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Sweets of 'nice whites' in apartheid-era left sour taste

By unknown | Jan 16, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Indulge me a second instalment on my bitter-sweet experience with "very nice" whites in the unforgettable days of apartheid.

Indulge me a second instalment on my bitter-sweet experience with "very nice" whites in the unforgettable days of apartheid.

Believe it or not, many of them meant well as they unwittingly seared our hearts with arrant racism couched as niceness. I could probably fill a book with my experiences, but two incidents stand out in my mind.

The one was when my dad and I walked into a parking lot (in Pretoria, where else?) and found a white woman struggling to get her car started. She asked if we could help her push-start the jalopy.

We thought nothing of it and pushed the car, and the engine cranked to life after a few paces. We waved her off and walked towards our own jalopy. As we reached the car, the old lady stopped near us, reached into her handbag and produced two sweets. She extended her hand to offer them, while her face beamed.

Now, my father was a middle-aged school principal who was highly respected in his own community. I did not know him to be a fire-eating anti-apartheid activist, but he brooked no disrespect, especially if he thought it was race-based.

He shook his head disapprovingly, and nudged slowly towards the lady's car until his head was "criminally" close to hers. Then, wagging his finger in her face, he spoke slowly as if to allow every word to sink in: "Listen my girl, you can take these sweets and give them to your gardener ." and then the shiv: "Or your grandfather, you cabbage! Nx!"

He turned around and made his way back to our car slowly - too slowly for a black man who had just "insulted" a white woman in Pretoria.

The last time I looked, the woman had turned white like a sheet and was trembling visibly. She could not understand what had angered this black man so much. I was relieved we got away without harm.

Years later, still in Pretoria, I walked into a dungeon of a shop near Marabastad - the kind that plays loud disco music and sells dirt cheap booze and rotten food. It is normally frequented by unemployed folks who dance their sorrows away and share the odd quart of beer or a litre of sorghum.

I walked in there with my daughter, who was a toddler. Inside the shop, we found a few white folks - and don't ask me why whites "love" blacks so much when they are down on their luck and drinking "bantoe bier?"

One of them, a rotund tannie with a Voortrekker kappie on her head, yanked the little girl off her feet, and before I could say "vierkleur" lifted my girl up and smothered her with a toothless kiss.

She reached into her plastic bag and took out a few pieces of dried fruit and shoved one into my girl's mouth. As if I did not feed her enough, my girl started chomping on the damn thing while I willed her to spit it out. No other reason . just hygiene.

And as she wolfed it down, the fruit giver turned around to her friends and announced proudly: "Kyk net daar ... die arme ding het seker nooit die ding geproe nie." - Just look at her . the poor thing has probably never tasted the thing before.

A fight and confrontation now and again might be par for the course, but I have never been one to pick up fights with soft targets.


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