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Standing your ground with an inferiority complex

By unknown | Jun 13, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

My high school history teacher and principal in Mabopane, one Mr Mabe, once shared with us an analogy to illustrate the inferiority complex.

My high school history teacher and principal in Mabopane, one Mr Mabe, once shared with us an analogy to illustrate the inferiority complex.

It went something like: "Say you are in the company of a white person and you both enter a room. Inside you find two chairs - one a comfortable sofa and the other a rickety bench.

"You, the black person, would spontaneously choose to sit on the bench while offering the white companion the sofa. That, boys and girls, is what we call an inferiority complex."

In later years I was to experience the complex first hand, such as when I was a regular passenger in a normally packed third class train coach back when apartheid was in full flight.

Almost daily, a skinny white chap who looked like a lowly paid labourer, would get on the train somewhere between Johannesburg and Pretoria. Sizing him up, I concluded that the reason he defied the country's laws of separation had more to do with his financial situation than his love for blacks.

Each time he got into the coach, blacks would literally jump off their seats for him to sit. Then they would compete among themselves, in vernacular, about how much he (the white) loved them.

"Ah, this one, he loves meblind ..." was the regular line.

It was a black sickness of the time. It was not uncommon, for example, for white scruffy, greasy restaurant owners to hurl insults at their black customers, and we would in turn laugh and marvel at how much they loved us.

Every black woman was "Maria" and she was a "sef**be". Still, we'd pack their shops in our hundreds and giggle when they swore at us. Let another black person hurl half an insult at the same person, and you'd see hell.

Off the train, away from the filthy fish and chips shops and back home, I had a (black) neighbour and friend who brazenly declared that he would never help a black person with a breakdown. He was particularly good with his hands, and was quite clued up mechanically.

"I don't want to lie to you bra. I will never pass a boer. The boers are very good. Blacks are full of shit. The next thing they will bewitch you."

I learnt very long ago that when people start arguing like that, you shut your trap lest you make a lot of unnecessary enemies. Their minds are made up, and they don't want you to confuse them with the facts. So I let my buddy wallow in his mindboggling prejudice towards blacks and overflowing love for whites.

One day - I am told - when he was still young and working in the gardens in the suburbs at weekends, a white bully confronted him and called him " kaffertjie ".

"I am not a kaffertjie," my black buddy protested.

"Wat die hel is jy?" the bully demanded.

"Ek is 'n kaffer!"

At least he stood his ground.

l The writer is the editor of Sunday World


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