White, coloured, Indian, black, other. A seemingly ineradicable hierarchy that has the same insistence of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, or Bloom’s taxonomy. Emphasis by repetition.
We are free because the Constitution says so. It is accepted in the country of our birth and in the national arena. Yet which of us is truly free from functioning within these mindless categories?
We are surrounded by adjustments and denials that disguise the truth: we are not really living the life of integration.
We all had a lot to say about the French football team which won the World Cup. But France never practised integration. They opted for assimilation. There lies the difference.
Let’s take my simple exemplar of tipping. Gratuities. Can we honestly say that the generosity scale isn’t influenced by this racial escalation? We can give the black petrol attendant R5 and not feel bad.
Is there, or isn’t there some hesitation in rewarding service from other races? My son has a sardonic comment for me. He said: Yes, you will ask a white beggar if he does electronic transfer. And he looked at me as if to say: go ahead and argue.
That was precisely what the British poet, Larkin referred to as “ the harsh patronage of a son”
When we practise integration in public, it always has the taint of exaggeration. I attended a superb concert in the Artscape staged by drag queens, or cross-dressers.
I saw in their commitment and natural self-convictions among each other the rigour that we need to apply in order to arrive at sincere integration.
We still label inter-racial marriages as marrying up down. We look for motive, mostly money, or prestige, or access to facilities. Never true love, which, according to the Bard, “ alters not when it alteration finds” And I am not only looking at South African nuptials.
We lack a true barometer to measure the integrity, courage and colour-blindness which is required to repair our tainted relationships. We already wrestle with gender issues in terms of violence and drug abuse, and it suddenly is a black thing. School girls require a million sanitary towels in order to make is through high school (newspaper report). We assume they are black.
We need to see assumptions in the body language in public places. We need to deal with that. Not by aggression, but open-faces and up-cast eyes.
I am tired of being looked at but clearly not seen. And it is not a complaint that is one-directional. This requires engagement and buy-in from all sections and sectors of the community. Only then can we claim unity in diversity.
* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.