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I’m scared of white men

By Miranda Mkhumbuzi

I strongly believe we were all created equal and that we’re all the same. Race is a social construct with little biological significance.

But most of my friends are the same race as me. I think this is because I live in a predominantly black area. Soweto to be exact. As far as I know, the townships that make up Soweto are 100% Bantu inhabited. Thanks to Facebook and work experience, I have acquired a few white friends that I deeply respect. I do not go out often and have not really gained a lot of friendships outside my race.

Yes, I laugh at jokes that make fun of racial stereotypes. That is not because I believe there are people who act a certain way simply because they are black or white. I believe there are people who act a certain way because of what they believe. Because they are influenced by the areas they live, think in certain ways and have been raised in a particular way. I believe narrow-mindedness is based on ignorance and fear.

I do however believe I harbour a negative, subconscious bias against the older white male. I discovered this after I had a bad encounter recently with a white man that is probably old enough to be my father. It seems I have developed a defence mechanism against white males. I reject them before they get a chance to reject me. It doesn’t mean I hate white people but it does mean I fully understand that the world is skewed and tilted in favour of white men and men in general.

The white man I had a disagreement with made me feel small and unimportant. He refused to speak in a respectful manner and kept screaming at me instead of being reasonable. I refuse to let him talk to me like that and I reject his disparagement towards me. He is a smaller person by not being sensible enough to respect me as a person and though I should not have allowed him to get me so furious, I will not keep quite while a white man screams at me.

I would like to know what makes him think he has the right to speak to me or any other person in that manner. I believe he thinks he can speak to me like that because in his mind I am inferior and do not deserve his respect.

I am scared of white men. I do not think I knew this as a matter of fact before today. I am also scared of men who cheat on and abuse women. I used to be scared of Zulu men. I thought they were all stick-wielding Inkatha Freedom Party impis. I am scared of any person I regard as a bully, someone who wants to oppress and frighten others into submission.

I’m scared they will never ever see me as person. I will always be the black township girl who got the job because I am a woman. I will always be second class because I do not speak English fluently and because I have dreadlocks instead of long relaxed hair. I will always be undeserving of the best positions because it will always be assumed I gained the position because I am a “professional black” ie a black person who uses their black skin in the same way that others use their skill and qualifications to accumulate wealth.

I do not believe my bias is defensible. I think I need to work on it. I think a lot of us South Africans are suffering from fear and there is no telling what will happen if we do not deal with this and process the anger and resentment properly.

We as a society have gotten so emotionally complicated that we have developed a widespread selfishness and apathy towards understanding others. It’s easy to label someone because it dehumanises them. Snap judgments are often made because we have it all figured out.

Everyone is grouped together into their respective categories and we accept it because things are uncomplicated when everything is in a neat little package. Rather than taking the time to move past initial stereotypes and preconceived ideas, we over and over again get it completely wrong.

Born and bred Sowetan, thinker, feminist, conscious and spiritual. Loves comedy and classical jazz. Dreams of changing the world.

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    • Sean

      In a similar vain, I would dare to say that white people in general have a negative perception of black people in SA because this is the population group from which threats to their livelihood, person and family have historically originated.

      We all build our perception from our experiences and every negative action between two people contributes to the negative perception of the group they belong to, a fact about human interaction and a damned good reason to all treat one another with respect, patience above all to not harm or threaten one another.

    • BillyC

      Miranda, your post is the perfect complement to that of Brendon Shields in that it lays out your prejudices and fears in an honest way from a black woman’s perspective. It allows us to offer constructive criticism. In post after post, Gillian Scutte’s incendiary prose attacks her most hated hominid subspecies, albidus masculus ( pale male) in the most destructive way.

      Its hard to juxtapose a well written post from your own Blog site , purportedly by a timid township girl that’s scared of old white men and Zulus Impis. As one who belongs in the former group, I can only say you have nothing to fear from me, or anyone that I know of my age. You relate only to one experience of abuse and then write off a whole cohort of humanity. I work in the service industry and about half my clients are black. If I don’t treat each individual as a sentient being, entitled to respect and courtesy, I would be out of business. I’ can’t afford to display the hubris and rudeness often encountered in municipalities or Government departments. Is this so hard to grasp by those who only see and feed off black and white polarisation and hatred. It was that sort of mind set that precipitated holocausts in the Congo, Rwanda a European country whose name begins with G (and it isn’t Godwin-aland).

    • Momma Cyndi

      Very interesting piece. It is going to be interesting to see how the reaction differs from the other article. Bravo for being brave enough to be honest.

    • Gareth Setati

      It appears we are making progress then in this debate that Brendan initiated. Good on you, Brendan, and even Gillian.

      Indeed we eat an elephant piece by piece :)

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Miranda, this is a sick article because it shows how far SA has to go to catch up with the rest of the world. Many people in SA are damaged goods and about two hundred years behind the rest of the world.

    • max

      Sean somewhat ironic that you think it is blacks who have historically posed threats to their livelihood, person and family. Whites have done far more than ‘posed’ such threats to black people: they ruthlessly carried them out for centuries!

    • Lisa

      Brilliant and honest piece, but to assure you, white men scare white women too :-) Best thing to do is work on your own self worth and face your demons which you are doing very honestly! You go get them!

    • Brendon Shields

      I am very glad Miranda got to post her blog here. Especially the last pat about snap judgement. These stem from how we were programmed to deal with whichever situation triggered the judgment and these are the little things we can change about ourselves.

    • Mpumelo

      Miranda, Welcome to the new South Africa. It’s become the norm to dislike older white males especially when can get your paint brush out and paint one isolated incident into a national rule of thumb.

      Let’s face it, it fits the current mood that exists in South Africa. Intolerance is rife and like the boiling frog syndrome, South Africa has achieved a new norm that doesn’t exist anywhere else except Zimbabwe

    • bewilderbeast

      I hear you, I look (I’m sure) just like that man who was shouting at you, but I know I’m not him! Nor like him. But we are often stuck where we are. And if not stuck, we react that way in tight situations, so I think it’s quite alright (quite healthy, really) if you kak’d him out good and proper.
      As a “thinker, feminist, conscious and spiritual. Who loves comedy and classical jazz and Dreams of changing the world” you need to own yourself and allow yourself to (over time) acknowledge there are good SAfricans who look different (like ugh! pale male and ancient!) yet are “like you”.
      I’m doing the same thing daily.

    • Piet Boerie

      If I saw a white man I would be sacred too. If he was angry he would have gone red and then wow he is coloured.

      I cannot fathom the terms white or black. I met a kid of another race who had been to uni, drove a nice car, tweeted, LAN gamed and was well as you put it, whiter than me but not.

      Be yourself, be in love with who your are and you will not even notice the colour of the skin nor the hate that is directed at you.
      Never allow another’s hate to make you feel bad but instead show compassion for the the deranged because racism is illogical madness.

      But if you dwell in the past, the past will become your future.

      If you seek racism you will find every where even under your bed.

      I am pleased we have such good honesty and the debate is constructive. Well done Miranda Mkhumbuzi and Brendan but not sure of Gill though. Angry antsy.

      Me as a visitor, I dispise humans they are so slow and dumb and steal, kill and break everything.

    • Cyberdog

      Has the thought ever crossed your mind that this white man may be fearing you just as much as you are fearing him? Beliefs are strange things that can taint our view of the world in really bizarre ways. You should not feel anger, more of pity that he has never been taught manners, or respect of others, regardless of who they are.

    • John Collings

      Piet, I have looked thousands of white men in the eye over the years and not one of them made me feel sacred. In fact, only two women have: my late former wife and a young black woman. Bless the Lord for them.

    • Max

      Most white men are also scared of white men.

    • SpiritualMark

      I doubt that this is in sync with the modality in the approach used in the blog that is answer to it, not quite but that’s just me. This particular honesty is more principled, partly composed of challenges faced by feminism, possible racial discrimination, tribalism – you were a victim of these horrors one way or the other, its the after effect of a trauma. This compelles anyone before labelling you a steriotype, sexist (less racist), tribalist etc to take to consideration all that has been rationalised and will probably come to a different conclusion about which box you belong in if any. I’m Zulu myself, from KwaMashu to be specific, believe me I have seen many of my people in KZN neatly placing themselves into specific rural, urban, ‘foreign’, polical affilliation and so on boxes and because of this they have continued to believe that their level of intelligences, their basic needs, concerns and principles, their characters are far apart from one another, so far that some would even believe that the other boxes are filled with inhumanness and wilderness where reason has no place. This as you eloquently put it, is as a result of narrow mindedness, We need to stretch the interface of our thinking on the bases of uderstanding that we have basic common needs, concerns, ability to think that this are our issues must be addressed (intelligences) without allowing institutionalization of our minds – Shield’s blog approach was plain out racist.

    • Following the thread

      I feel that what you’ve said in this article has made more sense and been more logical and honest than what both Brendon and Gillian have said in theirs.

      And it is no ones place to tell others how they should feel.

    • Lesego

      @Cyberdog, I love the wisdom in you comment, how old are you?

    • Miranda

      Thanks for your comments (good or bad) – The point of this article is to raise debate and to show just how unintelligent and illogical prejudices can be. We focus a lot on the bad experiences we have and emphasize on the bad vibes we get from others. I wrote the articles because I realized that I did not react in a constructive manner when I responded to the man. The fact is I should be able to treat all people in the same manner no matter how they look – the problem is, why is that so hard for me and so many South African to do?

      Why is it easier to habour preconceived ideas about others, is it our (humanity) need for superiority and validation? I do not know, I am still discovering this and I am working on removing the prejudicial speck off my eye one day at a time.

      @BillC, when I was growing up – IFP supporters where like the ‘boogie man’ to me, I saw people being killed for being anti IFP. 6 men were killed inside my aunt’s home. I hated hostels, taxis and everything representing the violence of the early 90s.

      @Cyberdog, my point exactly, prejudice is largely based on fear, but I agree with Gill in that there are prejudices that we have that are based on our belief that we are more superior than others. Like my dislike for African who have no matric, I would like to think I’m better than them, but that is not right thinking.

      The fact is we cannot make judgments on a whole group of people, that is foolish and ridiculous.

    • The Critical Cynic

      I have always maintained – and you can confirm this with my children as they’ve been hearing this for 20 years now – that whenever we express anger towards others we simultaneously reveal the fear that fuels our anger.

      Think back to that incident and see if you can identify what his fears were. Are they reasonable, do they even apply to you? Could you have helped that man by defusing his fears had you been able to recognise them at the time? Would that help you overcome your fears?

      This is another brave and constructive piece – perhaps Gillian or Dave or Tofolux would like to rip into you and attack your (is it unconcious Gillian?) racism too, but somehow I suspect you will be spared their usual vitriol, perhaps because of ther unconcious racism, after all you are black, young, and female, not really in their target market.

      I agree, your bias isn’t defensible on an idealistic stage, but down here on terra firma it most certainly is understandable, especially to me, 50, white, male..

      @ BillyC – I’d like to echo your assurances to Miranda that you have nothing to fear from me either, but the reality for many SA women is there are a lot of scary men out there, and you’d be a fool not to fear some of them.

    • Themba

      I am scared of you. I am scared of anyone who takes personal disagreement with an individual and makes it an issue of a group. I am scared of any person that never see that the individual they despise is only one individual that does not represent even a 1% of the group they have summarily lumped together with this individual. I am scared of anyone who justifies prejudice on the basis of one bad experience. Stereotypes maybe applicable when ignorant, but the purpose of interaction is to get rid of stereotypes and get to know people as individuals. In addition of being scared of you, I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry for any person that spends so much effort expressing hatred of another regardless of race. I can only hope that one day you would understand the elderly white man may have been reacting to the same fears you have. Perhaps he treats you badly because some black Sowetan lady treated him badly and he is not taking out of you. Prejudice relies on ignorance and you show lots of it.

    • ntozakhona

      The South African problen cannot just be reduced to how individuals feel about each other. It is largely an institutional problems, “blacks are a threat to our livelihood” as it is captured by one blogger. It is about who controls, owns and has access to the resources of our land. Prejudices then flow from there in defence or in contempt of the status quo.

      I could relate an incident of how one white person treated me but combined with the expiriences of my surprisingly less bitter parents and grandparents, the experiences of my neighbours and friends the picture is no longer isolated but is part of a theme. Personally I had a closer ( and more unkind) relationship with the veiligheid stak ( apartheid security police) than with the white students I shared lecture halls and men’s residence with at Wits. The latter treated me like a leper during orientation week and that defined how we related thereafter. I had afttended their orientaton week activities in defiance of the then Black Student Society boycott of “white” control and dominance.

      It is good that as human beings we try to understand each other, but the sooner we confront the social roots the more succes we will have, Even our children in private and quintile 5 schools are confronted with issues we raise here.

    • ntozakhona

      Maybe for different reasons but I agree with Sterling Ferguson that we are two hundred years behind the rest of the world. Just look how our society is organised, Kunta Kinte would probably try and escape from it.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Ntozakhona, I see that you have read “Roots” What might appear as racism to some, might be people reacting to the culture difference in groups of people. In Liberia the blacks from the US that founded this country don’t mix with the native black Africans even though they are the same color for most parts. People from the West regardless of their color like to apply their standards on other groups of people and this is why there is a conflict. Obama would have the same problem if he would move to Kenya with the culture differences.

      I answer your question on direct elections in SA and how the minorities would be protected. Did you read my comment?

    • jandr0

      @Themba: I half agree with you. When you say: “I feel sorry for any person that spends so much effort expressing hatred of another regardless of race,” I agree with the ‘sorry’ part (since I feel sorry too), but I think we may distinguish between Miranda being scared and ‘hatred.’

      While we can always try to understand where fears come from, I doubt we can ever fully experience as others do. The same way some people may struggle to understand Miranda being “scared of white men,” others may struggle just as much to understand why some people may fear “blacks are a threat to our livelihood.”

      For example, as a white man, I have wonderful childhood memories of sitting down with with the “umntu omdala”‘s (as we used the term) on the farm (what does a 7-year old child know or care about apartheid?). As a consequence I have no fear of older black men, and in fact enjoy having a chat when the opportunity arises.

      However, I have been confronted face-to-face by a young black guy, and the hatred in his eyes and voice was visible. Note: I had done nothing at all except walk down a road, so I assume he just couldn’t manage the hatred any more and I was what he hated.

      However, fortunately I am not a young child any more, and I can distinguish between this individual and many of the young, black men I encounter on a daily basis – who are great people.

      @Miranda: Respect. I understand your fear. I respect your honesty. Signed: Old white man.

    • ntozakhona

      Eish, Sterling I forgot the blog in which I repeated the question. I would really love to hear your answer. If you do not mind remind me of the title of the blog or its author.

    • Brian B

      ‘We as a society have gotten so emotionally complicated that we have developed a widespread selfishness and apathy towards understanding others”
      “Everyone is grouped together into their respective categories and we accept it because things are uncomplicated when everything is in a neat little package”
      Miranda these statements are an excellent summary of our reality. .
      After years of segregation did anyone think it would be easy to all climb into the big melting pot and embark on the rainbow nation voyage?
      Sure there was euphoria initially . the previously disadvantaged gained freedom and the previously advantaged breathed a collective sigh of relief , a sort of release from the guilt of the past.
      The honeymoon period took a time to pass and reality dawned that integration requires hard work and character from all players.
      Fear creates paralysis and anxiety.
      There are some remedies- medication dulls the pain, psycho analysis can lead one to solutions, ultimately faith , commitment and hard effort create better outcomes .

      If the good Lord wanted life to be extremely boring he would have created us all the same.
      BUT HE DID NOT !!

    • ntozakhona

      We have removesd the political justification of prejudice, it is now time to unflinchingly remove the social fabric. Human beings will remain human beings but wholesale hatred and prejudice is engineered and needs to be jointly and programmatically dismantled. Anything else is just pep talk.

    • Tofolux

      @Miranda, how will we ever build social cohesion and respect for others when people like you play the apologists? The guy admitted to being a racist? Question, why do have this need to apologise for racists?

    • Miranda

      @Tofolux, Please elaborate – I have no idea what you mean. Who am I Apologising for and why?

    • Tofolux

      @Miranda, you are diluting one of our major societal challenges and sidelining an issue that requires necessary engagement. Further discussion is totally warranted noting that we have been presented by an incident that cannot be swept under the carpet. For you to raise a non-debate distracts and takes away from what is quite offensive.

    • Zeph

      I once woke up with a black man carrying a knife in my house. Thank goodness nothing further happened. My sister in law was the victim of an attempted high jacking by black men in her drive way and my brother emerged from the house only to have two rounds fired at him by black men. Thank goodness nothing more serious happened.
      I see destitute black men begging in my suburb, unwashed and some half crazy.
      Do I think all blacks are mad filthy thieves? No I do not as I have met too many who are not like that. I realise it is our history and our warped socioeconomic conditions that have created the above incidents being committed mostly by black people.
      I also realise that if I walk the streets of Amsterdam late at night then in all probability I will be mugged by a dirty half crazed white man as this has happened to me twice. They have their own socioeconomic issues there.
      When a discussion starts and the conversation tends towards ‘blacks this and blacks that’ I usually just say something like ‘they are not all like that!’. Is that racist? Should I get angry and rage at them? I find to do that just plain uncomfortable and counter productive. I think it better to let them know I do not share their views.
      But with this being said do I have many black friends? I am afraid not. Most of my friends are the much diminished remnants of who I went to school with and the others share my lifestyle.
      Am I prejudice? Yes, I know I am, and I try correct myself whenever I can.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Nice debate. Very positive progression. Thank you Miranda.

      I don’t fear snakes. I know snakes and I know which ones are venomous and which ones aren’t. I also know how they react to situations. I am, however, completely petrified of spiders (bare with me).

      As a child a large bobbejaan spider chased me around the kitchen. Years later, I was told that it was trying to get into my shadow because it was scared and trying to hide. I can tell you that it wasn’t half as scared as i was!

      We have more deadly snakes than spiders in SA so my fear of spiders is totally irrational. My brain says so but my body goes into spasm at the sight of one.

      Is this not the same thing? Fear of what we don’t understand.

    • Dikeledi

      Fear and Loathing in the Rainbow Nation.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      And you are NOT scared of Black Men?

    • http://tshaneni Irmgard Haller

      I lived in SA for the first 54 years of my life. Since then I’ve lived in Germany for 22 years (my husband could not get a job in SA) And what strikes me is that in Germany there is the same “attitude” – the resentment, anger, even hate – between North Germans and South Germans (e.g. Bavarians). I teach English (adult education classes) and when I say I do not understand Bavarian German, the answer invariably is; “But Bavarians are not Germans, they are Bavarians.” After the notorious wall was pulled down between West Germany and East Germany the same thing happened. The East Germans are not “us”. I know of the ill-will between North and South in the USA. I know of the ill-will between Zulus and other Bantu nations. Do people really have to have an “enemy” in their mind all the time? Can’t we just accept people as “people just like us”?? I find it so very sad.