Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Racist Cape Town

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?

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3 Comments

  1. conrad murrey

    Thank you for writing this article, and I hope that it reaches the eyes of the people that need to read it. I like to be positive, but I’m a realist at heart – I fear that your words and mine will only be read by people who already give a fuck. Preaching to a choir.

    Even so – I want to put a couple of thoughts out there…

    The City of Cape Town governing body is absolutely useless. My sister organizes “Open Book”…

    http://openbookfestival.co.za/2014-authors/

    This festival has had 3 seasons. During that time a library has been created at a school in Mitchells Plain. And is being consistently looked after. A mentoring program is in place.

    You would think that the City of Cape Town would get behind this. I know that some funds have been squeezed from their coffers, but it took years.

    It all comes down to money. If you have money, things will go your way. If you don’t – fuck off.

    And that is my 1st point – The city council is not racist, they’re elitist. Wealthy people only.

    My 2nd point is this…
    Currently I work in Los Angeles, and have done so off and on for the past 5 years or so. During that time I can recall working with 0 black people. I see black people everyday but never the two shall meet. Pretty much the only black people I have spoken to in LA are cab drivers, and these are not black americans. These are congolese, ethiopians, etc… And they love America.

    In Cape Town, a black woman cleans my house once a week. I can’t even remember the fake english name she introduced herself as. I make her tea, and she tells me a joke. She has no education, but she’s taught me things that no university ever could have.

    Sure Cape Town is segregated, but it’s got nothing on LA. I’m not saying that it makes it ok, I’m just saying that we have to keep things in perspective.

    In truth I have found Cape Town to be segregated not by race but by money. And that’s the real problem. Drive through Camps Bay/Llandudno/etc and see how many homes are empty. A crap load of these homes are owned by businesses, foreigners, or rich JHB people (which is ironic because JHB is seen as the milestone for intergration). It’s not rich white yuppies.

    Cape Town is not the place to make money. Everything costs more and you get paid less than if you were living in jhb. This has led Cape Town to become a retirement home for those that can afford it. This is also a problem. It didn’t used to be this way. In my opinion this has led to Cape Town becoming super conservative. Welcome to Cape Town – the most boring city in the world.

    Anyway – i have more to say but must go now

  2. I think you raise some good points, but in my opinion they confirm how racist Cape Town is, and classist too. Thanks for replying.

  3. conrad murrey

    So check this out…

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/faraigundan/2014/12/30/south-african-billionaire-patrice-motsepe-spends-68-million-rands-on-cape-town-luxury-retreat/

    I agree that racism is a problem in Cape Town (and globally). But the bigger problem is the elitist richmongers that run the city.

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