After having been involved in an altercation with a white couple about a parking space at Makro on Human Rights Day, I then heard about a racist incident at Spur on 702 Talk Radio an hour later? That led me to cogitate on the nature of altercations in a racially polarised society.
Main picture: A tyrannical bully at work
Like on most public holidays in South Africa, I run a race somewhere in Gauteng. On Human Rights Day, 21st March, I ran the 21km Right to Run race in Sunnyside Pretoria. Unlike a decade ago, it is now looking rather dowdy and disreputable but as one runs out towards Loftus, the old charm reappears.
Being on a Tuesday, and hence pensioners day at Makro, afterwards I was off to do the weekly shopping. As I turned into a row with my BMW, there was an open parking two cars down on the left. Blocking me from entering the parking were two children. They were firmly planted there with arms crossed and defiant jaws. They would not budge. When I glanced up the row, there was a small nondescript car reversing down the row from the other end about ten cars from this opening.
On questioning the kids, I was told that their parents had spotted the vacant bay first. I refused to budge. After their mother reprimanded me about being a poor example to her children, one of them threatened to slash my tyres.
I strenuously ignored them and proceeded with my shopping.
After shopping, I discovered that the boot lid of my BMW had a long fresh scratch on it!
The Spur incident
I then drove through to Blackheath to pick up my mail. On my way back home, I switched on the radio to 702 Talk Radio. As it was an open line, the listeners were discussing an apparent racial incident at one of the Spur Restaurants. As I had not heard the original news item, I was unaware of any of the facts. Instead, what I was listening to was the emotional response by the listeners.
What became immediately clear to me was that everyone was classifying it as a racial incident on the basis that the parties involved were of different races.
The other issue that struck me was that the white guy had to be the antagonist who hated blacks.
Of course, without the facts, I was unable to judge whether in fact the white male was guilty as charged and whether the incident had anything to do with race at all.
As the listeners were adding nothing to my understanding the situation, I switched to mix FM.
There was another question that I pondered as I drove home. If those two children who had blocked my access to the parking space had been black, and if I had remonstrated with them, would it automatically have been classified as a racial incident? Furthermore, because I was the white party, would I automatically have been judged the guilty party?
On both counts, the answer is probably yes. Certainly in twittersphere & on 702. Guilt by skin colour.
And was the white guy the culprit in this instance?
Yes. Without a doubt
But is he a racist or an equal opportunity bully & thug?
I concur with a friend – actual friend and not Facebook friend – when he commented on Facebook: It appears to me that the only place we see racism is on Facebook. My normal business day has me mixing with people of all cultural, racial, sexual and religious backgrounds. Never do I see anyone showing anyone else anything but respect and courtesy for a fellow human being. And we are just normal South Africans. I am just so tired of all this hatred that sprouts up every time I look at my timeline.
Such incidents are repugnant but we should see them for what they are: outliers. The danger is that we allow these ugly extremes to frame the picture of what the state of race relations are like in South Africa.