Gillian Schutte’s ‘Thought Leader’ “Dear White People” letter excited me; on publication day I made my comment, then waited for the fun and games to develop. I watched the first two days’ interaction, dying to challenge a few of the journalists/social activists who were defending both the white and black as they attacked Gillian. I elected to be patient, to analyze the end product, trusting that the results of my survey would identify who the Gate-Keepers are, which Gate they are keeping, and in turn, just how many cages our country is divided into, and who I should approach for support.
Instead, the many comments sent me the loud and clear message that I have been wrong; all the efforts that I have put into ‘Social Cohesion’, the ‘Economic Freedom Charter’, trying to close the divide between the wealthy and poverty groups, has been a waste of time and money.
Why did I take any note of the few radical blacks who conned me into believing that the great divide between the rich and the poor to some of our historical atrocities, education, land exclusion, job reservations, and take those aspects into my vocabulary and posts? Why could I not see the real issues, the issues that are common knowledge in South Africa, the corruption, the lack of employment through ANC policy failure, lack of education through learner and community failure, laziness with no desire to work?
Jeremiah 5:21. “I have eyes but can’t see, ears, but can’t hear”.
Disappointed, I get ready to throw in the towel, and take my frustrations to friend, Bheki Gumbi, where, during a ‘Black & White Intercourse’ Tm session with a group of locals, for the hundredth time we analyze all the issues, the lack of transformation, the lack of white participation in the rehabilitation, the inequality in education, the lack of sport, we visit the 1913 Land Act and the impact on our economic divide, we discuss the deterioration of our Informal Economy, the continued white superiority attitudes, the black inferiority, we visit areas that we have worked with for over seven years.
“Bheki, I hear you guys, but things have changed, opportunities are there, we must stop blaming the past.”
“Cedric, I told you years ago that what you are doing is wrong, but you have this ‘Baas’ attitude and do not listen to the slave.”
“You whites only listen to us black if we wear your ‘white mask’, if we behave like you, white-man, want us to behave, and if we say what you want us to say, then we will survive.”
“If we do not pretend to be what you want us to be, we are not educated, we are not civilized, you chase us away.”
“My Baas, if you want your white brothers to listen to you, you must stop wearing African symbols, you must wear your shoes, you must dress like a white man. You must tell your white friends that you are afraid, tell them why you are afraid, apologize to them, apologize to them for your bad habit of referring to them as whites and not South Africans, for putting them all in the same cage.”
“You must behave and talk in the manner in which whites are comfortable, you must be patient, it will take time, but then if you do not challenge them, they will listen to you.”
“You can ask my black brothers, even on a farm where the labourers get a hiding, there is always a brother that is not touched, the brother who can meet the Baas requirements, let the Baas feel is needed.”
“You must start over, go and apologize for ever insinuating that;-
they have had an unfair advantage because of their white colour,
that things were stolen from the black people,
that you have not heard their many apologies that they have uttered,
that you believe they have any responsibility to assisting the black people,
that you can’t see that the whites already contribute substantially and sufficiently.”
Today, 9th January, I shed my barefoot status, today I remove my African symbols.
To all my white brothers that I have hurt, in my hundreds of pages penned over the years, my apologies.
I apologize for allowing myself, through my unfound personal fear, based only on what I experienced and heard from a few radical people in extreme poverty areas, to believe that one-day the poverty group will rise up against the wealthy. There was no basis for this assumption.
During first two years that we involved ourselves in Soweto and the rural areas, I considered the poverty and lack of social skills to be normal. I should not have allowed the few ‘minor incidents’ I experienced in the Townships to change my mind-set, a mind-set that comes out of a background of sixty years as a member of a civilized society, and foolishly believe that my impaired mind-set could ever represent the principles of our civilized New Democracy.
As I sit back today, having taken my black mask off, I look back on life, I worked in the Corporate world, in Industry, in Security, and during this period I was always the good boss, the good master. I always treated my workers with respect, paid them more than the minimum wages.
Why, in 1980 we paid for our domestic’s son to go to school and then to become a teacher with his Standard 8. I walked the streets of the local location, and all the people would smile and greet me, they respected me, and yes, they were poor people, but it was a normal society.
What happened to this old white-man’s mind that I could even believe that my pre-2007 actions, attitude and behaviour needed to change, what made me wish to disturb this normality?
Now that I have removed my black mask and returned to the fold where I belong, I invite South Africans and the corporate world to meet with me and to give me guidance as I continue with my mission to close the economic divide, ensuring that I never stray from the fold again.
Cedric de la Harpe
The ‘Parodical Son’