The journal of Paul M. Watson.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Not all black and white

This is going to sound a bit strange, and potentially even racist, to Europeans but I reckon many of my fellow South Africans have noticed it while abroad. Don't get worked up over the use of "white" and "black" in this post. It is racist but there are races and there are differences. I am not being derogatory and I am not going to stumble over PC terms which really just avoid reality.

Back home we have the legacy of apartheid along with the fact that "us whites" are a minority (something like 5 million whites to 40 million blacks). The apartheid legacy has placed most whites in the middle to upper classes with not many in the low to poor classes. This means that menial jobs are by in large filled by blacks. Up until about my 16th year of living I had never seen a white bus driver or a white garbage collector. It wasn't that I thought whites shouldn't do those jobs or that blacks were only suited to them, it simply was the state of the nation that menial jobs were done by blacks.

Fast forward to now where I am in a community with a majority of whites and menial jobs are filled by whites. White bus drivers, white garbage collectors, white construction workers, white bar staff and so on.

I'll probably get in trouble from the reactionaries out there for mentioning the following. The other day I was at a conference in Dublin in a room full of developers. Largely male, largely white. I walked up to a well dressed white man and asked what company he was from to see if we could do any business. His reply was to ask me if I wanted a cup of coffee or maybe some tea. Turns out he was one of the menial hotel staff. It threw me for a few moments. Back home in South Africa I would have not made the same mistake. At most conferences I have been to it was still largely male and largely white but the menial hotel staff where all black.

Seeing a white bus driver is still a strange thing to me. I know it shouldn't be but it is, that is simply the fact of the matter. I'll have to get used to it. Things are slowly changing in South Africa but with the black/white population difference black bus drivers will still largely be the norm.

So flame away, send me horrible emails. I am just commenting on something I have noticed.


Blogger Jeff said...

Not flame-worthy at all. A very interesting perspective, I think.

9:53 PM

Blogger Jon said...

Hi Paul. Interesting what you write abvout here. I had a similar kind of feeling when moving back from New Zealand to the UK. NZ is supposedly a "multi-cultural" country, although on the South Island it is predominantly a white-majority population. Spend five years living there, and you become very insulated from "multi-" part of the culture. But, arrive back in the UK, stagger throught the interminable corriders of Heathrow Terminal 4, and you are immediately confronted with how truely multi-cultural the UK is. I had to re-check all the seemingly innocuous predjudices that had built up over the five years, like the layer of grim on the hand grip of your favourite (alak, dead) camera...

12:39 PM

Anonymous skin said...

as a person who once lived where you are now and now lives where you were, i find it very interesting. it seems odd to me, here, for very much the opposite reason.

i've been in cape town for nearly 12 months now and i have NOT YET spoke to a black person who is not mowing the lawn, doing the washing, cleaning the street, or begging for money. i find it odd, very odd. at home, not only would the bus drivers, or the tellers in the supermarkets, be white or black or asian... or whatever, but they are also just people. people you talk to at their work, you freely chit-chat with them, you maybe see them in the same pub at the weekend, they really are just everyday people and typically they deserve and get the same respect as everyone else.

many things struck me as odd when i moved here, but one that sticks with me are the petrol attendents. not only are petrol attendents in ireland and the uk VERY rare, but the idea of asking one of them to check your tyres, your oil, your water and wash your windscreen would be considered ridiculous. just try that in ireland, haha, the t'ought of it! rightly so, they'd tell you to f'off and check your own bloody tyres! ;)

8:25 PM


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