These Blurred Lines: On racism in South Africa’s school system and the White Psyche

In my Literature class we’re currently reading a book about a said racist killing, how race, class & culture are the blurred lines that intersect and the correlation between them in a South Africa that has just found the Big D known as Democracy.

Now if you’re one of six people of Colour in a classroom of 30 teenage white supremacists, with a teacher who knows no different, everything about this arduous experience will tension you.

Let’s huddle up while I tell this story.

Nearing the end of that period (which was five to the end of the day), I took my cellphone out, because that’s what teenagers do. The teacher reprimanded me & told me to hand over the phone. Now I know I was well within the wrong. Naturally however, you’d want to negotiate your way out of the situation, because yo! Who wants to be without their phone? During this though the teacher hit me with a “You’re going to call me racist for confiscating your phone, now?!”

That burned as much as her shouting did. My natural & instinctive defence was this equally loud response: “Why are you bringing up
race? Which is completely irrelevant to the situation at hand. So no, I am not going to hand it over.” Mind you, this altercation is taking place infront of a class of 30 people who can’t wait to see the action being taken against this opinionated Black girl with a shitty attitude, right?

Not only was the statement she made unnecessary & humiliating to me, it sprawled out the white privilege that she possesses which enabled her to even say that to me in the first place. Or think that it was okay, for that matter. Help me understand the white psyche. We ended up in the principal’s office whose argument remained that I had broken a rule & had every right to be reprimanded. Again, sure. But nothing was said of the cemetery growing inside me, where I’d bury my tolerance for white supremacists like them. Nothing of how stupid it is to throw what the teacher said to me around as a lame defense mechanism (Against what, by the
way?) Instead, she kept telling me about how good of a person she is, because she “hugs all the black kids”. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to laugh.

At the end of the day, that means absolutely nothing. If you’re able to make statements like that & not see your racist thinking, then I don’t know hey.
They acted like I had no idea what racism is. Or what sexism is. Giving me textbook definitions, because this dreadlocked township raised Black girl knows nothing of what she’s talking about.

Help me understand the white psyche.

Why lazy racist thinking like “We don’t see race at this school” is something they deserve a cookie for? No, sir. Please see it. My race & I are not invisible. I’m pretty sure that you can see me. Yes, I am getting a good enough education. But why is it that people don’t want to educate themselves of things that we aren’t taught at school? Especially one where adaptability & the acceptance of change are so stagnant.

Why is it that people don’t get that racism is much more than just openly treating another race badly?

Why is it that the principal so quickly & easily referred to me as a housewife & then as someone in a leadership position in the corporate world; when making an example of how I’d feel in the future if someone broke rules that I set? Because it’s already hard enough to imagine that the Black woman will ever amount to anything besides being a maid. This is the exact internalized &
deeply rooted thinking of superiority towards blacks that whites have systematically been taught.

You, a white person living under the privilege that you attained at the hands of us, Blacks, can be as nonchalant when it comes to race as you like.

I, a Black South African woman, living by a post apartheid doggie bag, cannot.

As a result I have become an openly defiant & opinionated Black girl who can never shut up. I am constantly being taken deep into the white headspace but can never truly grasp it.

People need to understand that the problem is not the skin colour the person is in. The enemy is
the white supremacist thinking. The racist thinking.

Help me understand this “I am above Black people” white psyche.

-Siwo Mata

*More of Siwo’s brilliance can be found on Twitter

Or WordPress

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