I've been thinking a lot about the concept of racism recently, particularly after the annual December bout of racism in South Africa. And I was admittedly spurred on by my own recent racist incident, at a recycling dump, of all those proverbially ironic places. For, renewal and rebirth has not in fact happened in this country. I believe we're experiencing the same old recycled racism we've always experienced, this time coming from newer models with more horsepower.
This has led me to the conclusion that some people just don't understand what racism is. I don't want to point fingers here, but in my case I've only ever experienced this particular type of know-it-all, golden nuggets of wisdom racism from white racists. Could it be that a sense of entitlement and historical privilege that has done a disservice to this slice of society in that it has led them to believe that every racial undertone that spews from their mouths needs to be said out loud, posted on Facebook and repeated to a nearby stranger? And yet white racists, in particular, are like babes in the wood in this brave new world.
- 'Why are YOU people playing the race card?'
- 'So now I can't say anything, aren't I entitled to my opinion? That's what free speech is about!'
- 'I didn't say the K-word, what are you upset about?'
- 'How can I be racist if I would consider dating an Indian girl?'
- 'White people aren't the only racists! There are double standards at play here!'
Dear white racists, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every single one of us is racially aware. Saying that you're 'colour-blind' is possibly the most idiotic thing people continue to say. We all have stereotypes that we associate with certain races, we all find certain pronunciations of words funny, we all think something terribly non-PC about the driver that just cut us off. But we don't repeat it! We don't post it on Facebook! Why do you believe that your angry racist rant deserves an audience?
On to the particular incident that broke the camel's back for me. I made my weekly pilgrimage to the recycling dump at my local shopping centre. While there, a woman, who happened to be white, pulled up next to me to do her own recycling. As I walked back to my vehicle, she came up behind me, a total stranger and exclaimed, "Do you know, in all my years you are the first Indian I've ever seen recycling! Thank you!" I felt like running her over.
And now as to the purpose of this article, because I know that on reading this some will say "But she was just trying to be nice! She didn't call you a bad name. Why is this racist?!'
Dating a person of colour DOES NOT give you permission to spew racist vitriol!
Let's start with the statement at face value. "The first Indian I've ever seen recycling" – Indeed, because you haunt the recycling dump and categorise the colour of every single person that comes there. You obviously have an extensive network of CCTV footage of all the homes of Indian people, where you painstakingly watch them throwing plastic into the food waste bin day after day, God Forbid! It's not like India has an extremely well-developed green programme which includes recycling in all major cities with 85% of Mumbai's waste being recycled.
Let's look a bit closer, "Thank you!". Yes, because I live to serve you and the white guardians of this planet who recycle and toil unendingly while my tawnier brothers and sisters seek to destroy the sanctuary you have tirelessly created. I was bored of course, or trying to emulate 'the whites' I so aspire to be, that's why I visited the recycling dump on that day. It's not like my parents have been recycling for a decade, it's not like I have dropped off my paper, glass and plastic at that recycling dump every single week for six years, whether or not you happened to see me. Thank you but I certainly do not need your thanks!
And let's move on to the fact that she somehow thinks it's ok to say this to me. What purpose did it serve? I pondered on this most of all, why make a statement like that to a total stranger when you could just as easily have quietly mulled on that thought on your way home? And that's when I realised that not only was this woman unaware of her racism but she actually thought she was paying me a compliment.
Let me unequivocally state here "That's racist!", it is in no way a compliment. I am sick and tired of having to politely smile when told "You're not like the other Indians" "You're so well-spoken for an Indian" "These bloody Indians... Oh I don't mean you, I forgot you were Indian."
When Peter Sasanof posted that absolute nugget of pure fertiliser on Facebook in December reading, "Eh eh Wena... must have smelt like the inside of Zuma's a**hole." He was outraged that some of his own Facebook friends could possibly call him racist. Sasanof spat back to a naysayer, "I dated a black girl you f**kin idiot f**k! Stupid Monkey bas**rd you!"
Wow! Where to start? Let's just bring the most fundamental aspect of this to the foreground. Dating a person of colour DOES NOT give you permission to spew racist vitriol! Let's be clear here: pre-1994, racists were passionately supporting the apartheid government of South Africa and all their unconstitutional laws while gleefully disobeying the Immorality Act behind closed doors.
And that statement! "Eh eh Wena...must have smelt like the inside of Zuma's a**hole" Why the "eh eh wena"? Why the 'Zuma's a**hole' instead of just 'an a**hole', unless it was intended to be racist?
I mean, this is really simpler than the bridging course on racism. Don't be a racist and then get surprised when someone calls you a racist!
So, 2017 may have gotten off to a bit of a racist bang for me but that's not going to stop me from recycling and I encourage you to do the same, just remember to separate the hate speech from the free speech and the keep the tired, old racism where it belongs, in the past.