A DISCOURSE ON RACISM
This is to my Norwegian-speaking people, and others who do not understand some key issues of and about many Black people of African origin all over the world, particularly in Norway itself. Read this input bearing in mind that I come from South Africa originally.
Many years ago I had a friend in Oslo who had bought himself a wreck of a Ford Escort car. He loved this car so much he named it Michelle, after Pfeiffer. I’ve named my iPhone MichelleOS2, i.e. Michelle Obama-for-Simon, acknowledging my self-declared second level position. Not only do I find the name tantalizingly sweet, I also find that the few Michelles I know are stunningly beautiful and charming. When you love, admire, adore, and value somebody or something high you give them beautiful names; you call them the sweetest, most cheerful, most uplifting things. This way hoping and wishing, perhaps, they will be around for ever to cheer up your, if not everybody’s days; spicing up your dreams, giving you hope and belief that one day the sun shall shine on you too so that you can meet these people/ things live to thrive in their glory, even if only for a moment. My BlackBerry is called BarackOTM, for He is THE Man.
My first ever regularly paid-up job I got about only a few days after my thirteenth birthday; South African schools winter holidays, 1973. I became a junior waiter at a then very, very popular WHITES ONLY! Italian restaurant, Caponero. I quickly learned the tricks of the trade, and in no time I was such a hit I’d some weekends get more tips than my father! Three families who came to dine all evening most Fridays were absolute favourites of mine. This was for the common reason that they tipped most generously indeed. There were distinctive differences though.
- Old Mr Hall’s family was large, perhaps 10-12 people; if I recall there were 2-3 boys roughly my age. They were a cool, loveable family who clearly adored my father, calling him alternately by his name Lazarus, or the nickname they gave him Shorty (I do not recall anybody else anywhere ever calling Pappa Shorty otherwise). One evening after yet another most successful dinner, Mr Hall called me to their table and in front the family asked me if it was okay for them to call me Shorty Junior because I resembled my father so much. I couldn’t say no of course but, oj, that they asked first! I was left positively bewildered for a long time after this.
- The second family comprised only a younger couple. They were indeed a smashing, well-off pair who danced the Tango I have yet to see another couple do the same better. These people were so kind and nice to me I got totally infatuated with the lady, who’d also flirt along; and I think the man did take notice of this also. We had a custom of bidding farewell to our customers by standing at the exit door with a bowl of mints. Soon all waiters understood that this couple were mine, and mine alone. I recall it like it was a dance ritual the couple and I often performed before they would finally take a mint sweet each and leave, with the lady sensually stroking my cheek, saying sweetly, “Good night, Simon! Till next week…” I dreamt a lot about this beautiful lady till well into my adult years.
- The third family was slightly larger than old Mr Hall’s, with many younger and most unruly children. And the family head himself was something else. He could have been something out of a bad Italian-American gangster movie; boisterous like nobody I had ever met, with the worst table manners I have ever seen. It was said the family owned a hotel somewhere. They ate and drank in the most undignified manner I have ever seen, breaking plates and glasses with no apparent worries in the world at all. But at the end of the evening the Godfather paid to the last cent due and more. On more than one occasion when it was time to pay he simply dipped a hand in his jacket in-side pocket, took out a large roll of money and just threw the notes flying behind him for us to pick up and count the money due. Upon returning the rest of the monies to him he would simply hand out the rest to all the waiters. Real memorable jackpot nights these have become in my mind. But this man and his family referred to us all 6-7 African waiters as kaffirs; they absolutely never called any one of us by our given names. Because I was the smallest and youngest of the waiters they called me kaffirtjie.
By emphatically calling us kaffirs and small kaffirs all the time, the 3rd family were asserting their Apartheid-institutionalized power and dominance, as well as their assumed superiority over us. Welcome to the world of hardcore Racism, my people. And, only I can and will define for myself what Racism is or is not. For me Racism is neither an academic, intellectual nor philosophical exploit; it’s not a postulation either. My experience of Racism is real, I can tell you about it with all my 5 senses.
When in the eyes, hearts, and minds of racists from colonial days through South African Apartheid days to, yes, today’s Rainbow Nation South Africa you go round with kaffir tag on your forehead, you are a God-given target for physical, mental, and emotional abuse. All this because you are no better than a wild animal, according to Racism perpetrators; only difference being that you can be taught menial language and work skills to serve the dominant and powerful Racists. In the Racists’ world kaffirs are endowed with inferior mental faculties. Amongst many other things, kaffirs:
- Cannot be civilized; they are by design born primitive and uncultured
- Cannot be saved from themselves; they are born losers
- Cannot contribute to the advancement of humanity in any sphere of human endeavour
- Can be manipulated, misinformed, and misguided at will
- Have no sense of self-worth; no self-respect
- Are basically a mass collective piece of shit anybody can pee and trample upon for amusement and annihilate any time
When you loathe somebody or something with passion you give them degrading names with the intent to belittle and dehumanize them, castrating them of any sense of dignity. If Racism in practice can be likened to an inflicted wound, the degrading names and words may be likened to chillies rubbed-in on regular doses to induce more pain and make healing impossible. Words are not just words in any given language.
In the United States of America, the word nigger is racistically functionally applied in the same way as the word kaffir as I have described above. Don’t be misled by our super talented Hip-hop/ Rap stars, the use of nigger expression offends millions of Black People of African origin all over the world. So, in Norway, when I hear the word NEGER på Norsk I see nigger, I feel the indignities I’ve suffered in my body, my mind and soul only because somebody decided to call me kaffir.
I’m not here demanding for a change of the Norwegian language to suit my response to tragic personal and racial experiences. I am simply asking for understanding and, above all, respect and consideration for my human dignity as a free man of colour not by choice. I came to Norway with nothing; but despite many trials and tribulations I have in my modest way added, and continue to add, value to Norwegian society. I do what I have to wherever I am to the best of my ability as much as possible; I get the rewards I get and live happily ever after. The paradox is that although Norway has not given me what I originally came here for, the country has given me much more than I bargained for. My last humble request, therefore, is: PLEASE RESPECT MY FEELINGS. DON’T CALL ME NEGER!
Tomorrow is going to be a better day because I know now that my Norwegian-speaking people, and others who did not understand some key issues of and about many Black people of African origin all over the world, particularly in Norway itself, have caught my drift.
Telephone: +47 97000488
December 20, 2011