I was one of the first black students in an all white school. I would wake up at 4am every morning so I would be ready at 5am to catch the Kombi that took us to school. I lived in Soweto and my school was in Bedfordview. The Kombi would arrive at 5 am and we would still have to fetch other kids and then navigate traffic to the east rand. By the time school started I had been up for 4 hours. Ian Morgan lived across the street from school and 5 mins before the bell rang he would saunter across the road and be at school. Then there was this kid called Thabang he was in a same Kombi as me in the mornings. Thabang was just that kid who was ahead of his time, every time we were asked to make a speech in class, his was always political. When came up to speak the rest of us wanted to duck under our desks as we knew it was about to be uncomfortable. It would be like if someone spits while they talk and a droplet of their spit lands on your lip. You kinda want to wipe the spit but you also don’t want to embarrass them. Every second their spit is on your lip, you are contracting herpes, but you are concerned about their feelings?! What’s that about?!
I digress; the only thing Thabang spat when he spoke, was venom. He would stand up say something like; why is it that Ian says apartheid is not his fault. Why is it that Ian says apartheid is not his dad’s, nor his grandfather’s fault? Are those who benefit from apartheid not eating a fruit from a poisonous tree? Before he could say another word the teacher would drag him by the scruff of his collar off to detention. This was in grade 6! He didn’t mind, in the township the teachers used to beat us up with sticks when you stepped out of line, white schools sent you to a corner. This was the only aspect of white privilege that Thabang enjoyed.
I had coffee last week with the founder of a very successful restaurant franchise. He said in conversation that he understood why white people didn’t understand white privilege. He said, as an uneducated white person himself, he got to see White privilege work against him. He said privileged people just don’t know they are privilege. Privilege to them is normal. Ironically, as he said this i thought to myself not many black people with no education, would have been loaned money by banks to start a business like he did.
Race, sex and class are one in the same in South Africa. It is the same as being Muslim or Jewish. Being Muslim or Jewish is about race, culture and religion, it is all three. You can’t separate the three.
The reason why what happened in parliament happened this week, it is because you cannot separate conscience from black consciousness. You see as an entrepreneur I have no capital and I am aware of it. I am conscious of it. I am also conscious as to who has it. When you are a corporate you have the luxury of conscience. You see moral high ground is very expensive real estate. Before “94, not many black people lived across a school, nor did they have electricity, running water, homes, hospitals, etc. So to millions of people the ANC restored their sense of pride and humanity. To the privileged few, black and white, these life changing accomplishments had no direct impact on them. You see the privileged don’t know that they are privileged. The fact that we live in a country that you can vote for no confidence in a leader by a secret ballot makes our democracy and constitution the best in the world world not just on paper but when tested too. If democracy works, the rest is merely politics.
Ps: my son lives 5 minutes from school albeit an expensive private school. #IamPriviledged.
I aim to explore more aspects of this subject next week, we can’t keep ducking these tough conversations. Stay tuned and have a great weekend.
Thanks for reading this far!