41 Days after the Tottenham Riot: the day of Mark Duggan’s funeral.

I made my way to the post office this morning so that I could use the cash machine.  It must have about 10.00am.  The weather was quite cloudy and yet it was warm.  There was an eerie quietness: the usually packed launderette was empty, the post office was empty and corner shop that sold burgers and kebab was still closed.

This was written 21 days after the riot. Note the building in the background

As I joined the queue and waited to withdraw the cash, I overheard an elderly woman standing across the road at the junction where Mount Pleasant Road meets The Avenue waiting for the W4 bus. She said she had waited for more than thirty minutes for a bus, and now she was sure it wasn’t coming because of the funeral…

Was today the funeral I asked myself.  As soon as I withdrew the cash, I asked a passerby if the funeral was taking place today.  He said yes, then checked his watch and added that around 11.00am the cortege would pass through The Avenue then onto the High road. Instead of turning to go back to the house, I walked toward the burger and kebab shop and noticed people waiting outside the corner shop on the opposite side; I turned left into the avenue and my attention was focused on the young dread who shouted out at a group of photographers, asking to show ‘respec’.  As I got closer to them, they were chatting and smiling, totally disconnected to the surroundings but they stopped, placed their equipment into their vehicles and left. I continued walking to Broadwater Farm.  It was ominously quiet except for some people dressed in black heading perhaps to Duggan’s family home.  More cars were moving up and down the street, the drivers stopping for half a second chat with each other and then were on their way.

After a while I left.  I had to finish packing my suitcase for my journey to Nigeria. Whilst I was in London, a bomb went off in the UN building in Abuja killing 23 people and injuring many other. The Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility.  Prior to leaving Nigeria in July, the police headquarters also in Abuja was hit by a bomb. Both buildings are not too far away from my office.  As one Nigerian woman joked which will it be, Boko Haram or the riots in England.  Is there anywhere, in the world, that is safe?

Should South Africa ban the Vuvuzela’s from the stadiums?

The Vuvuzela: ‘A primitive noise making device created by primitive people’.  That’s what a blogger said from the Yahoo sports site!!

I’m not there in South Africa but I am watching the matches daily from my TV and really enjoying it! Yes, there is a bit of a din that emanates from the TV but it doesn’t drown the over excited commentator and of course, it cannot diminish the enthusiastic cheers from the crowds. Before a game begins there are all sorts of documentaries shown on the progress of the country and all the tribulations encountered. But you can’t feel but pleased that South Africa has come this far to point of surpassing countries like Nigeria and Egypt in hosting one of the greatest events ever! 

 Perhaps a bit of a compromise is needed here. Maybe the crowd could be asked to play their vuvuzela’s at certain times or perhaps only a certain amount could be allowed into the stadium. We know a compromise can be reached as I’m sure south Africa wants to be remembered in a positive light and not have their guests leave with dissatisfaction and an experience where there are not likely to want to visit that part of the world again.  But I do not think South Africa deserves the negative racist comments that has hurled at them as a result.  It’s a long time to wait another four years for this event to come around again. So let’s savour and enjoy and park the negatives in the waste bin.

The assassination of Eugene Terre-Blanche: So it’s Julius Malema’s fault?

So Eugene Terre-Blanche was assassinated. He was not killed because of some grand race war but at the hands of a disgruntled 15-year-old employee who was not given his wages on time. A 15-year-old Boy!! How embarrassing!! Is this what it came to for Mr. Blanche? Is this how his name will go down in the history books in years to come? Ag shame!

So what does the press try to do – reign in their favourite – Mr. Julius Malema, then accuse him of uttering some alleged racist comments in a song, and then hold him responsible for prompting this murder. For goodness sake, whatever next?

Yes, as I said elsewhere on this blog, Malema is a crude rough version of Malcolm X.  Just like Malcolm, he is totally unafraid of whites and is keen to remove the fear and mystique of whites. And he does this by challenging issues no matter how undiplomatic he may be. He is there to cater for his people first before anybody else. So, understandably, he is totally unpalatable and unacceptable to whites but the grass-roots adore him. As awful as that may sound but that is the truth.

For the AWB to attempt some revenge attack either on the people responsible for ET’s death or randomly attack black people would only make them look pathetic and desperate. South Africa is a beautiful country and I very much hope that South Africa can progress in peace instead of spending its time sweating the small stuff.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/05/rainbow-dream-killing-eugene-terreblanche

Cut the guy some slack please – Julius Malema v Deborah Patta

I read the article A Firebrand Leader in the Making in today’s British Guardian.  Before reading the blog, one of the bloggers inserted the YouTube clip which features the South African presenter Deborah Patta interviewing Julius Malema, leader of the ANC Youth league. I normally complain about how blacks are treated in the British media but viewing this clip, I’ve not come across anything as patronizing and contemptuous as this.

The presenter says in her intro that he is seen as a ‘buffoon’ and that it should be put to the ‘test’.  Of course the whole point of the programme is for her to take the mick and to make him look a fool.  The interesting thing is he comes across as a gentleman and does not rise to the bait. 

Fine, he is not articulate (maybe English is not his first language!) and maybe he does not have a degree in Sociology so that he can give us a clear cut definition of class and where he thinks he belongs. But do we really expect him to get it 100% right!   The white working class (British) moved out in droves to this new land in hope to emulate the lifestyles of their ‘betters’ in the old country but having lived in South Africa myself I was surprised, no shocked, in how the WWC lived in their big houses and pools with scared and anxious domestic staff. And yet the WWC managed to occupy management positions without having any qualifications whatsoever! Yeah maybe I was a tad jealous as I know occupying such positions back in the UK would have been impossible without qualifications so if you guys were able to get away with that, I don’t think it’s fair that you should expect much more from Malema. 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/03/julius-malema-south-africa-leader

The Trouble with Black Madams……….

 

Paul and wife, Janet.

Paul and wife, Janet.

So, Janet Boateng has embarrassed her husband, the current British High Commissioner for South Africa, Paul Boateng, by allegedly bullying her staff.  You may think, what is the big deal about this story.  The big deal is, Paul and Janet are Black and staff in their home is predominantly Black. Given the history of the two, Janet, a former Labour Councillor who successfully managed to prevent White families from adopting Black children, on the grounds that White people could not begin to comprehend racism and Paul, the first Black government minister, there is the feeling that they should have known better.  Between herself and her husband, back in the day, they were vociferous in fighting against injustice and inequality, especially when it came to Black people.  I remember seeing Paul Boateng, one of the few Black faces, always ready to speak out against racism, cleverly articulating the Queen’s English to the max.  He spoke out even more when the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, sent troops to Iraq.  Boateng’s reward was he was made British High Commission to South Africa.  Some say it was a demotion but then that’s another story.  The one I want to talk about is that now we have a Black President in the White House, and more and more Blacks taking on high-profile positions around the World, I wonder how they cope, leading a staff who must obey and indulge their every whim.

I, a Black woman, married to a high-profile Black achiever well-known in this country, finds it an ongoing dilemma.  We came to this land about 18 years ago to work for an international organisation. What made it exciting were the perks – the mansion, the grounds, the pool and sauna and gym, and of course, there is the staff.  One qualified, uniformed cook, two house-helps and two drivers plus security men. There were private schools for the children which was heavily subsidized.  Initially, of course, I was over whelmed by what I had gained but given my humble background and life experiences, I was conscious of not taking advantage of the staff, always thanking them each time they brought me a cup of tea (and belting the kids around their heads when they didn’t say ‘thanks!’), making sure I brought presents each time I returned from an overseas trip.  For several years, it was all bliss until things began to happen making me realise that my ‘niceness’ was perceived as weakness.  For instance, I would ask the helper to sweep the floor in the living room.  When I leave to do something and then return, the helper is lying on the couch, reading one of my magazines.  This continues until I do something that I have not done in a while and that is argue.  She threatens to hit me and I have no choice but to call in security to have her removed from the house.  I walk in on the cook only to find him watching the cartoon, Tom and Jerry on the TV, and the steak he is supposed to be cooking, is burning to high heavens.  When I challenge him, his eyes are glazed due to the wine he has drunk (and nicked!) and he refuses to leave. I leave to call the security; he slams the door and stands in front of it, not allowing me (and the children) to leave. Luckily, the security can see what is happening through the window and knocks firmly, gaining the attention of the cook, who eventually lets us out. When I sacked another cook for mixing up a strange concoction then refusing to tell me what it is made of, he turns up two days later at my company and threatens me.  The worst of these experiences is of a woman who had worked for me for three years. When she stopped seeing her boyfriend, he decided to pay her back by showing me all the things she had stolen from the house. I was devastated.  Although I don’t know all the facts, something tells me these experiences are not too different from what Janet was encountering. 

Beautiful home in Cape Town.

Beautiful home in Cape Town.

But other than these experiences, there is another reason. I think, since I’m responsible for the upkeep of the house, I have to set rules but because I am Black there is some deep inherent thought within the staff that I am meant to treat them differently, i.e., there is no master and servant relationship here. We are all Blacks, so we are ‘friends’. I state this as I know there are rich White households elsewhere in this country and everybody knows their place. The article I read stated that the complaints were not against Paul but against Janet.  Well, of course Paul will not be ‘attacked’ because he is not dealing with the staff on a day-to-day basis, but Janet is. Janet is, after all, only a human being. We are bound to get it wrong, bound to go overboard in imitating our colonial masters and still expect to be loved irregardless; because of our new-found status we expect everyone to bow and curtsy, figuratively that is.  Janet, I’m sure made mistakes but I’m also sure that her staff had certain expectations from her which were not fulfilled. The woman, at the end of the day, sees her job as making sure her husband’s environment is comfortable at all times and she is determined to do that. I can’t believe that former wives at the High Commission were always polite to their staff. Here, where I live, everybody shouts at their staff.  And that’s the truth and I hope Michelle Obama takes note

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The One

I just know that I can beat you!!

I just know that I can beat you!!

I read an interesting piece about Barack Obama yesterday (Click onto cutting – I am the chosen one).  A really good article except its author, Andrew Sullivan described Obama as a ‘miscegenated Black man’.  I didn’t know that you could have a Black man (or a White person for that matter) that could be ‘miscegenated’.  Let me know what you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are African Americans being ‘racist’ because of Barack Obama’s ‘White Experience’?

I watched the BBC programme Newsnight where the Nobel Prize laureate, Toni Morrison, was being interviewed about her new book ‘A Mercy’.  The presenter asked Morrison if African Americans could be accused of being racist towards Barack Obama because of his alleged ‘white’ experience.  Morrison responded tactfully by saying ‘that African Americans were worried that Obama had no slaves in his family and senior members of the Civil Rights Movement begrudged the fact that he had not participated in the struggle.’  Morrison ended by saying that this was no longer a problem for her community and that they were proud of the fact that it was highly possible for Barack, an African American, to be the next President of the United States. 

 

But as I listened, I wondered why on earth should this be seen as racist??  The community can be accused of being resentful or bearing ill will or being wrongfully suspicious but not racist.  The Black community should be forgiven for wanting Barack to be pulled over as many times as they have by racist cops, just so that they can say he ‘qualifies’ but I don’t think that makes the community racist.  The Black community has the right to comment even if that comment(s) is misplaced or taken out of context.  Redefining and misinterpreting what the community thinks, is racist and if we don’t watch it, racism will lose its true meaning.

A South African stew.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/28/southafrica.race

 What do you think of this story?  As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, that I used to live in South Africa and always thought it dangerous to argue with whites as they were not used to dealing with ‘uppity’ blacks and could retaliate in a way that would not happen in the UK or the States.  Friends of mine have been critical against the blacks who drank this ‘stew’ asking: are they that ‘docile’ that they should drink anything that looks suspicious?  My response was blacks in this part of the world have almost been close to what I would call being ‘sedated’ when it comes to their approach to white people. I remember at times when blacks were spoken to by a white person they would always lower their eyes and never look into the white person’s eyes direct. But this disgusting incident should tell us volumes that South Africa still has an incredible long way to go.

Comment on Nadine Gordimer’s Biography: No Cold Kitchen

suresh-review6

Robert Suresh Roberts

I have read three quarters of the biography of Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer titled No Cold Kitchen, and so far I find it an enjoyable read. I feel that Robert Suresh Roberts has a good writing style and yes, the book shifts from a documentary type to something of a tabloid, which I still think is OK. But I want to look at another possible reason why Gordimer may have objected to the book – something that was hinted at in an article on the topic I read in The Guardian (UK edition).

In the UK, there has been complaints from the Black (writing) community about an unprecedented number of black characters inhabiting today’s mainstream fiction best-seller lists, but few of them are created by black authors. So authors such as James Patterson, Maggie Gee, Alexander McCall Smith etc have been ‘attacked’ and Black writers are determined that they should be allowed to get in on their own act! Writers such as Doris Lessing and Nadine Gordimer are exempt from this because their writings are considered as ‘political’ writing and anyone who is looking to support the ‘cause’ must always be praised and respected. It was only when there was a fuss about Gordimer’s ‘July’s People’ being removed from reading lists/curriculum that the thinking here was that if that is what the Africans wanted then who are we to object?

But here you have a writer who happens to be Black, who seeks to write about a prestigious writer who happens to be White! My friends and I are thinking – here you have this incredible ironic situation of a White author who has made a reputation writing about Black people but totally reject or object to being written about by a Black author. If this is her objection then it is pure hypocrisy. As Suresh outlines in the final paragraph of My Problem is with you states quite clearly his relationship with Gordimer:-

“….worthwhile biography seeks intimacy without loyalty, proximity laced with dissent.”

One is tempted to think that Gordimer expected/wanted a biog that would make her personality as good and wholesome as her dedication to showing the truth about the ramifications of Apartheid in South Africa. Meeting a South African academic who had met Gordimer told me – Gordimer is a “good person but not a nice person”.  But are we looking for someone with all her incredible experiences to be totally pristine and gleaming and no warts??  That would be unrealistic. In the same way that given all what Winnie Mandela went through, she is certainly not faultless and neither is she looking for any approval or to be liked!  Gordimer should not be fearful or hypocritical and realize she has earned the right to be who she is. From the impressions I get from people I’ve spoken to in SA, she is truly respected.

Maybe the chip on my shoulder is not that big!

 

I sometimes think that maybe I am becoming more tolerant in my old age.  You know, take things with a pinch and accept that not every fight has to be a fight. But once upon a time, as a young teenager growing up in the London area, if a white person said something derogatory, or if I felt there was any hint of racism in their responses, or even felt the way they looked at me suggested racism, then I was on their case.  If I couldn’t handle it myself, then there were the big brothers, who held a respectable record of encounters with the law, who could always be relied to do something if there was a problem.  But thank God, it’s not like that anymore. 

Although each time I go to South Africa, I know I can be guaranteed of running into someone who will make it clear that I deserve to be spoken to in a dismissive and curt manner simply because of my colour.  Something like that happened two days after we were robbed.  Eddy and I had already been to the Embassy to complete the forms to cancel our passport, and were told that our travel certificates would be ready in a few days time.  The next thing we had to do was go to South African Airlines to report our stolen tickets and confirm our flights back home.  In the area where we were staying, we could not find a local travel agent to help us, especially with the complications of being robbed and for new tickets to be issued, so we decided to go Tambo International. 

We arrived at the airport, parked our car and made our way to the counter.  It was early in the afternoon when we got there, and I was struck at how desolate the place was considering it was an airport. We found the counter and there were five people waiting in the queue but it didn’t take long before we were attended to.  We explained our situation to the assistant and showed him the police report.  He read it quickly and sympathized at the same time.  He tapped something out on his keyboard, took down the information as it appeared on the computer, and then made a call.  Within the next minute or so, we were handed our ticket replacements in their gleaming new covers.   

Making our way back to the car park, this new, bizarre experience of being robbed forced us to look over our shoulders ever so often.  As we got closer to our car, it suddenly occurred to us that we had to pay for our parking ticket before we could leave.  So we went back to the hall to look for a pay machine and we located one outside the entrance door.  My husband removed lots of coins from his pocket and started sifting through, looking for Rand coins.  I helped him, taking some of the coins and picking out as many Rands as I could find.  Unbeknown to us, a man, elderly, white, and wearing glasses came up from behind.            

‘What’s the problem?’ He said with some measure of impatience.            

‘No problem’, I replied. ‘We’re looking for some coins to make up ten Rand. 

‘Don’t you have ten Rand?’ 

I glared at him making sure my eyelids were fully stretched back.  ‘It’s not that we don’t have ten Rand, we are just trying to get the right amount.’ I continued to glare at him. He backed away and quietly allowed us to gather the right amount to put into the machine.  ‘There! Done!’  I said to him as we walked away with my husband smiling.  And we left without saying another word about it.   Thinking about it, yes, racism was a regular feature in my life but with education and exposure, I realised that there were different ways to deal with things and that violence was and never is an option.  Especially when I realised that I had friends of different nationalities to help, whenever I found myself in difficulty.  But I also realise that it is not the same for everyone. 

When I am in South Africa and the topic of racism comes up, especially if I am in the company of white people, it seems as if it is an enigma to them as to why crime has gotten to the level it has?  Or wonder if there is a particular point in time when the anger will go away?  The uncivil comment about the ‘Ten Rand’ may have been said because the man was racist.  Whatever it was, I can dismiss it.  But imagine if I were to be living in Jo’burg and having to experience these subtle put downs, or insults all the time, why wouldn’t I be angry? And how am I to express my anger if I cannot articulate what I need to say?  

It even makes for uncomfortable thinking that I thought I was experiencing racism in England, when it was nothing compared to what I’ve seen and heard of Black people’s experiences in South Africa.   Yes, we were robbed by black people and there is no way I can make any excuses. Besides the humiliation of being robbed, I also feel embarrassed for the robbers and South Africa and although, luckily, no one was hurt I realised if these guys wanted to kill, they could have done it without any hesitation.   If there is one thing I will always remember about this incident, was the cold anger in their lifeless eyes and wondering (and still wondering) what sort of lives do they lead. 

The experience forces me to assess myself and to assess them: what I am able to do and have been able to accomplish and they, who may be destined to live a life of crime and poverty without ever being able to find out their true purpose. What I see, so far, they are dictated by anger and rage but I believe that somewhere deep, down, inside of them they perhaps still hope to receive the acceptance and respect they so much want from their former oppressors.