"@helenzille: You're a highly respected black professional. Don't try to be a professional black. It demeans you @simphiwedana",

and with that tweet the DA head buried her left stiletto deep inside oesophagus and blasted a big whole in her right croc. Simultaneously pissing off "black" twitter and popularising a new phrase (we are good at that in SA). The twitter war that ensued quickly detiriorated into the Cape Town Racism debateis pretty much predictable with both sides - #CapeTownisRacist vs, #CapeTownIsAwesome - trending in no time and, of course, #professionalblack.

So the question is, is Cape Town an inherently racist? I'm not one for gross generalisations, that's just retarded, so I thought it would help if I gave my first hand experience in race relations in the Mother City. Firstly, there is an assumption that racism is perpetrated by whites onto unsuspecting black. No fam, Cape Town is on some other tip on this one.

White vs Black
There is no other place in the country I ever seen where white people so at peace. Here they walk really slow. You see them at coffee joints, there's A LOT here, pooch on chain. With no sense of alarm. In Joburg white people walk briskly and generally avoid eye contact. In the Cape they look at you, right through you, and walk past. At times not recognising you, their colleague (its happened a few times). Is there anything wrong with this? Not at all. My point is, White people here don't feel as threatened by the "otherness" of others.

Cape Town affords them their own space where they can live in nonchalant bubbles. Doing anything and everything they please. The list of extra mural activities here is a lengthy one. Most of these are "sponsored" mother nature but they are heavily facilitated by the City of Cape Town. There's a 20km bicycle that was launched between Blouberg and Cape Town. Round about the same time the open air toilets in the townships hit the headlines. In many of the pro-Cape Town tweets, people kept to talking about the majestic scenery, mountain, oceans and such. Rarely were people relations mentioned Does this mean Cape Town whites are racist? No, Cape Town affords its white population the opportunity not to give a sh*t. Many, many have taken this opportunity with both hands.

Black vs Coloured
I'm in a taxi going to work. The coloured driver gives me R25 worth of coins as change. I ask him for a R20 note rather. "Waz rong, iz stil maani mos? Jerrreee dets why you pipol don't get anywheres in life". Different month, different taxi. I ask to get off by KFC. The driver drives past. I protest. The driver responds "Hey, iz my taxi neh, I will decide. You pipol don't mos belong here".

Different month, different taxi. The 4 sitter seat I'm in has 3 small sized black people. The one in front has 3 large coloured people. A huge coloured lady comes. She's directed to sit with us as there's more space. "Haa aah, its fine, I'll squash, as long as I'm sitting next to coloureds". I could go on with this. What seems to have happened is that SOME coloured people still believe in the status quo they were given by the apartheid system that placed them above black people. You almost don't exist to some coloured people. A historical nuisance at best.

Black vs Xhosa
This one takes the cake. From the time I was a student, experiencing SOME Xhosa peoples' disdain for anything not Xhosa was amazing. "You Joburg boys are sissies. Where we come from when you want meat you kill a cow or goat", said one res mate of mine. With machismo and bravado you get told how only Xhosa men are real men, something to do with a mountain. There was once a legendary battle in our residence around 2005. People nearly died in a fight involving bread knives, pots and any other appliance that could be picked up. The cause of the fight? A group of Xhosa guys wanted to prove to everyone that they "controlled" the place simply because they were Xhosa.

I was walking in town one time and an elderly man came and asked me for directions. I wasn't that fluent in isiXhosa so I responded in isiZulu. He stopped me mid-sentence. He didn't want my directions because I was not Xhosa. Someone close to me once went to a KFC loo. The door was closed and she asked a lady sitting close to the toilet if there was anyone inside. The lady just stared at her. My friend eventually went into the toilet. As she came out and walked past, the lady remarked, "you are black, why do you speak English to me? Why don't you speak isiXhosa?". My friend wasn't Xhosa.

Again, I could go on with these stories. Things I've never experienced anywhere else in the country. 95% of all my friends and acquaintances are not Cape Townian. Hit the streets at night and most people you bump into are not from here. In spite of these, I have Xhosa, Coloured and white friends who've come to matter to me at some point of my life.

So, is Cape Town racist? According to me, no. It has some other racial, cultural, traditional fecal mix I've never seen before. Here, you are either white, coloured or Xhosa. Cape Town is not racist. Cape Town is f*d up!

Words: Vus

Image: Tumblr

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  1. +
    James Dean

    There are no black people in town after 5pm in Cape Town ... thats just sad.

  2. +

    Dean that's EXACTLY my point. The ones who are there aren't from Cape Town. It's like people want to keep to their own as far as they can. Then beef with you if you don't fit in

  3. I never got the Xhosa thing though ... being Xhosa means jack in Joburg - im Tsonga so what?! I think Joburg is one of the few provinces where everything jelly's up. Here is more about who you know than who you are.

  4. +

    How can you even include black vs Xhosa? Tribes have been fighting each other since the dawn of man. The white man tried to stop it. Are you saying that the white man was right? Are you denying your heritage? And if you think Cape Town is f*d up, why don't you just leave? Go to the rest of South Africa where things are perfect? I thought so... :-)

  5. +

    @Jacques The concept of "leave if you don't like it" only works until you have nowhere to "leave to". By leaving I will be doing nothing but perpetuating the stereotype. By staying and pointing out the flaws I 1. break the stereotype 2. I bring these flaws to peoples' attention so that we know about them, learn about and then see if we can contribute finding ways understanding ourselves. I am not going anywhere and if I do leave it will be by my own accord. I'd rather be part of the solution.

    As for the rest of your "white man / tribalism" comment, the less said out of ignorance, the better.

  6. +

    @Vus You just keep telling yourself that. Have you ever considered that the majority of people in Cape Town are happy here and happy with things the way they are? Why do you want to change it to be the way you want it?
    P.S. You know the tribalism comment is the truth... I dare you to try and refute it.

  7. +

    I think the concept of apartheid is still intact e Kapa, the characters(races) there are still playing the same roles that the system appointed them. I guess their "institutionalised"

  8. +

    Just took a quick minute to calm down (hypocritical people do get me so worked up) and another thought came to me. If you really want to be part of change, why don't you get off the net where people have already opened their eyes and go into the townships to all the uneducated (because of their own government) people and speak to them about change? They sure as hell are not going to listen to me. Maybe they'll listen to you. That is the only way that change is going to happen. If someone educates the masses and opens their eyes to the corrupt, greedy, racist and screwed up government that they keep voting for. Maybe then you can ACTUALLY be part of change and in the future tell your grandchildren that you were part of the "Struggle" which is what I suspect you really want but are too scared to get your hands dirty so now all you do is write "cool" blogs on the net. Don't talk to me about change as long as the internet is all you are doing. Change happens in the REAL world. You want to talk racism? It works BOTH ways and as long as the racist government stays in power nothing will CHANGE.

  9. +


    Do not assume that you know me or my life or what I do. It doesn't help anyone

    "...get off the net....and go into the townships to all the uneducated (because of their own government) people.."
    1. You are assuming simply because I'm on the internet im in NOT in a township. Many articles here were posted from internet cafes in townships across the country. Yes we have internet in the locations.
    2. I hold a degree in Graphic Design, so your "all uneducated people" statement is irrelevant.

    "...corrupt, greedy, racist and screwed up government..."
    1. I could be wrong but I don't remember any other type of government being in power in the history of the country.

    "...tell your grandchildren that you were part of the "Struggle"..."
    1. I am 27. I was never part of the struggle

    "...too scared to get your hands dirty..."
    1. I am assuming you mean I am scared of the townships. They are my home, my whole family is there. I have spent most of my life there.

    "...all you do is write "cool" blogs..."
    1. This is not a blog. It's a website.

    "...You want to talk racism?..."
    1. I never said anyone is racist. Title says "Cape Town Is Not Racist"

    Hope this helps

  10. +

    Hi Vus

    Interesting thoughts, thanks. I am a Capetonian and think that Cape Town is a great example of the diversity we have in South Africa. Because of this diversity we will probably develope a variety of very different cities, almost like going from New York to Los Angeles to New Orleans (all USA) but very very different, and then I am not even looking at the rural cities in mid-america. We should celebrate the diversity. I certainly miss it desperately when overseas. As for my own experience, I agree that Capetonians are very comfortable with diversity but are clicky and don't let others in easily. However, once you have been here for a while and shown that you are here to stay relationships are long-lasting and does not depend on colour or creed. Keep the debate going. We need to talk and get closer to each other.

  11. +

    @Malone CPT is a magnificent place in terms of scenery. I have been here about 9yrs now. There's just so much to experience and explore. It opens up one's mind to many things. When it comes to people relations however, that where things go south. What I wanted to show is that we keep assuming that racism is simply white vs black. It is not and CPT is a good example of that. Many people do not know/have not experienced these other dimensions of discrimination. But now that there are few who've read this and now know, we can now start reconstructing an even better CPT

  12. +

    Relationship to relationship we can impact our communities. Viva the knowledge revolution!

  13. +

    that's true

  14. +

    Interesting article; thanks. I found/find KZN white people more racist than CT whites since moving down here, maybe because communities are more homogeneous in many KZN areas; CT seems much more open. Though it's definitely true that most of us whites tend to try to construct a safe bubble from which we can ignore the problems around us. I'm not convinced it should be called racism (I think this is me agreeing with you), and I also don't think it's necessarily even uncaring. I reckon that for many people the problems are so glaring and huge that any attempt to look them in the eye is just utterly soul crushing. An artificial middle-class bubble of peace and prosperity is basically a coping mechanism to ward off pain, helplessness, and guilt. I hate that about myself and hope not to settle for it, but what is the alternative, practically speaking? Biko, for example, wanted white liberals to show full solidarity by renouncing all privilege and joining the townships, but it seems to me that that would not have done much good then, and it would solve even less now. Any thoughts on a practical way forward?

    In your experience, do middle-class members of other races cope any better in empathising with and helping the poor (we already know the Juju approach: i.e. class schizophrenia, but any others)?

  15. We have a long way to go ... @Jacques yah neh ...

  16. +

    I lived in Cape Town some years ago. Left there 1996. I am amazed at how much things have changed (landscape) and at the same time how much they've stayed the same (people). The things discussed here are the same things I used to debate with my friends back then; that Cape Town people want to segregate themselves from the rest of the country and that if you do not like that, you should GTFO.

    My first vote ever; actually any black person's first legitimate vote, was in 1994. I cast mine in Claremont, Cape Town. I had lost my id and my house master made sure I had a temporary one so I would not miss the opportunity. That opportunity was the same one that would enable me to go where I want to go, say what I want to say, fornicate with whomever I want to F, live where I want to live, love whoever I want to love, be with whomever I want to be with, live with whomever I want to live with,...,I think you get the idea.

    So when anyone brings up any notion that "if you think Cape Town is f*d up, why don't you just leave? Go to the rest of South Africa where things are perfect?" it riles me up, it grinds me up the wrong way. Then I take a deep breath and remember that this is most probably the same person that does not want me there. The same person that probably wants to maintain the status quo, and I get it.

    Its all good though, there were many more like that before that wanted to keep things the same for the longest time. That took a while to rectify. It took some guerilla warfare and some negotiations to resolve. I'm under no illusion that this too shall be overcome. So for anyone who feels the need to keep any part of this country, my country, segregated, well...time will show you the same orifice from which your word are spewed.

    So keep writing on these "blogs" from all parts of the land, have those maximus ignoramus think you've had a silver spoon in your mouth for years , keep deliberating on these issues with the knowledge that the manifestation of these word will happen at the frontier, Cape Town, the Step Mother City, or any other frontier for that matter (Pretoria).

    I'll rest my case, for now...

  17. +

    @Jordan you points are really hitting the mark. i think an important place to start is for one confront his own flaws. The whole "you people", this "otherness" syndrome is the main issue. Few want to accept that they are part of the problem yet many complain about the existence. For me dialogue is always a good place to start. I believe a lot of white guilt and black anger would subside if people sought first to understand before being understood.

    If can have honest and frank conversation about ourselves we could drastically change the momentum of our spiral we are in. Ignorance is the enemy and we have come into a very desperate era which tends produce extremists of all kinds, Pied Pippering people into all sorts of self-destructive directions.

    The Black middle class has pressures of its own (see here: http://studio83.co.za/news/2011/12/01/3250). It has also adopted coping mechanisms strangely similar to those adopted by whites. A slight detachment and a vague blind eye that struggles to make sense of the magnitude of the problems.

    As i said, it all starts with an honest, constructive conversation

  18. +
    Gabi Le Roux

    For me one of the most significant elements of this entire discourse has been somewhat overlooked. Racism cannot and simply should not be claimed exclusively by- or assigned exclusively to any perceived group or culture. In essence any notion of "us versus them" derived from any physical discrepancy is essentially Racist. As time goes on and the Planet is threatened by whatever global tragedies may unfold, my prediction is that mankind would start focusing on the collective rather than the variety of our condition. Even the notion of "celebrating our diversity" is almost like saying "hey we are all so different to each other, let's drink to that". What we truly need to be celebrating is how similar our hopes and needs are and how privileged we are to have each other to love, care about and support. However, we are so preoccupied by our own needs and grievances that very few of us are vaguely capable of embracing such an idealistic humanistic condition. One can only dream and aspire...

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