By Attiya Karodia
Last year, just a day short of the anniversary of Madiba’s passing, I witnessed an event that jolted me from the Suburban New South Africa dream we’ve seen reiterated in our rainbow nation ads and former model-c schools.
Standing at the Gautrain bus station in Rosebank, a well-spoken white man provoked, attacked and then mocked a homeless black man. After pushing him to the floor, he choked him and amidst a flurry of profanity said
“I am White Power, poes”.
I’ve often found myself outraged to the point of tears, but never to this degree, and the level of introspection from this event has caused me to feel a deep sense of shame to call myself and those around me free South Africans.
Since tweeting about the event, I’ve had countless people thank me for my reaction, most white people have apologized for my having to experience it at all and at the root of these well-meaning words, I can only become more disheartened. I shouldn’t be thanked for speaking out, my reaction shouldn’t be something rare and while quite shaken up from the experience, an apology to me is only a further mark of neglect and oppression for the victim of this atrocity.
I feel compelled to call myself out for not putting my own body between that racist and the homeless man, and I feel compelled to condemn the actions (or severe lack thereof) of the capable passersby and the Gautrain bus drivers who could have intervened, because our South African mothers and fathers 25 years ago would have fought and did fight without hesitation against crimes just like this.
We’ve all experienced the micro-aggressions expressed by some white folk in the form of the vague us and them, “these people”, “this government” and the occasional K-word thrown out of a car window at a taxi driver, but does the hatred that some white people have run so deeply and so secretly that it only makes an appearance in a burst of anger and at small gatherings with other white friends you can trust?
There’s a new form of racism, a hybrid hatred formed by a combination of anti-feeling for our leading political party and traditional racist notions. What results is a form of racism which remains hidden, but grows, even in the tamest of suburbs and is built on ignorance and misplaced anger.
Unfortunately, the way I reacted, and the way those around me reacted are symptoms of the society we’ve become too, one that lives by the motto of “every man for himself”, one that consists of avid social media activists but are unable to make any significant change in the world outside of Twitter. We’ve become so divided and so bitter towards one another that I have to ask, is it the 1 year anniversary of the passing of a legend, or the anniversary of the death of a nation?