Just be happy you’re here…immigrant!

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I’ve been an immigrant for over half my life now. South Africa is the 3rd country I have settled in since I left Zimbabwe at age 17. It’s always nice to move to a new country. New life, new people, new cultures, new languages…I mean, what’s not to like? Oh yes, the xenophobia. There’s usually always a bit of xenophobia to greet an immigrant wherever you emigrate to. That part of the experience is never nice.

Anyway, what I wanted to scribble about today is something I’m sure many immigrants have faced before. The “if you don’t like it, leave!” narrative. There is this notion that when you are an immigrant to a country, you don’t really have the right to complain about any shortcomings or negativity that country may have; that the country is doing you a favour by taking you in so you really should just “be a good immigrant and be happy you’re here.”

I remember once being attacked on Twitter because I was complaining about some government department in South Africa. Someone said to me “if you don’t like it why don’t you go back home?” That tweet gave more Tweeps the impetus to have a bit of a discussion on the matter. There were tweets like:

“I hate how foreigners come here and aren’t grateful for our hospitality”;

“Why do foreigners always complain? They are not prisoners here. They can just leave”;

“You allow people to come here and they start acting all fly”.

Now, this got me thinking…I live in South Africa. I may not be a citizen, but I am a resident. Do I not have a right to be unhappy about certain aspects of the country? And if I am unhappy, do I not have the right to complain?

And please note, this is not a South African phenomenon. From the United States, to the United Kingdom, to Australia. Ask immigrants in any country worldwide and they will tell you a similar story. It’s bizarre really. Why do locals feel the need to curtail the rights of foreigners to vocalize their grievances?

Anyway following my dressing down on Twitter, I was telling the Mrs. all about it. For context, she’s South African. I rant to her about how I think it’s so unfair and borderline prejudicial to be expected to live (or die, rather) in silence just because I am an immigrant who should be grateful to be living in SA. Guess what? She agreed…with the Twitter folk! WHAAAAT? She wasn’t as crass about it but she agreed with them nonetheless. Her exact words were “You can complain…just not like us”

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It’s always a tricky subject. I guess immigrants can’t be choosers…or was that beggars? What do you think? Do you think immigrants should just be content with what they get from the host country and if they don’t like it, they should just leave? Or do you think immigrants should be allowed to complain if they are not happy?

 

**** just scribbling my immigrant thoughts ****

South Africa’s slow death…on our watch.

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I wasn’t there during apartheid but I feel like it was an easier fight than that faced by South Africans today. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying apartheid was “easy”, I’m just trying to highlight how today’s struggle seems easier yet it’s actually the harder because so many don’t even know there is a struggle.

 

When South Africa was under the wicked rule of apartheid, everyone knew apartheid was evil, immoral, and depraved. There was no middle ground and nothing subtle about its wickedness. It was gruesome, demeaning, and fatal for black people. As a result, every black person knew were they stood; every black person knew they had to fight the system. The frog knew it had to jump out the pan. This is not so obvious today. The frog is slowly burning to death in the pan.

 

For instance, last night protesting black students at the University of the Free State (the same university where white students made black workers drink urine) were beaten up by fellow white students (and their parents) and not one word has been uttered on the matter by the government, a black government for that matter. What’s worse is you have some black people apologising to white people for “other blacks’ behavior”. Furthermore, you have more black people who are blaming the protesting black students for not “promoting a racially inclusive South Africa”….are you fucking kidding me?

 

Black students are fighting for equality…like blacks have done since forever. Unlike white people who fight for superiority, all black people have ever wanted is equality. These students are fighting against abuse, white privilege, a curriculum and language policy that is skewed in favour of a white minority, and for that they are accused (by other black people too) of essentially promoting racism? This is exactly what I mean by “apartheid was the easier struggle”.

 

For me it’s like depression versus a broken arm. If you break your arm, everyone says you need to get to the hospital ASAP. It’s not life threatening but everyone is in agreement that it needs urgent attention by medical professionals. However, if you are depressed, people miss the urgency. You have people telling you to “cheer up”, some telling you to “just pray”, and some even telling you “it’s all in your mind”…and no, that wasn’t a pun. But we are talking about the human brain here. The command center of your whole anatomy. If it has problems, surely that calls for urgent attention right? Just because you cannot physically see that my brain is broken, doesn’t mean it’s not.

 

And this is the problem South Africa is faced with now. Unlike back when all black people could clearly see the ‘broken arm’ that was apartheid, so many cannot see the ‘depression’ that is white privilege; brutality of the police particularly towards black bodies; the need for decolonization; the historical advantages white people garnered during apartheid and continue to hold today;….the list is endless really.

 

And you know what the saddest part is? You may not be able to see it, but depression will kill you.

 

**** Just scribbling my thoughts ****

Penny (Sparrow) for your thoughts?

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In case you’re not from around these parts (or you are and you just don’t care about current affairs), there’s been a bit of a racism storm in South Africa the past couple of days. It all began (I use the term ‘began’ very loosely) with a white estate agent named Penny Sparrow and her Facebook account. She and one Justin Van Vuuren authored the above pictured Facebook posts during the festive season. Just to make it clear, Penny and Justine don’t know each other. They’ve never met. They just happen to be two white people upset at the number of black people at the beach for the New Year’s Day celebrations; something they feel, like the good old apartheid days, should still be reserved for white people only I guess.

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Penny and Justin are the two that have made it to mainstream news but they are in fact just the tip (of the tip…of the tip) of a massive racist iceberg here in South Africa. Rants like this are a dime a dozen on the comments section of South African news sites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The major news outlets have resorted to disabling the comments sections on their articles because of the amount of racist commenting that consistently takes place there. No points for guessing the worst culprits…yep, white people.

 

It seems white people really struggle to comment on, complain about, or simply discuss anything that involves black people without making it about race. If a black person does anything negative…it’s because they are black but if a black person does something positive, it’s never because they are black. It appears to be deeply indoctrinated in many a white people that “black skin = negative”. The worst thing about all this is white people aren’t just racist out here…they are angry unrepentant racists and that refusal to reform and contribute to building a non-racial South Africa is now being met with an increasing level of frustration from Black South Africans….Collision Course anyone?

 

The thing is I believe Penny and Justin-type racist rhetoric is commonplace in a lot of white South African households; at dinner, at braais (BBQs), offices, etc. And frankly, that’s their prerogative. My main problem (well the racism is my main problem but I can’t change what happens in their households) is the way people like Penny are so comfortable spewing such racial hatred in public. I mean, Penny had her name, name of her employer, phone numbers, etc. right there and she still had no issues with posting such racist garbage. That surely can’t be acceptable. Maybe there should be laws in place to criminalise such behaviour and rhetoric. If that’s what it will take to reduce said behaviour, then maybe that’s what should be done?

 

Someone once told me “the only way we’ll ever get rid of racism is if we are all turned inside out. That way we all fall under the racial classification of ‘fleshy red’.” As absurd as that sounded in my younger days (days when I truly believed we could all one day live harmoniously across racial lines), it’s something I think about more and more these days. “Maybe Mike was right” I think to myself, “Maybe we’ll never get rid of racism.”

 

Ps: Just in case you agree with Penny and Justine in thinking going to the beach in large numbers and leaving litter behind is a racial thing, below is an image of white monkeys….ooops, I mean white people….at the lovely Brighton Beach up in England. (courtesy of @MathewLove36)

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*** just scribbling my monkey thoughts ****

Statue(tory) Rape

Rhodes has Fallen

In case you are not aware, something rather interesting has been happening in South Africa over the last couple of weeks. And as my blog title suggests, it’s about statues. Missed it? Let me quickly bring you up to speed.

About a month ago now, a student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) staged a political protest against the lack of racial transformation at the university. His location of protest? The statue of Cecil John Rhodes located on the university’s campus grounds. His weapon of choice?  Faeces! Yep, good old fashioned human poo. His plan was to cause extreme offense and confront the situation head on. It worked. Frustrated at the lack of transformation at UCT, many other students joined the protest (without emptying the bowels though) and “#RhodesMustFall” was born.

But it didn’t end there. As the news made its way around the country, a nationwide conversation around colonial statues began. More and more people, led by the rabble rousing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party, began calling for colonial statues to be removed. But as with most things in South Africa, the racial undertones made their way to the surface. The “pro-statue camps” and the “anti-statue camps” fast became the “white camps” and the “black camps” respectively.

The general (note, I said “general” not “absolute”)  feeling among South Africans is this: white people feel the statues are a part of history so they must stay, while black people feel they are a part of an oppressive history so they must fall.

As for me? Well, I’m of the “statues must fall camp” and here’s why:

  1. These colonial statues celebrate/commemorate people who were not pro-equality. Whatever the argument, people like Cecil John Rhodes and Paul Kruger did not believe in the equality of all irrespective of race. They were pro-white. Why must a statue of such an individual be exhibited in the public space of a country trying to transform from a racially oppressive past?
  1. Some people are saying things like employment, education, healthcare, etc. are way more important than statues; that we must ignore statues and attend to those issues first. But just because AIDS is more deadly than the common cold, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat your cold.
  1. Why is it an issue when black people are offended by something? I mean, you don’t see statues of Nazis in Israel do you? Why not? Because they are offensive to Jews. And everyone understands and respects that. But when black people say they are offended by something, we belittle their feelings. “It’s no big deal”, “it’s the past”, “there are more important things”. No!!! This is important too!!!
  1. I’ve seen a lot of white commentators saying these colonial figures did a lot of good in the country, like building roads, rail, etc. Hitler did most things out of love for his country…are there any statues of him in Germany? Why not?
  1. Finally there’s those that say rather than removing colonial statues, statues of struggle heroes must be built next to the colonial statues. But that’s totally missing the point. The colonial statues represent a people that fought for white supremacy and domination. The struggle against colonisation and apartheid was not about black domination, it was about equality across all races. So you cannot equate Cecil John Rhodes (or his statue) to Nelson Mandela (or his statue).

Ultimately, I think it’s almost impossible for white South Africans to understand Black South Africans’ pain as far as apartheid is concerned. I mean, I personally don’t even fully appreciate it so I can’t imagine most white South Africans will ever really get it…and most don’t want to anyway. Hence the ever increasing racial tensions in the country.

As for the Rhodes statue at UCT, well, the University’s council met yesterday and unanimously decided the statue must be removed…which is happening this very minute as I type this. #RhodesHasFallen is born. The question now is….”will the same fate befall the myriad of colonial statues dotted around the country?” I ‘EFFen’ hope so!

I hate foreigners…

It’s been a while since I scribbled about xenophobia. In fact, the last time was when I wrote “How Xenophobia Can Improve Your Life”. However, of late, I’ve seen xenophobia rear it’s ugly head both online and in the so called ‘real world’ so I thought, let’s write…if only to get it off my chest.

I should point out I’m not entirely sure if this is actually considered xenophobia. I know xenophobia is the hate/fear of foreigners, but what if a foreigner hates other foreigners? What’s that called? If I hate black people because of their race, does that make me a racist? Or if I was gay but hated gay people, would I be considered a homophobe? What if I was fat and hated fat people purely because they were fat? Would I be considered a weightist or do we just file all these under “self hate?”

So yes, my gripe today is with the xenophobia (or self hate…whichever floats your boat) displayed by foreigners towards other foreigners.

I recently had a bit of a debate with a fellow Zimbabwean regarding the changes to South Africa’s immigration laws. She was going on about “I’m glad the South African government is doing something about immigration. There’s way too many foreigners in South Africa.” At this point I was thinking to myself “oh, now that you’re in, there’s too many foreigners?” She continued “our economy can’t absorb them all.” By now I couldn’t stop myself laughing. “Our economy?” OUR? So now that you have a job, it’s “OUR” economy? Now that you have papers, everyone else is “too many foreigners?”

The crazy thing is you hear such talk all the time. One minute someone is jumping the fence into South Africa, next minute they get a job and start complaining about the holes in the border fence. One minute they are a refugee just trying to survive, the next their asylum papers come through and they start complaining that South Africa is granting asylum to too many people. But weren’t you this so called “too many people” a few months ago?

Then there’s those foreigners who have nothing but negative commentary about their nation of birth. “I can’t imagine living in Zimbabwe hey! I get sick whenever I’m there” they say….and this will be coming from someone born and raised in Zimbabwe for 25 years of his life before he moved to South Africa in 2010. How then did you survive 25 years of “I get sick whenever I’m there?”

Then there’s those foreigners who even pretend they are South African by birth. Your name is Tawanda but you’re out here talking about “how do we stop foreigners coming into OUR country?” Into whose country Tawanda? What makes it even more cringe worthy is when Tawanda can’t even speak a single South African language.

Then there’s the class warfare amongst foreigners; classist tendencies that usually see Western foreigners at the top of the foreigner food chain. They usually hate African foreigners because they believe they (Western foreigners) contribute to South Africa’s economy whilst African foreigners are just mooching off the state. This is probably the same everywhere you go though. I’m sure British foreigners in the USA hold themselves in higher regard than their fellow foreigners from Mexico. But it’s not as straighfoward as Westerners vs Africans. We also have classist tendencies amongst ourselves as African foreigners. For instance, Southern African foreigners feel like they have more of a claim to this foreign land than, say, Somalis/Ethiopians.

Ultimately, I don’t know why we are all so obsessed with borders, passports, nationalities, places of birth, etc. Countries are just the space between geometric lines drawn by some very capitalistic individuals who were sharing the world’s land between them.

As for foreigners, they are pretty easy to create. Just take a piece of land and codorn it off, name it, give yourselves little booklets with the land’s name on it, and voilà, everyone on the outside is a foreigner. Then, just for fun, allow some foreigners in and watch them fight each other.

I hate foreigners…who hate foreigners.

* just scribbling my foreigner thoughts*

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Born ‘yawn’ free

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In case you’ve never heard of the term “bornfree”, allow me to briefly explain what it is. As you may already know, South Africa since 1994 transitioned from a system of apartheid to one of majority rule. Citizens born from 1994 onwards are known in this part of the world as the born-free generation or just bornfees.

Now, I don’t mean to undermine the joys that freedom brings to an individual but after a while, all this “bornfree” rhetoric gets a little nauseating. I’ve lived in quite a few countries and nowhere is this whole “bornfree” stuff more hyped than here in South Africa.

Last night I had a drunken debate with some friends about it; among them three South Africans…none of whom were “born free” might I add. There was all this talk about “it’s time for the bornfrees to rise and excite the rainbow nation”…”the struggle heroes see their victories in the eyes of the bornsfrees”…blah blah blah. Like I said earlier, I’m not trying to undermine freedom, but at the end of the day, it’s just a concept. It’s the living that happens between these conceptual ideas that matters. Coining marketable terms to make yourselves seem different and more special than everyone else is just an unnecessary distraction and is borderline gimmicky to be honest. I mean WTF is a rainbow nation? Every country has loads of inhabitants from loads of varied backgrounds, cultures, tribes, etc. We live in a rainbow world which you’ll probably find is in a rainbow solar system. Shout out E.T. and friends out there. We see you.

The argument became very volatile as you can imagine. These types of debates always do…the alcohol doesn’t help either. But I stuck to my guns. Bornfrees are just people born in a particular period like those born in any other period. Being a bornfree isn’t anything you’ve achieved or a badge that makes you more special than those who came before you. Every country in the world has born frees. For instance:

Anyone born in Kenya after 12th December 1963 is a bornfree. Those birthed in Mozambique after 25th June 1975 are bornfrees too. In fact, anyone born in the USA after 4th July 1776 is a bornfree. Come to think of it, I was born in Zimbabwe after 18th April 1980. That means I too am a bornfree. Well, I’ll be damned. Who would have thought little old me would be a bornfree. I feel kinda different just thinking about it. I feel…I feel FREE!!! ☺

So yeah, if you think about it, every country in the world has bornfrees….well except for the Brtitish who were out colonising everyone…oh, and the Ethiopians too, what with the whole “never been colonised” thing. I guess the Brits, Ethiopians, and whoever else was never colonised or apartheidised could call themselves “ever frees”…or “always frees” whichever you think is catchier and more marketable. I’ll coin them both just in case.

I guess at the end of the day, if South Africans want to hype everything up, there’s no law against that. Born free, democracy, rainbow nation, etc. If it gets peole to smile at each other. I guess it’s worth it. But after a while of constantly hearing about it, you can’t help but yawn. It is after all just democracy. It’s not going to raise your kids or massage your balls after chemo…do balls need massaging after chemo? I dont know, but you catch my drift right?

Last night, after we all calmed down, one friend said to me, “at the end of the day, South Africa is a very unique country”. “Yes it is” I responded…”as unique as every other country”.

*just scribbling my international relations thoughts*

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How racism keeps South Africa’s elections peaceful

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In case you didn’t know (or care), South Africa held its elections a few days ago and, as expected, victory went to the African National Congress (that’s Nelson Mandela’s party for those of you not familiar with the ANC). Second place, also as expected, went to the Democratic Alliance (that’s the “white party” as it’s known down here), while third place was taken by the “new kids on the block”, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Formed by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, the EFF is only a few months old but gained almost 7% of the vote; which, with their radical demagoguery-laden manifesto, is beyond impressive.

 

As I sat there watching the election results come in, I thought to myself: “wow, this is the 5th time South Africans have gone to a democratic polls and once again, they have done it peacefully”. Now, that elections are peaceful may not mean much in the West, but down here, it’s not a given. In a continent where election violence affects almost 25% of all elections, you have to but applaud where they are completed without blood being spilt.

 

So I wondered, what makes elections in South Africa so peaceful? This is, after all, a country that has a rather violent past.

 

Well…in MY opinion…the fact that the main opposition party (the DA) is a “white party” makes all the difference. You see, in South Africa, race matters in almost everything you do. There are numerous black people who may approve of the DA’s policies but will never vote for a party run by white people. Likewise, there are white people who may approve of the work the ANC has done thus far but will never vote for a party run by black people. That’s just a fact…or has been thus far anyway. It’s a sad shame that this is the case but I also think it helps in as much as peaceful elections are concerned. Here’s why:

 

The ANC is a liberation movement and in my experience, liberation movements don’t let go of power very easily. In South Africa, it is obvious that the DA will not oust the ANC any time soon because the numbers just won’t allow it. They already hold the majority of the white vote. In order to grow, the DA needs the black vote but, as mentioned above, black people will not overwhelmingly vote for the DA anytime soon. That essentially means the ANC is safe no matter what you may think of its politicians.

 

But what if a worthwhile “black party” was to emerge today? One that has immense potential; one that is well run and not too radical; one that actually has black South Africans licking their lips at the mere prospect of change? What if a “black party” was to become the main opposition and realistically challenge the ANC for power? What if people voted for it in their numbers and the ANC actually lost an election? Would they walk away quietly? Would this liberation party break the trend set by liberation parties across the continent and instead peacefully concede defeat? Would we have a peaceful election then?

 

*just scribbling my election thoughts*