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Thursday, December 13, 2012

THE UGLY SIDE OF GENTRIFICATION /// NO PICS, JUST PLAIN TALK


I’ve had such an awesome day today; I spent quite a bit of it in Woodstock. Breakfast at the Superette with my boo, a quick pop into the Missibaba studios to discuss/design a new leather visor cap that Chloe’s studio is making for me, and a late afternoon at Visi, where I work. Later on tonight I am looking forward to attending the Hugo Boss year-end party, plus it’s the last day of work before I go on holiday. I really wish I could focus on these parts of my day and leave it at that. But I had such a fucked up incident that totally shook me at the newly renovated Woodstock Exchange this morning. Thing is I like most of what’s happening on Lower Main/Albert road in Woodstock. It’s all pretty, there’s new shops, business is booming by the looks of things, which is great for the city and country. I remember when I first moved to Cape Town in 1999, Lower Main was considered a dangerous place by some, great for crackheadz looking for a fix but certainly not the ideal choice for breakfast and hipsters on imported single gear bikes. Anyway, so this morning I walked into the Woodstock Exchange for breakfast and the security person at the entrance looks me up and down and asks me where I’m going. Like really? I was so stunned I didn’t know how to react; I just looked at him and walked past into the breakfast spot. I love the Woodstock Exchange, it looks cool, there are a lot of beautiful shops and friends of mine have studios there. Friends that I do not think in terms of race, but that experience made me stop and look around to see why on earth the security guard would question my presence there? And at that very moment, looking around at friends and customers and shop owners, bar the staff, everyone was white. And I wanna stress that I am speaking specifically of that moment, I don’t know what the rest of the day looked like. I watched as my partner who was joining me for breakfast walked into the center, and yep the security guard gave him a proper up and down look, almost as if to decide if this one was okay to let in. I checked with other black-like-me friends and they confirmed that they too had similar experiences at The Woodstock Exchange. One friend's experience was so hectic he wrote a letter to the building owners. This was obviously not the first time I’ve been there, I’ve been before in the company of non-black friends and colleagues and have had no issues. Like I always say, I fucking love Cape Town and it’s given me an awesome life, one just has to look at the many awesome experiences I’ve had today, which by the way happen quite often. Just the other evening I was giving my usual speech to Joburg friends about how amazing life is in CT and why they need to move here. But that’s no reason to ignore the fucked up bits, the ugly side of gentrification, and the racial profiling that comes with it, no matter how exhausted some might be of the whole Cape Town and racism story. Because for my own sanity I have to believe that whatever their colour, the many cool people i know and love, want the same thing i want, a Cape Town that's cool for all. And cool as the Woodstock Exchange maybe, it’s just not cool if the plan is to keep it a white enclave by design. And whenever new businesses / centers open up in areas that are traditionally of a brown people demographic, and somehow manage to only ever be filled with strictly white people I have to ask myself, is it a co-incidence or is it by design? Because of mine and my friend’s experiences at The Woodstock Exchange, I’m leaning towards thinking that it is indeed by design, and that frightens and infuriates me in equal measure. It could be because of the guard because my friends have described the same guard doing the same to them, or it could be his brief from the building owners, who the fuck knows? but it's not on, and the sad part is that he fits into the demographic he seems to be tryna keep out, angry as i am I also feel deeply sad for him. Just out of interest I also spoke to a couple of friends there about the center and a reason that came across quite a bit to love the place was “It feel so Europe here, I love it”. Fairly harmless, in my travels I’ve also found a lot of things to love about  Europe, and am planning a couple of trips to Europe in the coming year so I can enjoy those things some more. But in the context of the racial profiling incidents, I wish the Woodstock Exchange felt a little less like Europe, and that security guard didn't make me, my lover, my friends and others feel like "die swart gevaar".

2 comments:

  1. oh crap,shocking-but unfortunately not surprising..i know of several friends who have had similar experiences-in woodstock as well as in other fashionable parts of cape town..as the friend or family member who is the 'white'person in the situation,like your boo,i cringe in these situations,uncertain how to react as the person carrying out the brief(which im certain it is)is the one likely to loose their job if one were to complain and also the one likely to loose their job if enough people boycott these establishments..(i hope desperately that there are enough of us)
    i think this is part of a bigger picture in which currently still advantaged local and foreign people who consider themselves'european'still openly talk about good schools where most children are white,who subtly wouldnt rent an apartment to 'colored or black" people and who also would be more likely to employ someone from their own cultural background,even if that person had no qualifications or experience..
    as i always say to my students,doing nothing means condoning the status quo and we are still dealing with the results of over three hundred years of injustice,we should always be working towards creating a new society
    so what about good old woodstock which i have also called my home for most of my adult life..lets talk about this more..some people need to be re-educated!

    ps:for a refreshingly unbiased experience do your xmas shopping(at least the decorations)at any chinese shop on the main road where the shop assistant will stand on top of you to make sure you dont shoplift,regardless of your creed or colour!!
    xx

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