In order for South Africa to be truly united we need to be honest about what is dividing us, writes Khaya Dlanga.
A friend of mine told me a story a few days ago. I am still deciding whether what I heard was racist or just downright stupid.
There is no doubt that some will say this is a clear case of racism, while others will say it's stupidity. Although there is a case that says racism is stupid. Based on the previous sentence, you can draw your own conclusion.
As I was saying before I got carried away, a friend of mine told me an unbelievable story – one of those that seems so outlandish you don't know whether to laugh or slap an idiot. I'm still perplexed six days after I first heard it.
My friend has a sister. This sister is studying medicine. She is in a class with lots of other students, obviously, and we assume they are very smart people. She is black. There is nothing strange about studying medicine and being black of course but her race is relevant in this story. In this medical class my friend's sister is in a class with some white students – also a relevant detail.
My friend's sister says a white boy in her class said to her he would never sleep with a white girl who has slept with a black guy. Why? Because blacks have HIV. I'm pretty sure this part was accompanied by, "I'm not racist but." Then he went on to say that he doesn't need protection, and doesn't use protection when he has sex because he only has sex with white people. HIV, he said, is for low socio-economic groups and HIV is not in the circles he rolls in. Here is his "I'm not racist but" moment: he concluded by saying he would love to sleep with a black girl because they are pretty but he can't risk Aids.
I have no problem with his racism, I have one with his towning. I kid. I kid.
Judging by his statement, all black people are of a low socio-economic class (even though there are many black people who are more well off than him), and therefore have HIV. Also, he thinks whites don't get HIV. All this from a supposedly intelligent medical student. Is this guy an idiot or a good ol' fashioned racist? I still can't decide.
This got me wondering how many people actually think like this guy. I'm an optimist and know it's a minority who think like this. This is not because black women aspire to sleep with white men, nor because black men's greatest aspiration is to sleep with white women – although I'm sure that would be pretty awesome. Ultimately, it's just horny people sleeping with horny people. Sex has no race.
But what I liked about what this fellow said is he said what he was actually thinking. I have a lot more respect for people who can speak their minds than those who hide their racism and then pretend. I can tell this guy doesn't think he is racist at all. What kind of environment do you have to grow up in to think like this?
The whole story got me thinking about the evolution of our interaction as racial groups. Some of us went to schools where there were very few black people. In primary school the integration is unforced and completely free between the races. Then in high school a separation of the races begins that becomes incredibly obvious in the higher grades. Then after school, your white friends become mere acquaintances.
Then a funny thing happens. Those black people who actively sought to hang out exclusively with white people in school as opposed to just people, whether they be black or white, had something strange happen to them. They found that after school once they started working that their white friends weren't hanging out with them anymore. (Ok, white people, before you start getting defensive, I'm not saying this is all of you.)
Consequently, they started gravitating towards the black people they previously shunned, and then became even more pro-black to such an extent that one could call these black people now anti-white, as if they were proving their black credentials – something no one cared about really. It is only because of what they see as rejection that they decided to start hanging out with black people. They become strangely bitter towards white people – the very people they chased after and wanted to be like.
Of course you also had black people in school who just wanted to hang with other black people because they were their comfort zone, and they didn't want to try to venture into the unknown.
I wish for a South Africa where people will stop thinking that every black person they meet has HIV or will steal from them. I hope for a country where people will no longer think that every white person they meet is racist. We deserve to be a country of one people. We must strive to fulfill the idealistic vision of our national motto: !ke e: Ixarra IIke, or "united in diversity". But in order for us to get there, we have to be honest about what is going on with our divisions. Sadly, a lot of us South Africans don't even know that's our motto.