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Sunday, January 15, 2012

WE ARE BEAUTIFUL LOSERS #2 /// AND AN UNRELATED PIECE ON THE CAPE TOWN RACE DEBATE



On Saturday night I went to check out the second installation of the We Are Beautiful Losers party and
exhibition at Word of Art in Woodstock. I missed the first one but i've been to a couple
of events at Word of Art and i know they rock. Last night was definitely the biggest event
i've witnessed there and to top it all off they had bands performing. Now to be honest i'm
not very big on rock music and i only really saw rock performances. I still had shitloads
of fun though. There is something about live music. Even when it's not really your
favourite genre, you can still get down and have a blast.



And now onto a more serious topic. I normally try to avoid serious issues
because i view this blog as entertainment, an escape from life's more serious realities if
you will. However, some things beg to be said. I've been watching the whole online
debate about racism in the Cape from the sidelines and not saying much but an incident
last night made me want to add my two cents. I've lived in CT since 1999. I fell head
over heels in love with this city. It is beautiful and its residents are mostly a friendly lot,
plus i find that shit just works. To be fair though, i've only ever lived in the city bowl and
its surrounding areas, so i cannot say how well it works for the residents of Philippi and
Lotus River. In 2007 I moved to Jozi but after a year there I knew it was not for me and I
missed Cape Town, I missed the quality of life, so I moved back. Since then I have been
so happy with my decision and Cape Town has shown me some truly great times. Of
course this does not mean that the city is great all of the time, and it would be silly for
those who love and believe in this city to ignore the cracks. Last night was a case in
point. After having a blast at the Beautiful losers gig two friends and I went to check out
Chukkachurri, a newish club in Green Point. I am not much of a club person but i was up
for a party last night so i went. The place was super packed, there was literally a queue
outside there door and everyone had to wait for people to come out before they could be
let in. We eventually made it in. Like it often happens at venues in CT, everyone was
white, besides me and my two friends i only spotted two other black people. I am used to
that and quite honestly it's not much of an issue, i go where i like and whether the crowd
is black or white really doesn't matter. Anyway we eventually made it to the bar after
running into a couple of familiar faces and a bit of a quick chat. This is where things got
a bit dodgy. After ignoring me for about five minutes the barman eventually puts his
hand in front of my face to tell me that he is not going to serve me. I am a bit disturbed, i
think i must have misheard, he carries on to serve the people next to me, who got there
after me. So i stand my ground and demand service, he looks at the bank card in my hand
and he makes up some story about the card machine not working. We look across to the
other end of the bar and point out to him that the other barman is busy processing a card
payment on the very same machine he claims isn't working. He carries on serving other
customers. I guess I should also mention that this is a black barman. We call on the
manager, we assume he is a manager because he is behind the bar but he is not dressed in
the barmen's uniform. He tells me he likes my blonde dreads, he tells my friend Siya who
is standing next to me that he also likes his style, and he rounds it off by saying we look
alright but we must just wait. Wow, thank you Mr Manager, so great to know that we're
alright. At this stage i really did not want to walk off and just accept this ridiculous
situation. i was gonna get my drink, so five minutes later after having to be very
demanding we got our drinks, and paid by card. Now contrary to popular opinion, most
of the time one doesn't want to attribute every little incident to racism. Racism is ugly
and demeaning, it strips one of human dignity. In fact one tries very hard to find other
reasons why some things happen, to excuse it, to say it didn't happen to me. However,
some incidents are more obvious than others, like a couple of months ago when i was
refused service at a bar in Paarl, then called a kaffirtjie by one of the customers who then
went on tell me about how "we" think we can just walk in anywhere and think it's okay.
Really? A kaffirtjie? And here i was thinking i'd be atleats a fully grown kaffir. Suffice it
to say that night did not end well, but that's another story for another day. There's also
more subtle forms of racism, like many years ago when i used to word at Cafe Dharma
before it was renamed Asoka. We had a booking for a Muslim table of about 15. The
manager asked me to give the worst possible service in order to discourage them from
coming back. Since Muslims do not drink, it would not be good for business for them to
keep coming back. Of course i couldn't do that, i gave them great service and my
manager wasn't impressed, but hey. There's also just plain ignorance which leads to racist
views. A recent and frightening example is from a story a friend of mine told me over
dinner last week. She recently found herself at a dinner with some of the top dogs from
the company she works for, and their friends. After a few drinks the CEO's right hand
man went on a tirade about how lazy black people are, how they have no work ethic and
expect white people to hand them everything on a silver platter and how he could not
understand why young blacks are not richer with all the opportunities given to them. This
of course comes from a man who leads one of the biggest and most successful South
African companies, a man i know of and who's work i admired from a distance. With that
kind of thinking coming from the top, it is no wonder why so many companies struggle
with transformation. Back to me and my friends at Chukkachurri, we got our drinks and
we went out to the balcony to enjoy them and to unpack what had just happened. I found
out that they'd both been flathunting for the last couple of months and they had horror
stories to tell. Where suddenly flats were often 'taken' as soon as they got there to view them,
 even though they called to say they are on their way, places that were advertised as
one month deposit plus rent suddenly became three months deposit plus rent as soon as
the owners met them. Anyway, these are just a few stories and i have heard so many
more. This whole race debate has made me realise how important it is for these stories
to be told. So that we can avoid situations where leaders respond to allegations of
racism in Cape Town by tweeting "what utter nonsense!".

7 comments:

  1. much respect, and thanks for sharing --
    im on my way home , been lving in Denmark for hte past three years --- HOME is in disarray .

    i will come home , still with open mind
    and show my baby boy , the people from the south.


    KEEP shining bright. BE present --- and always make urself hear.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was great, and not so great to read (if you know what I mean!) Thanks for sharing.
    x

    ReplyDelete
  3. to be fair, I've experienced a mountain of discrimination in Johannesburg, for being white. where often people would say things like "you wouldn't understand, you're a whitey", being left out of meetings with black clients, because it "doesn't look good" and for every guy that hit on me (I have a boyfriend) hearing that I'M racist, because there would obviously be no other reason for not being interested that the colour of their skin: "you don't want to talk to me because I"m black!" - this kind of thing happens everywhere. and it's not a white on black thing neccesarily. The very nature of accusing a whole city of racism - is as very eschewed as the stupidity of racism itself. See people as individuals - and don't clonk all of cape town into one big entity. it's VERY racist :P

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anja: as long as " the city" keeps feeding it's own denialism & fails to acknowledge truths that a majority of its people experience: the city shall remain the "insulated isolated peninsula" it is...

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Anja. Ja i can see the unfairness in generalizations, and like i said above i find most of ct friendly and the city has shown me great times. This is not a finger pointing exercise, i believe the most important thing is for people to be able talk about these things, tell stories, both yours and mine. It is when we keep these inside that they eventually fester and grow into generalizations. So ja lets all keep talking and just as importantly lets keep listening...sounds a bit cheesy i know, but so true.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I really love that you ended this piece with some notes on the rest of your evening, especially as these issues are so prominent in people's mind's right now. The commentary/ dialogue is so important, thanks for including it. We can't possibly know the array of experiences that are had if people don't share them. It's so sad that this is still a heavy reality, especially in a city that you would think would be more progressive. The twitter debate has been such an embarrassing display of ignorance, and so dismissive of real experiences. So thanks again for the extra writing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for sharing and a big up to you for your super tolerance and not letting those beasts steal your dignity. Next time I'm back in my home town I'll make a special effort to grace Asoka and Chakkachurri with my 'professional black' arse.

    ReplyDelete

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