*This is a re-post of sorts, but it addresses our perceived stereotypes. Meander over to Urban Trash when you`re done reading, and hear Jeremy`s take on the same issue*
A few evening earlier I happened to be online with Jeremy when the whole aspect of racial stereotyping came up. It`s something that we, South African`s, do every single day in some way or form. It`s inherent and not always malicious but it happens. I have always railed against stereotyping of any sort and, to be honest, it`s hard to get away from it when you work in the Financial Sector. Stereotypes abound even though many of us do not conform or fit the mould. The whole question of stereotyping had me thinking of an incident, which happened a few months back, and the consequent post that followed:
On my way home yesterday, I stopped at Sodom and Gomorrah (a.k.a Cape Gate) to buy some essentials Beeno`s for the furkids, yoghurt, fruit and milk for me. I also decided to have 5 digital images developed and while I waited I decided to grab a quick cup of coffee at a coffee shop across from the Camera store. I grabbed a magazine, a seat and ordered some coffee. I was tired and grateful to be alone after a terribly chaotic day. Shortly after the waitron brought my coffee, a woman walked into the shop. I happened to glance up at the exact moment that she looked my way, and she immediately made a beeline for me. The ensuing conversation was almost surreal and left me feeling â€˜dirty`.
She: can I sit here?”
Me: *with some reluctance* sure, but I`ll be reading this magazine, ok.
She: what does that mean?
Me: it means that you can sit down, but I’m not feeling talkative. So, please don`t be offended if it seems I`m ignoring you.
She: fine *calls waiter* I`ll sit over there *takes seat at table opposite me*
I continue reading 5 minutes later
She: Hey! Just come sit here, man
Me: *look up* Excuse me? You talking to me
She: Yes, what`s you problem? Come sit here by me
Me: No, thank you
She What`s your problem? Don`t be full of shitâ€¦come sit here!! *she`s quite forceful at this point*
Me: No, I don`t want to sit there. I don`t know you. Frankly, I am not in the mood to interact with aggressive strangers and I really REALLY want to sit here by myself. I want you to leave me alone. Thank you
2 minutes later
She: So, are you from Cape Town?”
Me: *silence, reading magazine. getting more annoyed by the minute*
She: Hey, you bitch, answer me.
Me: What the F-ck did you just call me. What the hell is your problem? Do I know you? Because I don`t want to know you. Now, leave me alone!
*I`m cussing at a total stranger which is not as bad as cussing at somebody you know, but close. At this point I realise that I`m much better off just leaving. My anger was starting to catch up with me and I didn`t want to encourage a woman who, in my mind, was clearly crazy. And then she saysâ€¦and this is the clincher*
She: Jy hou verniet vir jou so sturvy. Ons is almal bruin mense hier. Ek het sommer gesien toe ek in stap. Hier sit â€˜n nog â€˜n een wat dink sy`s beter
I cannot repeat what I said at this point. The FPU always told me, Slow to Anger and Quick to Burn. But I said it quietly and succinctly and in Afrikaans (because obviously to be coloured you absolutely cannot have a command of the English language) – she left in a hurry.
This is not a political post. It might be called social commentary and it`s not a racial rant per seâ€¦it`s not about blacks who have views on whites, whites who have views on blacks, Indians who have views on Muslims. And, I wouldn`t be equipped to write on those issues, because I don`t know what it`s aboutâ€¦mostly because I don`t care. This is a post about stereotype.
Although I`ve been on a small tangent this past week, I actually don`t give a flying one about the colour of your skin. Neither do I care for people`s insistence that we still see things in black or white. My worst crime is that I`m a capitalist and very little else will sometimes matter to me. I don`t talk about the struggle because I was never in the struggle. I don`t talk about being previously disadvantaged, because I had a mother and father who made me feel extremely privileged. I cannot say that because of the colour of my skin, I did not have opportunity I had plenty of opportunities. I went to the best universities and am learned. From a very young age I was taught to appreciate fine food, fine wine, fine literature, good music and theatre. Until quite late in my teen years, I was not allowed to socialise with people that did not hold the same values as my family. And it wasn`t about social standing, it was the difference between the coloured mom who let her girls hang out on street corners, smoke fags openly in public, dressed to leave little to the imagination and bring home boys who`s greatest ambition it was to drive a taxi one day.
And then there was the FPU. She cooked a seven-course meal every Sunday, in order for us to learn dining etiquette. Till late in my teens I had a very strict curfew – 10pm on a weekend night. We were taught to dress like ladies. We were encouraged to take up any hobby we pleased and for 10 years of my life, I excelled at being the best ballerina/girl-scout/swimmer for a 30 kilometers radius *smile*
Spontaneity and good-clean fun ruled in our house and playing dress-up, catching tadpoles and snakes and building tree houses were the order of the day in my tweens.
I never saw a nightclub before my 17th birthday (when I sneaked out to the matinee). And although my school experience was a reflection of my home life full of fun and opportunity the reality of gangs and poverty flourished around us.
Today I might strive to always be polished and groomed, speak the Queen`s English, have a great job, drive a nice car, live in a beautiful home and appreciate the finest things in life. I can afford to dress in style and I can spoil my mom and dad often and well. I socialise and date all over the racial and cultural divide my only criteria being that you are â€˜good people` and are compatible to me socially, financially and, in some cases, physically.
The FPU sheltered us from the political climate. We never knew there existed a situation where we could not grab opportunity with both hands. Were we always financially flush? Absolutely not. The FPU was a single, working widow with 3 kids, a huge mortgage, 2 dogs, 1 rats, 5 snakes (my brother`s), 3 cats (I was a bit kitty crazy back then) and a budgie (which I allowed to fly away one day). But we were all fed, cared for, robust, healthy in body and mind.
However, and this is the sad part, in a world where my siblings and I see people as people (albeit there are two kinds of people good people and bad people), we are sometimes confronted by a very strange kind of cultural discrimination. There is nothing like being called sturvy or a coconut. There`s nothing like the resentment from someone who actually drags you down to their social and cultural level because they are coloured. You are coloured. And thereforeâ€¦you must interact in the same way. You must slang your language and enunciate in that endearing cape flats way which David Kramer so loves yes I`m being sarcastic you must remove perfect healthy teeth to create a â€˜passion gap`, drive a f-cked up car, be prone to being socially inept and inappropriate, speak loudly and crassly in public and have a propensity for becoming a raving alcoholic at the first sign of cheap liquor.
I don`t have an issue with my fellow South African citizens who have been led to believe that this is the way you do things when you are coloured. LOLâ€¦They`ve never been colouredâ€¦they`ve never walked on our streets and shared the same hopes dreams and opportunities. How would they know? It`s not like anybody is showing them differently. People like myself have a tendency to stay away from this kind of topic, because it means less to us than our actual goals in life.
When I visit the area I grew upâ€¦I eat Gatsby and chip roll, I laugh at the boys hanging out on the corner – trying to impress me as I drive by, I take soup to the auntie down the road because she`s been sick for a while and the FPU is concerned. I play hopscotch in the road with the kids and bitch about the stray flea-eaten dogs lounging in the middle of the road. And I eat cheap ice-suckers while sitting bare feet on the pavement and I make no excuses for it (because it`s lekker)â€¦ but THAT is not the thing and the whole of the thing. There`s more to what defines me than that.
It doesn`t change this one single thing – the only things that might matter is that my green eyes look more startling than it should and I have to be careful with my make-up. Oh, and I can wear my hair curly or straightâ€¦
I have brown skin. So what?
*the princess likes a particularly cheap ice-sucker called Custard Dream. It stains you mouth acid green. In the same breath, she`d like to mention that the finest gelato she`s ever tasted came from a little shop on the Piazza Nova in Roma. But the sucker SO kicks the Gelato`s arse*