Columns 2.11.2015 09:50 am

How to be white in SA

South Africa is full of young white people who think they are entitled to shout at other whites from their ivory towers.

Stop telling me how to be white. It comes naturally. My parents came together in a union and without my consent I was conceived. With a South African lineage that runs hundreds of years I probably have black genes too – but don’t worry, I am not trying to claim BEE points. BEE only benefits rich whites and politically connected blacks.

A white person who cannot see their privilege, past, present and future, has their eyes closed. Even although my working-class father had to fix tappets and replace pistons in our back yard to put me through private school and university, I know that my white skin enabled that. I am not stupid. However, this new “White Nazi” tendency to attack fellow whites (if there is even such a thing) and militantly use “white tactics” to force-feed what we are and are not allowed to say on various topics – including Fees Must Fall and transformation – needs to be called out for what it is.

I have been attacked personally – even in my own home – for not using my platform to push the agenda of deconstructing whiteness. These whites, some of whom I know well, seemingly take offence that I “just get on with life”. What are they doing from their vantage of privilege? Eating red velvet cake while bashing keyboards, trying to find legitimacy for themselves with their black counterparts?

If they want to play that game, we all can. Where were they in the early 1980s when I was being smuggled in and out of Katlehong to sleep over at my best friend, who just happened to be black? Playing hop scotch in Parkmore while Maevis fed scones and jam to their mom and her book club friends? Everyone loved Maevis because she wiped their smelly behinds for a meagre salary.

Where were they when apartheid police bashed through our door because black men were hiding in my father’s garage? Watching Mickey Mouse club on M-Net? Where were they when I was playing on the mine dumps next to Reiger Park with my coloured friends, having stick fights with the Afrikaans boys? Trying on their new expensive Patrick Ewing Pumps?

Perhaps my white ancestors were more stupid than theirs; meaning I have six family members paying “black tax” every month to keep my sons in school, meaning I had to max my credit rating to keep my parents under a roof. No trust fund or white inheritance for me, Prof. If I lose this job I lose my everything – perhaps if I were sitting and panicking about my trust fund I would also hate myself as much as you do. “Getting on with life” enables me to scrape a living together.

We are not all bigots, we are not all academics trying to hang on the coat tails of a legitimate student protest and we are not all “just getting on with life” because we don’t give a damn. My white privilege makes the world my oyster, but I choose to be here. And, unlike Blade Nzimande, who likes to pretend we are all fat cats like him, or white keyboard bashers trying to play catch-up with the fact that they are indeed part of this country, I am South African first, African second, human third and white by default, not choice.

 

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