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.