You are a great example to everyone.
Peace to you:)

Eugene said...

KILL WHITEY! ...Did I write that outloud?...

Dade said...

Amazing...I've got no patience for people like the woman who rear-ended you, Ridwan. I take consolation in knowing that she must be a very miserable person, caught in a world where she feels cheated and offended and unrecognized. A miserable existence, indeed.

Ed Carson said...

Sorry to hear that, Ridwan.

Eugene - so you want to see me killed too?? How does one wrong make another one right ? In which case I'd be perfectly justified in killing black people because of what I've experienced at the hands of some?

Eugene said...

Uh, Ed, it is a darkly humorous response to the actions ALREADY taken up by your folks on a CLEAR AND CONSISTENT basis to this day.

To be honest, I get the humor from your fellow white brother, Michael Moore. See the title of Chapter 4 of his book, "Stupid White Men."

I say these things as a shocker because the LAST thing white folks want is to be treated the way they've treated minorities, women, the poor, children, etc. They don't want to be treated in the same manner, but they certainly are willing to REMAIN complicit if not take direct action themselves.

It is also a phrase that just might put you in the place of self-reflection then action. Like I said, you all have been and ARE doing this to this day, and you all don't want to be treated like you've treated others or remain complicit in the treating of others.

People used to bitch to me about "special Indian rights." I tell them to line up to be raped and beaten like they did our children in boarding schools. To have their families killed. To have their survivors perpetually humiliated by the use of brute cultural force. But they aren't talking about "those" special rights. They're talking about the special rights of self-determination.

So I ask you, Ed, to take a SERIOUS look at what YOUR culture has done and perpetuates to this day, then do something about it, other than telling me then that it would be OK for you to kill black people when I make such a comment. Truth is, you just might be already, just maybe not directly nor with your knowledge.

Eugene said...

Oh, and one more thing, Ed, since your folks have ACTUALLY already been killing black folks, Indians, Arabs, Afghanis, Iraqis, Phillipinos, Vietnamese, etc., etc., etc. Wouldn't it then ACTUALLY be OK, using your same logic, to KILL WHITEY!?

Ed Carson said...

Eugene, I'm a South African, not an American. I've been to the States once, and that's about it. Ironically, I was suspected to be a 'terrorist' at Logan International (and then at London Heathrow) because I was sporting a beard and had so many stamps from Arab countries in my passport...

No, I don't think it's OK to kill Whites because some Whites have killed, are killing, or are benefiting from the killing of Arabs, etc. Just like it's not OK to kill Arabs or Muslims because some Arabs or Muslims have killed Americans. And so on.

Hey Eugene, I don't know if you've read some of my comments here. I think I've come a long way. Do you expect people to change overnight, especially when some of their racism is related to personal experiences and trauma? And then again, I never claimed ACTING on my racism was justified. And I do think that Arabs' anger and hatred of the U.S and Israel is understandable and justified, just not the way they've gone about expressing it (just like I despise U.S actions in the Arab world and elsewhere ).

Eugene said...

I'm just saying it was dark humor. I do not want to kill white folks for being white folks. However, as an Indian, white folks have killed my folks for being Indian and continue to do so to this day, though with what GHWB would call a "kinder/gentler" hand of genocide.

Another example is I often tell folks, all folks of all colors, that "I want everything back." The first reaction out of white folks is, "Where is Eugene going to deport me?" You see, these folks, knowing that justice has never been served as far as the genocide against my folks (which continues), and that their being here is actually illegal (unlike the Mexicans), the fact that they think of themselves first, and the fact that they think of themselves as the end all and be all or the ultimate expression of humanity, that undoubtedly I would behave exactly like they do; thus deport, torture, kill, genocide, rape, slavery, etc. They fail to see clearly that they are beneficiaries of these things and that the whole world has to change. These things don't have to happen and never had to happen this way. Justice has never been served, folks have gotten away with the most horrific crimes.

I don't want to kill whitey, I want white folks and those who identify with with the system that continues this type of behavior, that there have been and are some serious crimes being enacted that have to be changed. The whole system has to go. They system is not the end all and be all expression of humanity. They system is genocidal in nature because it needs violence to steal other peoples resources.

It doesn't have to be that way, it never has had to be that way, it is that way, and everyone has to do their part to change it, otherwise, I think it is safe to say that the whole world is pretty much screwed.

Thank you for coming a long way, but again, there are things that need to be examined and put in our personal aresenals in our attempts to change the world.