I so do not want to write this post, but it is sitting in my throat like a lump of coal, suffocating me, and blocking my rage and disgust. This time it was the racist incident at Clarke’s Bar and Dining Room that sparked it off, but it is important (I believe) not to single them out, but add them to the list of restaurants, hotels, b&bs, and other places of leisure that are either subtly or blatantly racist. A coloured friend told me about a horrible racist incident that she and her family suffered at Shimmy Beach Club last season. I read about another POC complain about being kicked out by the bouncers there this year. The stories are many, and endless. I have seen the look of relief on faces when I, a white person, join black friends at a table in a restaurant in Sea Point. It is embarrassing.
Cape Town is always accused of being a racist, divided city. And, it is way past time to suck it up and admit the truth of it. I know there are huge efforts, by people who care and take this kind of thing personally, to try and make this less so. It is a deep and thankless challenge, with the opposite of help from the DA entrenched City of Cape Town, who believe they have the mandate to be on the side of big business and big (white) money. We only need to look at the Sea Point councillor who had no actual idea that she was being what she was being until she publicised it; a clueless, cruel, ignorant, racist person with power.
But here is what I don’t understand at all. Why are these restaurants, b&bs, clubs and hotels not working the other way around, from the beginning, to change who and what they are? Why are they not all actively encouraging a coloured and black clientele from the outset? Why are they not actively giving support to those who experience racism from their white clients? Why aren’t they spelling it out on their billboards and websites and in their press releases that they will not tolerate racist attitudes towards staff, other customers and even passers by? Why are they not shouting it from their rooftops that they are a safe haven for all the colours of Cape Town to enjoy?
It is too late once the incident has happened. It is over for Clarke’s whose pissy and weak attempt at a meeting with those who were horribly insulted is a total band-aid response to bad publicity. Unless Clarke’s does a complete overhaul of their attitude they will be able to get away with being a white only restaurant where POC never feel comfortable. And here’s the other bit of coal stuck in my throat. I am not convinced they (and others) don’t want it this way. They want to serve a predominantly white clientele. They want their white customers to feel comfortable and safe and at home, more than they want their coloured customers to. And it is disgusting, and unacceptable and they must be boycotted loudly. I am adding them to the list of places that need to be named and shamed.
But, I do not want to. I do not want to be the racist police. I do not want this.