Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brown or white?

Here on the tip of Africa we have some Nasty History. There was a time when Horrible Men (and Women) did despicable things to people who share this country, just because they had the wrong colour skin. I was young when those awful times were at their peak. I was there, and aware, but it was on my periphery because, well, ludicrously, I’m white. Therefore I wasn’t subjected to Pass Laws and inadequate (or no) education; to segregation and violence; to being treated as inferior; and to having any opportunity taken forcefully from me. We couldn’t even go to school together.

Thankfully, that is a thing of the past and things started turning as I went to university. I think my parents are eternally grateful for this too, not only because they were Anti-Apartheid, but, more personally, they knew that I would’ve been politically active and, more-than-likely, in trouble.

But, yes, we were all saved from that, over 15 years ago now. Everybody walked on shells for a while, and sometimes still do. It was all about 'political correctness'... Be careful what you call people, how you say things, how you write things. Everybody was hyper-sensitive and ready to flare. 'Racism' was bandied about and flung back and forth and shouted at any hint of anything. Sometimes unnecessarily. Understandably, it was a difficult transition, from all sides.

How time flies. We almost have the first generation of adults born in the Free South Africa. Now everybody goes to school together.

This brings me to my point, a conversation G and I had with her 7-year old nephew in the car on Monday. He’s a sweet, blonde, mostly-bare-footed Afrikaans boy (like we all were... urm... some years ago) who has just moved with his parents, brother and sister, from a farm to a small town which, in the bad old days would’ve been, well, bad. Unless, of course, you were white.

Nephew: Benj was in the school play. (Benj is his younger brother, Benjamin)
G: Oh wow, who was he?
Nephew: Joseph.
Shiny: Jesus’ dad?
Nephew: Yes.
G: Who played Mary?
Nephew: Brown Hayley.
Shiny: Brown Hayley?
Nephew: Yes. She's brown.

G: But isn't that rude?
Nephew: No, why? There’s two Hayleys in the class, one is brown and the other is white, so we call them Brown Hayley and White Hayley. Otherwise it’s confusing.

Well, yes, indeed. This was nothing to do with racism, this was logical, like referring to your red t-shirt and your blue t-shirt, and I smiled a huge, happy, smile, to hear it. It seems our country has grown into its shoes - the terrible past, the uncomfortable teenage years of adapting and finding our feet are done. Now we can just be. How wonderful.


Angela said...

Yes indeed. Quite logical. Great.

Kitty Moore said...

That is wonderful!

Shiny said...

Geli and Kitty - isn't it great? xx