I take every racist attack that happens in Cape Town so completely personally. I am white. I live in Cape Town. I am filled with equal parts of shame, embarrassment and disbelief every time a racist thing happens. And lately there have been many, really ugly ones.
I get horrified every time huge amounts of city money gets spent on something so clearly whitely focused, like the new ‘art’ that is being erected while police stations get closed down, or the bullshit Cape Town Fringe non-event, or the fucking pretentious ‘design capital 2014’, or the inaccessible and expensive tourist attractions that put the city on the map. Meanwhile clinics have no doctors and people still use portable toilets. Meanwhile most Capetonians have never been up Table Mountain, to Kirstenbosch, or on a wine route tour.
Yesterday a clearly mad, angry black man tried to run at my car, outside Penny Pinchers, while I was driving home. Once I got over the shock and fear, and pulled away, I tried to imagine his blind, white rage. How was he to know, this white person in her car, gave a shit? He certainly doesn’t experience the world that way. And I got embarrassed and shamed all over again.
This is not to say racism doesn’t live and breathe elsewhere. Of course it does, it’s just that it seems to be so comfortable and growing fat in Cape Town. And it means that it becomes harder and harder to defend, as a place to live. And it comes from places right under my nose.
Imagine my horror when I realised I actually knew the mother of someone on trial for one of these hideous incidents. She is an amazing, peace loving, forward thinking human being. You never can tell. There are racists among us.
It is with further deep shame that I acknowledge that one of my dogs is racist. Ok, he is sexist too, and doesn’t like men, but he definitely has a different response to black people. I don’t know why, or where it comes from.
This racist stuff is particularly stinky. It permeates. It is slimy and sneaky, creeping into unguarded homes, a friend of fear, an ally of ignorance, an advocate of privilege. I have to stop myself every time I get defensive of Cape Town, and want to run out the door and shout, “no, there are a lot of cool, white people, like me and my friends.”, because, let’s face it, who will believe me? And, honestly, why should they?