Brendon Shields
Brendon Shields

Why (I think) I don’t have more black friends

A comment by Sunday Times columnist and author Ndumiso Ngcobo on Twitter got me thinking recently. Ndumiso tweeted that “in a country with an 80% black population it must take some effort to not have any close black friends” – or something along those lines.

Ndumiso is of course spot on. While I lived in Ireland I had friends from numerous nationalities and we all worked and socialised and debated together. However back in Mzansi I do not have a single close African friend. Most of my weekend was consumed trying to answer the simple question: “why the hell not?” Allow me to sell you my “excuses” here:

Firstly, I would like to have close African friends for the simple reason that a homogenous friendship circle is boring. Us whiteys for most part watch the same TV programmes, laugh at the same dumb YouTube videos, consume by and large the same music and share roughly the same political ideology. This makes for rather dull dinner-time conversation. I therefore have good enough reason to want black mates. Now at this juncture I wish I could add the cliché “it’s not for a lack of trying” — but this would be telling a big fat lie. I have given up trying to make black friends and after some soul-searching this weekend come to realise why.

I am prejudiced and stuck in a comfort zone.

Prejudice
My wife and I, upon moving back from Ireland in 2003 chose to live in the suburb of Yeoville in Johannesburg. We had lived there prior to moving to Ireland and for most part enjoyed the experience. It was also one of the few places we could afford to buy property. In our complex we were the only white family among other African, Indian and coloured families. I got on well with most of my neighbours and the suburb in general taught me much about my country and my continent. I shopped for my vegetables in the street, had my hair cut on the street and drank in the local bars.

But as time went by I realised some distinct differences between “us and them”. Our body corporate did not earn enough money to maintain the luxuries such as the swimming pool and the garden and this was the cold reality of living in an area built for the wealthy and now occupied by the lower middle class. However whereas I would spend any free time trying to clean the garden and cut the grass and remove glass from the driveways, my neighbours seemed content with throwing parties in the dirty garden and adding to the waste by not picking up their own beer bottles, food packets etc. Inside their own homes it was always spotless but the communal areas were shown no respect. I would literally be out in the garden plucking weeds and collecting rubbish while the rest of the community would be on their balconies living it up. They must have enjoyed seeing whitey in the garden sweating while they got to live a little! Made for a nice change!

Now I know I tend to be anal about these things. At Wits as a student for example I loved watching the live soccer games at Bidvest Stadium yet I could never understand why the toilets could not just be cleaned prior to a game! Today I generalise as if all black people in all living complexes would act the same way – which of course is not true – yet the experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

Now prejudiced, I started noticing more “differences”. Some couples for example would send their kids to substandard schools in the area yet had enough money to purchase some extravagant motor cars and clothing. Also how my neighbours had very little respect for each other by playing loud music late into the night — at times outside in the hallway right next to where small kids were asleep. It downright pissed me off and slowly I found myself becoming more and more reclusive. I got on well with everyone but was no longer interested in forming deeper relationships with anyone. I wanted to be left alone to carry on my life in my own way. Instead of confronting everyone about it I chose to keep it to myself in the fear that I will be labelled a racist.

Comfort zone
My time as a student at Wits and the two stints in Yeoville offered me a great opportunity to make life-long black friends and enrich my life in South Africa — yet a few bad experiences made me close up to “others”. Today I regret this yet find myself in a comfort zone where I no longer really care. I don’t want to listen to hip-hop as I find it shallow. I do not understand kwaito yet the repetitive nature of its melody makes me not want to understand it either. I no longer want to engage the historical black political narrative as todays politicians make me think the whole struggle was nothing but the transfer of power from one group of psychos to the next. I don’t want to go to a Bafana game anymore because they suck at football and because at the last game I attended my cellphone was stolen. In short, I don’t want meet black South Africans half way anymore.

I may culturally have more in common with a Pakistani brought up in Canada than I have a with Sesotho guy who grew up in my own town. And whereas in the past this bothered me, it no longer does. The sad truth is that if I were to have a real meaningful friendship with a black South African today, he or she will have to almost be like me. In the meantime we will hug and pretend to be great friends every time we win or host a World Cup and afterwards retreat to our homes and places of work where in the name of political correctness we will avoid confrontation.

Tags: , , ,

  • Racism, sexism and homophobia: Which prejudice is worse?
  • Racism in SA is real and it matters
  • Rampant racism in the US, the land of the not so free
  • Education reform: Raising the floor or raising the ceiling?
    • Brendon Shields

      #tofolux you need to reign in the anger kid. Put on the headphones and listen to some soft soothing 80’s rock. I find it works best. If that does not work try peanut M&M’s?

    • Brendon Shields

      I urge everyone to read Miranda’s blog post on the link she provides above. She says roughly the same thing but a bit more eloquently. Its a great debate and for that I thank everyone.

    • http://www.quentinduplooy.co.za Quentin du Plooy

      I am glad you have finally laid bare the pretence that exists in your social circles, your class, your type. You look kinda cool, hip and open minded – yet underneath that act is a polite white supremacist.

      the ever articulate Gillian Schutte in her response to your crap article.

    • Shaka

      It’s something I have been thinking about as well recently. I’m black, 26 and I’m a professional with a varsity degree. I was fortunate enough to attend multiracial schools from the word go, and got a good education. At primary school race didn’t matter to any of us. We’d all happily play together daily, and some kids would even spend weekends at each others’ homes. As soon as I got to high school we all gradually started separating into little groups by our races. This happened subconsciously, I’d like to believe, and by matric we’d drifted apart markedly. The only time we would hang out with other races was on the rugby or cricket field. In fact white kids didn’t even try out for soccer, and neither did the black kids for swimming. So amazingly by then we’d all decided which sports were appropriate for whites and which ones for blacks. The coloured and Indian guys were always inbetween (although Indians had no interest in rugby). Basically throughout varsity and now at the workplace I didn’t/don’t hang around White people at all. It’s not something that I do on purpose, it’s just the way things are in this country. We don’t really relate, and when we do try it always ends up being awkward and dare I say pretentious. We can’t force this issue. It’s a gap that we should hope that our kids will close down, and that their kids will close down v=even further. I’d like to believe that we are on the right path. Just look at any multiracial high school these…

    • Sbudah

      Brendan, I’m a darkie. Let’s be friends!? I love that you came out and said this, the way you said it and that makes me appreciate you. I hope you will take up my friendship offer

    • http://www.wachizungu.com Wachizungu Sawa Sawa

      Brendon, you have made your points. But not well, I’m afraid. You speak for yourself and perhaps an insignificant portion of our populace. Certainly not for me. and do mot let names fool you. The way you have raised things here cannot be considered helpful and positive in dealing with our challenges. There is no art in being “clever” about real social challenges. You come across as bright and full of ideas. Why not use your talents in a more positive way and write about how we can deal with the effects of our past, today. Now. Together. It’s not as if everybody who lived in SA pre-94 suddenly upped and left. They were the same people who woke up on the day after elections. Societal damage isnt cured with words alone. We are faced with far too much moaning and groaning. Let’s buck up and deal with things by understanding what has brought us here, acknowledging it and then seek collective solutions. Be cool, dude! Moaning isnt cool at all.

    • Turag

      I agree with Ashlin. Your neighbours are not ambassadors for all black people anymore than you are the ambassador for all whites.

      Putting a person’s race as their most defining characteristic is just small minded, ignorant and lazy.

      It’s also not very friendly.

    • Len Anderson

      What racist drivel, based on ignorant assumptions and generalizations by someone who believes the world has to be defined based on the perspective. Really do not care for bigots like you and thankfully, need not make an effort. I however do not judge other whites on the assumption and generalization that they are all ignorant, bigoted and arrogant like you. Return to Ireland, please, though I doubt the Irish can deal with your bigotry

    • Richard

      @Brendon, it is amazing how much people hate truthfulness. They would rather live in a fake world created by advertising and trashy films than face how people really interact. The comments are disturbing in their narrowness, and in forcing prevailing ideologies. How do these people feel, for example, about Islam and women (as in lack of friendships between men and women in that society, lack of equality, etc.) or prejudices like the caste system in India? I’ll bet they have no opinions because their ideology gives such people “out” clauses for various political reasons. They can only react as they do because it is ideological in South Africa, and they feel they will earn Noddy badges by spouting the party line. The odd honest reaction to your article gives one hope, the rest hide behind mindless recitations of the party-line.

    • DeeGee

      @Boitumelo “Whenever i see a white patient, i have to first say calming things to myself so as to prepare for their generally demanding and sometimes unreasonable, bordering on annoying nature.” Brilliant! The best sentence I have read on Thought Leader for a very, very long time. Made me smile (mostly because I know exactly what you mean as I have seen it too many times).

      @ Tofolux (December 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm). Are you for real? Unless you’re from the school of thought that black people can’t be racist. The difference between Brendon and you is that at least he admits it….

    • DeeGee

      And Brendon, get over yourself. I agree with Ngelengele (the overall post and particular in reference to class and race being separate things). You’ve wound up a few people it would seem – posters here and few other bloggers. Maybe that was the idea.

    • Ts’epo

      This piece (I think) was written with good intent, though its said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Thought provoking non-the less, though this discussion is happening over the internet in the comfort of our own reclusive bubbles, it would be more interesting had it been a live forum.

      WE ALL HAVE PREDUCES, they just come in different flavours, and I applaud Brendan for his honesty, I just think he hasn’t been honest enough. As #Pitso has noted, something as simple as the correct use of the endonym of the people he “grew up” around shows how uninterested he has been to socialise with black south africans from the on set. However we also need to realise that the social cohesion that we expect to occur, is a really far fetched expectation.

      Our prejudices are also formed in contexts, for instance, people that meet at school, are bound to be more cohesive with each other as they do not get to live together, and the most important thing they gather from eachother is academic, sports, or other extra curricular activities.

      I do think some of the other comments are a little unnecessary as they don’t seem to be constructive but rather lash out, which gets us nowhere. To you Brendan I think its still too early post-apartheid to get over the baggage but atleast you are trying and will hopefully teach you children better because you sir and most of the working generation are damaged goods.

    • Zeph

      @Boitumelo – and your frankness comes through in what you write. With honesty we can get somewhere!

    • karen

      Geez Brendon. The worst kind of expat is the one that comes back. You can’t leave and then come back and think things are going to be the same. You missed so much while you were in Ireland. Then you move back to Yeoville – why? Did you think that SA was in a time warp and that it would be exactly the same as when you left? Lots of trendy lefties hanging in Rocky street listening to Cherry Faced Lurchers? No buddy. Things changed and you weren’t here to be part of it. Sorry you missed out. Maybe if you’d stayed you would not have fallen into the trap of comparing South Africans with Europeans. It cannot be done. We are not like them, thank God. We are admittedly a very damaged and confused dysfunctional family that really, really want to make it work but we don’t quite know how. Your piece could have been a bit less condescending and a bit more self-deprecating. You’re probably not as racist as you come across but why don’t you start making an effort to find common ground instead of focusing on differences? Am sure all your friendships will benefit.

    • NATE IV

      @Tofolux

      Welcome to the real world. Take a seat and give it a swirl. If that doesn’t go down well see a shrink.

      Way before colonization we’ve had [tribal] wars and the likes merely because of somewhat trivial dislikes. The scriptural “claptrap” (as atheists eloquently put it) in the Book of Daniel predicted the demise of humanity to the letter – from the head of gold to the feet iron and clay composite in the [last days]; two things that will NEVER mix.

      Daniel 2:24
      “And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.”

      This grab-bag and bash only defeat the purpose of having a dialoque.

      @Brendon

      As a black guy I’ve come to realize that I have prejudices which I’ve somewhat subconsciously justified. You’ve helped me to take a hard look in the mirror before throwing a routine tantrum. Personally, I know black folk (friends even) who express unsavoury sentiments towards fellow Africans.

      Hence, I don’t believe in “white supremacy” – gimme a minute as you fume – Europeans (Statue of Nebucadnezar, anyone?) have oppressed and subdued each other way before Africa became a target for expansion. As the Book of Daniel clearly symbolized it, the world systems is but an evolving beast. Our inner worlds can’t be fathomed by intellectual discourse alone.

      The worst part, we think the worst is over. Only if we can see around the corner.

    • Tofolux

      @Brendon, so you deem insulting me quite appropriate and when I want to take action against you, you fail to show up. This is typical cowardice of you and your ilk. And no, I am not taking this lightly. This is insulting and patronising to say the least and I find it totally unacceptable.

    • Lesego

      Brendon, with you attitude and honesty you could easily make a friend with any race you please. Mind you, I thought decent people of all races detest all those things that you dont like about the blacks. I think the problem goes deeper than some have tried to explain. For instance, the people you were sharing with seem to be young people who have been accustomed to loud music, loud sound systems, drinking carelessly. Young people dont like to be responsible. They have moved out their parents houses so they dont wana feel like they’re still there. And also black youth are accustomed to the junk music that they are being fed by all this media channels.

      You on the other hand seem to be a bit older and hence more responsible. I remember I used to enjoy loud music in the car before I had my daughter and I could understand if someone complain, especially the whites, and funny enough I couldnt even consider that they were much older than I am, I could just see them as uptight whites but I knew very well that I would dare do that in my parents house and even if in the neighbourhood some elder would complain about loud music late in the night, I would argue or anything. But I think also on your side you were trying too hard so connect with blacks without really looking at the age gap aspect of it.

    • Lesego

      @Turag

      “I agree with Ashlin. Your neighbours are not ambassadors for all black people anymore than you are the ambassador for all whites.

      Putting a person’s race as their most defining characteristic is just small minded, ignorant and lazy.

      It’s also not very friendly.”

      Its a pity that thats the methodology that statisticians use to come to a certain conclusion and if someone would tell you something that you have doubts on you would want to prove it and if the frequencies prove you wrong you end up giving up and accepting the consensus. Its human nature and Brandon is human. I would like to think most whites are racist but well, I’m now wise enough to know that well, a mind can be conditioned, therefore Im not that much judgmental like I would have been before.

    • The Critical Cynic

      I also don’t like Celine Dion and it’s got nothing to do with her being white
      or Canadian
      or Ugly
      or Old
      or Rich
      or… well, you choose a reason
      but to be precise. I don’t like her music.

    • Momma Cyndi

      After reading the very interesting posts. I find myself wondering if I should laugh or cry. I especially love the idea that a black person beating the bejesus out of the author is going to somehow make him like black people more. Some days the logic of my fellow countrymen just flies straight over my head.

      Nice to see a lot of honesty though. I was half expecting nothing but vitriol.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Oh, and I don’t like Celine Dion either

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za IMWIM

      I just traveled a 100 hundred years from the future. You guys still can’t get over racism? Oh well! Back to the future. I guess I’ll see you if you get there.

    • Bobo

      @Tofulux: Hey genius, it’s a crime to incite hatred/racist views, the author is clearly not doing that…take action? Get a grip, I think maybe you might want to re read the article…

    • Bobo

      The author it seems is making observations of aspects of South African society from his own point of view, it would be interesting to hear the same honesty from the people commenting who are making sweeping judgements. In my own experience people often talk the talk of openness and tolerance and seldom act on it.

      The author has been brave to speak out so honestly and has clearly pointed out he is aware of his own prejudices and his own desire to be able to get along with people from different backgrounds.

      Prejudice is normal, everyone has some form of it and creating a dialogue about it is a great way to shine a light on the ugly truths that most and especially the do-gooders in society would prefer to pretend isn’t there, or is simply so reprehensible as to be condemned out of hand without proper exploration.

      Try thinking a little more here people.

    • Zomkhonto Gabadela

      Hey, here’s some hip hop that you surely won’t find shallow. I hope you like it, if you take time to read it, just as if you really took time to know people and lifted the veil off your eyes. It is by one of the greatest poets of our time, a rapper named Common. it is from the song G.O.D (Gaining One’s Definition).

      Yo, the education of the Lon-chicka-Lonnie Lynn
      Began, began with time
      Bein my bloodline is one with the divine
      In time brotha, you will discover the light
      Some say that God is Black and the Devil’s White
      Well, the Devil is wrong and God is what’s right
      I fight, with myself in the ring of doubt and fear
      The rain ain’t gone, but I can still see clear
      As a child, given religion with no answer to why
      Just told believe in Jesus cuz for me he did die
      Curiosity killed the catechism
      Understanding and wisdom became the rhythm that I played to
      And became a slave to master self
      A rich man is one with knowledge, happiness and his health
      My mind had dealt with the books of Zen, Tao the lessons
      Koran and the Bible, to me they all vital
      And got truth within ‘em, gotta read them boys
      You just can’t skim ‘em, different branches of belief
      But one root that stem ‘em, but people of the venom try to trim ‘em
      And use religion as an emblem
      When it should be a natural way of life
      Who am I or they to say to whom you pray ain’t right
      That’s who got you doin right and got you this far
      Whether you say “in Jesus name” or Hum do Allah
      Long as you know…

    • Brendon Shields

      Some great comments. Sbudah id love to be your mate. Beer sometime?

      Tofolux you are a spaceclown. Come to Bethlehem and arrest me.

      Len Anderson, you need to read my article again – where I admit to my stupid prejudice. That one. When last have you admitted to any of your faults?

      The lesson I hoped to impart is simple. I am prejudiced and stuck in a comfort zone. But hell some of you seem to have even bigger issues – like denial.

    • Ian

      Tofolux, it’s the weekend, could do with a good laugh, please let us know how charging the author with ‘ racism’ goes.

    • MaDor

      As someone who does not live in SA – please permit me to present an outsiders view. You all need to get over yourselves. Move on and move on up people. Chill out and go and have a great big round table friendly beer drinking session and work out this black/white divide once and for all. It is so tedious and if the energy that was exerted on the whole racism crap trap was redirected to more fruitful and productive pursuits, everyone would be better off and a lot less angry. Easy for me to say, I know.

      It really is a much bigger brighter beautiful world out there with more important issues to mull over than having insecurities about the quota of black/white friends we should have. Perhaps if we shifted our thinking to considering the value of a person as a friend not by the colour of their skin (or the music they like) but by the content of their character then these issues may not exist. Easy for me to say, I know.

    • Jacques de Villiers

      “I don’t want to listen to hip-hop as I find it shallow”.

      Extracts from Mos Def’s Mathematics:

      “It’s one universal law but two sides to every story
      Three strikes and you be in for life, manditory
      Four MC’s murdered in the last four years
      I ain’t tryin to be the fifth one, the millenium is here
      Yo it’s 6 Million Ways to Die, from the seven deadly thrills
      Eight-year olds gettin found with 9 mill’s

      Stiffer stipulations attached to each sentence
      Budget cutbacks but increased police presence
      And even if you get out of prison still livin
      join the other five million under state supervision
      This is business, no faces just lines and statistics
      from your phone, your zip code, to S-S-I digits
      The system break man child and women into figures
      Two columns for who is, and who ain’t niggaz
      Numbers is hardly real and they never have feelings
      but you push too hard, even numbers got limits
      Why did one straw break the camel’s back? Here’s the secret:
      the million other straws underneath it – it’s all mathematics”

      ++++++++++

      Shallow, huh?

      Speaking as a white guy, I used to think hip ‘shallow’ until I actually made an effort to seek out the good stuff. That same attitude is a rebuttal to every advocation of social laziness you’ve made here.

    • Len Anderson

      @Brendon Shields
      If you admitted to your ignorance, stupidity and idiocy, you would have had better sense to justify it. The fact that you believe this passes on for debate is a clear indication that you do not seem to learn from your own idiocy. I admit to faults and mistakes on a daily basis, but I do not try to make a name for myself by repeating such blatant stupidity. The purpose of learning is to not repeat your mistakes, rather than publicise it as a badge of honour. Would you serious write in a blog about how you abuse children or rape women? If not, why do you see it as informed to justify your idiocy? Seriously!!! Telling me you are prejudiced on the basis of some stupid observations hardly provides anyone a lesson. It is gratuitous publicity seeking and is informed by blogging where people feel they should tell everyone what they released when they went in the bathroom. You are taking debate and writing into the gutter and I hope you follow suit, very soon. Thank goodness we have the likes of Gillian to take you on, despite the vitriol directed at her. Denial is only denial if you are actually denying something. If you have learnt something in life, then it is not denial, but a lesson. I know there are racists in this world and I too have issues, but am not proud of them and do not wear them like a badge of honour. Having a blog does not make you a master debater, rather a masturbator.

    • Jacques de Villiers

      “My time as a student at Wits and the two stints in Yeoville offered me a great opportunity to make life-long black friends and enrich my life in South Africa — yet a few bad experiences made me close up to “others”. Today I regret this yet find myself in a comfort zone where I no longer really care”

      By this same logic, the many bad experiences you’ve had with white “others” should have made you close up to them as well. Of course, you sensibly recognise that every disagreeable white should be evaluated as an individual, not as a representative of the pigmentation of their skin. By contrast, you sadly seem to think of black people as a single, homogenous group, where your experiences with a tiny few colour (no pun intended) your attitude towards everyone with a similar skin pigmentation. That you actually seem to recognise this (“I regret this yet find myself in a comfort zone where I longer really care”) is bizarre and apathetic. That’s not an insult, because you seem to admit so readily to it. You strike me as someone who’s given up, which is very sad. Note how you phrase your prejudice – I “FIND MYSELF in a comfort zone” – as if your own determination and (lack of) self-questioning had nothing to do with your current attitudes.

    • Ian

      Jeez Len, what a load of wank.

    • NATE IV

      @Jacques de Villiers

      Thanks for your rebuttal on Hiphop being sweepingly pigeonholed as trite and generic.

      I produce music (often hiphop) yet my recent interview on newspaper will prove that HipHop influence me in every depth but shallow:

      http://freestateinterviews.blogspot.com/2012/11/meet-phinithi-james-ntelekoa.html?m=1

      It’d be cool to follow you on twitter. What’s your handle?

      @NATE_IV_SA

    • Themba

      As a black person who struggles badly to understand my fellow black folks apathy to finesse and standards – I find myself agreeing with the writer because he is right! As Africans why do we struggle so much to be BETTER people to society and each other and simply do things right? Must everything be about revenge and ‘it’s apartheid’s fault’? There is no white person stopping us from behaving in a civil and respectful manner or from caring after public facilities that ALL RACES would like to enjoy in a pleasant state. I as a black person have managed to see the wrong in the substandard behaviour and I am no genius – why can’t we all? Yes the past happened, so what? How long is it going to be the white man’s fault? They laugh at us because we continue to wallow in self pity and play the blame game while they go about life and good living. My attention turns now to the blacks among us who have made it but want to think of themselves better than the rest of us. Have you forgotten that you too once lived in squalid conditions? You now oppress the next black person because he is of a different tribe or because he is not family? Shame on you! You embarass me most amongst my brothers and sisters. Lift one another up in earnest and NOT for the sake of bribes (who taught you this thing anyway?) and as a community MOVE UP and MOVE FORWARD! It is NOT the whites fault that most of us struggle – it is our own unbridled GREED, LUST, APATHY and HEARTLESSNESS…. FULL STOP

    • Stephen

      Just can’t have a point of view these days. I mean, jeez.

    • Brendon Shields

      Jacques you make a good point RE: Hip Hop. I bet easy money that if I take the time to go listen to some hip hop (maybe not the chart stuff) I would find some great things out there.

      The point about ignorance however is that, well, one is ignorant, and me saying hip-hop is shallow is my own justification for that ignorance.

      #Len, you are basically saying to me: “Brendon, be like the rest of us and rather keep your prejudice to yourself.” – which is all fine, but what is my true answer to the question then? Or do you prefer I make up a story just to satisfy YOUR view?

      I wrote the article and criticized Brendon – you dont get to do so also cowboy :-)

    • Brendon Shields

      #Themba hell it takes a lot to have a go at your own. I enjoyed having a go at the darkies as I spend most of my time giving out about how bloody bonkers white south africa tends to be. Many of us live in fear because we simply do not know or understand our fellow countrymen.

    • Mkhululi Ndabambi

      @Brendan, I’ve lived in the US for a long time and come down to SA every few years. I have to say that when times are good, there is no other place to be than Mzansi, but rude awakenings are a dime a dozen there. There are no meaner, more blatant racists than the white people of South Afrika. Fortunately, you have confirmed it. The white South Afrikans seek to resist and deny their own creation. Those black people live in that matter and they have that mindset because YOU brought them up like that, accept your own product. Take a leaf from the US, where wrong is acknowledged and addressed. The white people, who are the majority by far, passed affirmative action and civil rights laws to correct their wrongs. There still are a lot of racists here but for the most part, the bad people are now just like any bad person, it’s further and further not because of their historically underprivileged background but because they not used the opportunities and TV and internet and billboards all exhibit public service signs to uplift the people. Take a cue and recognize that there is a huge gap to be bridged and quit looking at things from a selfish perspective. Why didn’t you help the people and show the way and create a neighbourhood association where the residents could discuss these things or make by-laws? If you really meant well…

    • Mark_DE

      I don’t understand the wildly aggressive commments here. To me it is obvious Mr. Shields tried to be as honest as he could, and was very courageous in doing so. He should at least be commended for that, even if one doesn’t agree with his ‘views’.

      Although I don’t see a ‘view’ so much as an attempt to describe what happened to him.

      My first reaction would be that often matters are more class-related than race-related. I’m a white European who happened to travel around, in about 15 Sub-Sahara countries plus Morocco, Algeria and Tunesia. And then Turkey and Indonesia to top it off.

      Whether it is the European notion of middle class having been exported, or class distinctions exist in different cultures anyway, I don’t know or care, but to me it became obvious people fall into different social classes anywhere. By their own choice, or by accident. Which leads to different behavior.

      I don’t like my neighbors being loud late at night or littering the surroundings, and they’re white. On the other hand most of my friends happen to be non-white, and they’re not loud or littering :) So, what’s the link between the two then?

      I can see South Africa is going through a unique experience never tried before anywhere else: former oppressors and oppressed trying to live together on an equal basis.

      The only other instance being Israel & Palestinians, and that surely is working out far worse than SA.

      I trust things will work out, but it might take a…

    • Mark_DE

      Oh, I left out the USA of course. Well, they have a head start in a way, and all isn’t perfect there either.

      I thought of something else too: people tend to narrow their thinking and to withdraw more or less from society at large, as well as freezing their ideas and convictions as they grow older. That’s no racial matter either.

      I visited SA in 2009 and the first thing that struck me was that to me, apartheid was still existing as a geographical fact on the ground. Cape Town was mixed in daytime but ‘whitened’ at night when all people working there are going home. It felt unsettling.

      In the meantime I found most people very friendly, regardless of ‘race’ (I loathe using the word at all). Maybe it was, like some people commented here, that I was a foreigner not ‘charged’ with the burden of a guilty past (being white), not being part of the great division. Although I still felt, in a vague, general sense, a feeling of guilt just being white, even if I had no part in past wrongdoing, not in SA or anywhere else.

      In any case, from what I heard from South Africans (and some immigrants), the picture is very mixed, with many people living in a multicultural environment and having friends from all groups, and others living separately.

    • Mark_DE

      I am sure things will get better, but it might take a generation. But that probably hinges on the incredible skewed income distribution being addressed too.

      Where I live, the Netherlands, we have 179 nationalities living together and we experience much of the same SA is going through, with the obvious difference that whites are in the majority. But still, one already sees the next generation, ‘natives’ and 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants, being much more at ease with eachother.

      It isn’t all rosy but I suppose everything will settle over time. I wish you well.

    • Stewart Wood

      You could have exactly the same bad experience living in a place full of lower class whites! In fact it is guaranteed.

    • Mhalo

      I think your article is based on shallow observation of blacks. To me your reasons for not wanting to be friends with blacks are small – annoying tendencies, of course they would fuel your dislike if you did not like the person in the first place.

      I understand where you come from though, i also get easily annoyed with people i do not necessarily like…

      You overlook most things when you like a person, especially things that you can influence a good change on – as a friend…

    • http://www.squidoo.com/versalift-attic-storage Suzi Fjeseth

      Yeah. Unfortunately it’s become more and more handy the further we get into this home remodel! I have you guys to thank though for a lot of the tips and, more than anything, the confidence to take it all on! You guys rock!

    • Jaji

      I sometimes wonder whether everything is OK with South Africans, black and white. They have a beautiful land but are worked up over race. There are Indians, whites, “coloureds”in Lesotho and they are all Basotho. Put in your position we would feel truly blessed.

      Your friend in Lesotho.
      Jaji.

    • Andrea Shearn

      I totally get you and love it.
      It is such a sad truth.
      I still have hope (somewhere I think), that my similar feelings will be changed by some overwhelmingly awesome experience.
      Doubt sets in though.
      Cool blog. like it loads.

    • Jacques de Villiers

      @Nate/Phinithi: Great interview. Where can I listen to your stuff? Checked at your poem, ‘The Wall’. Really nice! Do you rap any of this stuff?

      It’s sad and absurd how hip hop frequently gets written off as ‘empty’ or ‘garbage’, when in fact it’s one of the musical genres that requires the most attention and engagement, because a lot of its pleasures are in the wordplay and underlying message. Yet it so often gets passed off as degenerate and shallow. I’m reminded of the situation at the university I attended, where a bunch of guys were beatboxing and freestyling outside the English department. These stuffy (incidentally white) old professors would get all disconcerted by these students rapping outside their department, when there could actually be no more appropriate venue for what they were doing – skillfully and energetically expressing themselves through the English language. This kind of polarised reaction to hip hop is at least partially the result of decades of segregation, where white kids were pushed towards all that indie/rock/alternative stuff and passed hip hop off without a second glance. Compare the kind of white following rap has in the big cities in the States compared to here and you see the difference between a systematically racist society and one that wasn’t too fussed about letting whites and blacks mix.

      About Twitter, I never made the move. Find it cramps my style :)

    • braveheart

      brendon , i have to say . either you are brave or partially retarded, why would anybody with enough common sence dish out crap like this for all to read. i honestly dont know what to make of this article , i applaud you for your honesty , but please , for future referance ,get a second opinion before you dish