Play the race card if you want to score that company car or some white chick

Bra Ishy* (bless his soul) was an amiable fellow with a sharp wit.

Bra Ishy* (bless his soul) was an amiable fellow with a sharp wit.

Long before many of us even dreamt of getting into journalism, he had long earned his stripes in the craft.

He was a scholarly kind of chap who went to school before the poison called Bantu Education was unleashed on us, the first generation to imbibe it. And it showed in his writing and conversation.

He was, you could say, a perfect gentleman - conversationally, that is.

But then Bra Ishy was also a drunk - a hopeless one for that matter. He went in and out of rehab long before it became fashionable to do so.

To add to that, his hygiene was extremely wanting. He cared very little about his looks, kept an unkempt head with corn-row hair that looked like a cockroach habitat.

When he opened his mouth, the malodorous miasmata of boiled eggs filled the air.

Which is why, I suspect, he did not seem to get anywhere trying to charm this white lady at a journalists' conference in the unlamented days of apartheid.

Bra Ishy tried Shakespeare, no luck. He tried humour, nothing doing. She just would not crack.

Late at night, at the after-dinner party, when booze flowed freely and those who dabbled in illegal herbs had had their fill, Bra Ishy let rip, loudly enough for the whole room to hear: "Is it because I am black?"

The poor lady turned pink, purple and snow-white in a matter of seconds.

I don't remember her exact words, but she tried to explain how non-racist she was, blah, bloody blah.

I can't vouch for it, but I was told Bra Ishy scored big that night. Hmm.

Is it because I am black . ?

Believe you me, that line works. We all know a chief who uses it now and again and cows those white folks who confront him into shamed silence.

I confess I used it once to good effect when an Afrikaans company I was working for wanted to take a company car away from me. After writing countless memos to management and sitting in umpteen meetings, they still insisted I was not to have a car.

I tried everything, pointing out that junior executives on sister publications were given vehicles. They were all white, and I did not use that argument until the final demand came from the head honcho telling me in no uncertain terms that the vehicle I was driving must be surrendered in days. He gave me the date and time by which the car must be in the garage.

"Okay Sir," I wrote him, "in the absence of any other reason, I can only conclude that you are resorting to this action because I am black."

Voila! He was embarrassed senseless. He called me into his office and all he could say was: "Ag, nee." Then he showed me out.

It worked like a charm, ha-ha-hee-hee.

I was to drive a company car for years to come.

Call it emotional blackmail, lack of honour, whatever, but hell, what's wrong with a blackie milking some benefits from whitey via the sediments of apartheid? In the right circumstances, I am not too sure if I would not do it again. It's not a lie ... I am black.

*Not his real name.

l Charles Mogale is the editor of Sunday World