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.