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The Invisible Black Man

It must have been in the late 80’s, putting me at just under 10 years old. I was just your “regular” little white kid going to a private school, living blissfully unaware of what was happening around me. I didn’t really understand much of what was happening.

I didn’t know about state of emergencies, sanctions and such other things.

None of it affected my life, it simply didn’t concern me.

However, there are a couple of very vague, very confusing memories in my head, and I think this is about the time I started realising. One of them was when the beaches were “opened”. I don’t know if I actually remember ever seeing a sign that said “slegs blankes”, or if I added it to my memories from seeing them in pictures years later, but I sure as hell remember the day they were taken down.

I don’t recall anyone in my “camp” being particularly happy or upset about what was happening, it was pure apathy.

But, I do remember hearing a family acquaintance letting everyone know how he felt. It was likely the first time I had heard the word “k****r” used with true hate. The barrage of swearing and metaphors about animals made me almost think that this was a big joke, he couldn’t be serious.

Could he?

It wasn’t until years later when I first visually recalled that memory that I realised it was not a joke at all. Two epiphanies had occurred at once. Firstly, I figured out that we were separated, so much so that we couldn’t even share the same piece of sandy beach and blue water, and secondly some people were actually upset that they now had to give up their “private” beaches.

Really?

How did it ever get that far?

Somehow, I learned the “feeling” of separateness and with that came the fear of the unknown. He was the bad guy, the one who would steal everything I had, kill my family and destroy everything I loved – but I never saw him.

He wasn’t the the “boy” who did our garden once a week nor my father’s colleagues, nor was he the father of the black kids in my school. They were all regular people, sharing (and I’m pretty sure about this) the same faults, tendencies and good traits as their white counterparts.

But they got the bad rap, all because of the invisible man who was waiting to wreak havoc.

How blind we were.

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  1. September 21st, 2009 at 09:03 | #1

    I remember when the beaches were opened – particularly going to McArthur swimming pool, right on the beachfront of PE, for the first time. We used to drive past McArthur, on the way to the ‘coloured’ beaches on the other side of Summerstrand. For years we had longed to go there and finally being allowed in was like having your every wish granted in one go. For years Summerstrand, King’s Beach and the McArthur pools was a very real symbol of our oppression and being able to go there unhindered was a sign, to us kids at least, that we were finally free!

  2. September 21st, 2009 at 19:40 | #2

    You know, I think I’m only beginning now to fully understand how apartheid was structured.

    I’ve been reading Shades of Difference: Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa. It’s nice to be able to balance the stories of Mac, Madiba and the others with posts such as this one. It really gives me a balanced view of how things were…
    .-= Good Charlie´s last blog ..With Regards to the Judicious Application of the Race Card =-.

  3. July 9th, 2012 at 19:08 | #3

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    .-= Business News´s last 1 ..1 =-.

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