Do I Look Like A Racist, Or What?
I am accustomed to the way things are in this fucked up country, and now that I’m in my sixties I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else, even if I could. But that’s not to say that I am resigned, or that my exasperation never turns to anger. On the contrary, my seething emotions frequently drive me towards confrontation of the dangerously violent kind. Like the other day when I was walking with the dog and enjoying the warm sun on my back and the sea air in my face.
It was in Crest Road, on the way to the beach. A man of about my age was unloading tools from the back of a Toyota bakkie. He was a short man with a small to medium-sized potbelly, and there was a white bandage wrapped around the forefinger of his left hand. I assumed that he had inflicted the injury to himself using a hammer, and when I recognised him as Snyman of Twist Street, I hoped that it wouldn’t be long before he delivered another blow to that finger. We had exchanged words on only one occasion, and that was when he falsely accused my dog of shitting on his pavement.
It would have been boorish to ignore him, and I try not to act like a boor, because I despise crassness and insensitivity in others, so I nodded a greeting as I passed.
“Did they also break in by you?” he said, lifting a stepladder over the tailgate.
“They’re breaking in all over,” he said, and explained that he was doing repairs to yet another house that had been burgled. This was the tenth in less than two weeks.
“Must be linked to the high unemployment,” I said.
He looked at me for a bit and then commenced his racist tirade, the like of which I have not heard in twenty years, and thought I would never be subjected to again.
“Nothing to do with unemployment,” he said. “The kaffers will steal from the white man anytime they can. The fokken kaffer is an ‘it.’ “It” is not human. It is half human and half baboon. The fokken kaffer is a halfmens. Look what they did to that farmer and his wife in the Free State. A human being doesn’t do that.”
“Atrocities are being committed all over the world all the time,” I said. “Look at how the Nazis behaved in the Second World War.”
“No,” he said. “”It’s just a pity the Germans were defeated. Adolf Hitler was right. If he had won the war there would be no fokken kaffers anywhere now.”
“I can’t believe this!” I was spluttering and had to wipe the spittle from my lips. “So you’re not only a racist but a neo-Nazi as well?”
He laughed and took it as a compliment.
“You know,” he said, “I was talking to a doctor and he explained to me that it has been proved that the fokken kaffer is not human like us. He is still half a baboon, and that’s why he behaves like a fokken kaffer. This is the missing link between real humans and baboons.”
“When was your doctor struck off the roll?” I said. “Was it before or after he talked this shit to you? You know about DNA testing? If they analysed your DNA they’d find black blood in you and all the other Afrikaners. That makes you a halfmens as well.”
“Yes, but the forefathers only frootled with the kleurling meide. Not the kaffer meide.”
“Ah, fuck man!” I said, and struck my forehead with the palm of my hand.
“You just got to look at the shape of the fokken kaffer’s head. Take Zuma. See how big the back of his head is? That’s because the front of his brain is at the back. And Mandela too. I’ve got a screen saver on my computer that changes from baboon to Mandela, and back to baboon, and you can see it is true.”
And there was more of this shit. It followed me as I walked away, and I could still hear it as I turned into Marine Road. Maybe if I had been carrying a firearm I would have shot him dead. Who knows?
And then, just three days later, I was again on my walk when Jack Prinsloo stopped his car. This is the Jack Prinsloo from Ridge Road. The man who flies the old flag and whose eyebrows encroach on his hairline. He leaned out the window.
“Yissus, but that’s a mooi hond!” he said. “Yissus, but he’s going to be big! Has he already bitten a kaffer? You must let him bite a kaffer so he can get the taste. Ha, ha, ha!”
I did a quick about-turn, hurried home, and poured myself a brandy and Coke that was more like a Coke and brandy, it was so biased on the side of brandy.
Yissus, I thought to myself, am I being targeted by these halfmense? Why are they attacking me like this? Do they think that I am one of their kind, just because I happen to be white? No, I said to myself, there’s no hope for these people. They are incapable of change, and the sooner their generation, my generation, dies out, the better.
I then fell into a mood of deep melancholy. It was no good trying to fool myself that the problem lay with the dinosaurs, and once they were extinct this kind of bigotry would also disappear. Hadn’t I been to the shop yesterday and overheard a conversation between a woman of no more than 25 and the tannie behind the till that disproved such feeble-minded optimism?
“I don’t like these new banknotes,” said the tannie.
“Yes,” agreed the young woman. “And now we’ve got to look at that face every time.”
I nearly dropped the sachet of low fat milk I was holding, I was so stunned. An abyss of disappointment had opened up in front of me and I was about to fall into it, just like that poor guy who was swallowed up by a sink ole. She had acquired the virus and no amount of reason would cure her. Nelson Mandela, for Christ’s sake!
Maybe it is just Afrikaners, I thought, clutching at straws. But on reflection I had to admit English speakers of my acquaintance are just as racist, even if the disease is a little harder to detect. The sneering remarks about ‘those people’ and the dismissive way they talk about ‘the government’ is evidence of their contempt. Not to mention the endless anecdotes about corruption, inefficiency, stupidity and incompetence. And the blatant prejudice exhibited by small-minded contributors on social media platforms like news24.
It would have been better if us whites had been butchered, or driven into the sea, back then in 1994, I thought in despair. Nearly 20 years down the line I go for a walk or buy a loaf of bread at the shop, and these horrible people who insist on giving expression to their naked racism confront me. But, I realise with deepening despair, there is something even worse than this harassment by the white racists. It is the hostility shown towards me by ordinary black folk. When I greet them in the street they avert their eyes and try to ignore me. Their demeanour is surly and resentful, and it is clear they regard me as one of those good old boys from the apartheid era. Both black and white take one look at me and assume that I am a racist. We are all racists. There is no way to alter this reality, and all we can do is drink more brandy and Coke and try to come to terms with our condition.