Friday, June 22, 2012

What a Wynberg Taxi Showed me About Racial Disparity in South Africa

Now, here in Cape Town there the public transport system relies on minibuses, the Metro railway and Golden Arrow bus transit the latter of which are corporations run that operate on an ordered system which may or may not be run by the government. The former of the two are the private-owned minibuses colloquially-termed taxis that, because they are not corporately-owned and any old person with a minibus can drive a taxi and earn money doing so, do not obey any ordered stopping system as the buses do and have a particular way of attempting to get customers into a taxi. A young male, preferably someone with a loud voice and a little charisma is assigned the task of getting out of the taxi at a predetermined stop along the taxi route and yelling the destination of the taxi while asking pedestrians if they are traveling their in between call-outs. The problem is, the majority of those asked are not in fact going to or planning to take a taxi in the said destination and walking then becomes a task of avoiding call-out boys. Why should one have to even respond. If I were going I would tell you yes, or better yet, just hop into the taxi. But today, I was in no mood and ignoring one of these people led to a slight altercation and nasty exchange of signals and words (not from me) as I went along with my day (still happily of course). Reaching supermarket at a shopping center along Main Road, I was asked if I was going to Wynberg for the second maybe third time along my walk and did not respond, I was in no mood. The result was unexpected. This young man who I identified as short, Coloured and sincerely unattractive called me something I swear I have not heard someone call me since I was in primary school - "Black Mamba". Dafuq? Are you for real. Uninterested yet somewhat slighted, I silently flipped a bird and walked through the automatic sliding doors wondering why on Earth that set of words. Then I began to recall how some Coloureds in Cape Town have been successfully trained to think that their apartheid-defined racial status provides them with an opportunity to take a step above the Black population whom they consider inferior. Yet the irony is in the fact that the entire Coloured population in the Western Cape claim ancestors of African origin. Their existence owes itself to the African woman's womb but with apartheid having left its imprint, it would be impossible to convince the ignorant and brain-dead about how ironic it is for them to despise she from which they came. I think if I had been a non-black woman, the reaction to my ignoring this individual would not have been one of insult because I am a Black woman or a "sister" as they like to call it, someone he believes is inferior to him on the basis of my race and gender, he felt a need to put me in my supposed place and make mockery of my dark-skinned nature (which does not even make the slightest sense in my mind, since dark-skin is undeniably gorgeous) as a means of elevating himself. On a personal level, it was a case of a hurt person attempting to hurt another; racially, it served as a reminder to me of how scarred South Africa really still is in this post-apartheid era.

This isn't the guy. 

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