No Black in the Rainbow

I not so recently got a job in Pretoria… after I received my acceptance letter I squealed a bit called my sister to celebrate and together we jumped around like the primates from which we evolved… as we were catching our breath my sister asked me how I’d “survive” in Pretoria with all the racism there. I told her that I didn’t think whatever racism remained in the country’s capital could be extreme… I would soon learn that there’s no “black” in the rainbow… not yet anyway… and on closer inspection you’ll find that there’s not much brown or “white” either…

Every place I find myself in teaches me a new lesson about life and even more about the sociological bubble I grew up in. While, it would be unfair to over-generalize and say that Pretoria is a racist city… Allow me to be unfair at this juncture. The irony of Pretoria’s racism is that it is juxtaposed with the internationalization of the country. Pretoria, as the country’s capital is a hub of international activity… that is how I found myself seeking employment here in the first place. The non-believer in me told me that people who allege racism are those who perpetrate it and so I reasoned that because I wasn’t racist I wouldn’t experience it… twisted logic I know, but I tend to try to rationalize irrational behaviour… suffice it to say, I was wrong.

My article is likely to only make people more aware of the “racism” – latent or otherwise – in the beautiful jacaranda tree-lined capital city… and in effect it might actually perpetuate the vicious cycle that South African society is failing to extricate itself from… BUT maybe, and only maybe, this heightened awareness will allow people to reevaluate their own relations with their friends, coworkers and Jack and Jill on the street… only maybe.

I have always said that racism is an external manifestation of your own internal self-loathing and/or feelings of inadequacy. My sentiments have not changed because the racism I have suffered has mostly come from people who don’t know me, people who attempt to measure my successes and failures within a split second at the till at my local supermarket and decide there and then that I am either not worthy of their services or grab hold of their bags because, the flying spaghetti monster forbid, I might just try to snatch their handbag and run home… aaah well.

In writing this note, I had one person in mind… a seemingly friendly girl who told me that I could not live with her because “[she’s] not sure her friends would be comfortable with [her] living with ‘a person like [me]’” (her words not mine). Unfortunate as it is that Miranda had no idea what ‘a person like me’ is other than that I have a high level of melanin, she got her way… I changed house…

So, here I am… trying with great difficulty to put a little black spot on the rainbow that is South Africa… but maybe the whole notion of a rainbow is inherently flawed… given that it makes it so patently clear that we are all not one “colour”… I’ll take an amorphous mélange of colour any day… or some whiskey… on the rocks… shaken, not stirred.

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