May, 1996. Durban bay, South Africa.
*Note: Names changed to protect identities.
The early winter wind and rain buffeted the canoeing clubhouse, on Durban bay.
Shouting and laughing canoeists line up for their weekly dice and race into the wind as the start-master sends them off. With their muscles straining and lungs bursting the top group sprint for the first turn. Some make the first bow wave and others battle behind.
Twice around the course in the bouncing waves of the silt canal. The power of the wind in their faces as they rush towards the harbour, and the runs of waves help them return.
The novices pat-paddle, in their ungainly way, behind the lead groups. They will be passed at least once on the 8km course. The turbulence causes discomfort and the narrow hulls are highly unstable.
The multi-coloured long-distance kayaks each show something of
the battle scars, of river racing and the personalities of their owners. Some are in the magnificent colours of the South African flag and some in more traditional colours.
The reflected lights of the yachts and local industry are fragmented across the choppy waters, as the last crafts return to the start. Later as the canoeists gathered around the bar, the alcohol began to loosen their tongues. Conversations went around the dice and who beat whom. Around sport and canoe races. And, as usual, politics and the new South Africa.
I was standing watching dice, with my future wife, and mother-to-be of our children. She was, and still is a beautiful South African lady, of Indian descent.
In these changing times – there was a lot of unhappiness with affirmative action and the way the new government was “doing” things. “The blacks are stuffing things up.”
A remnant from the past, laughed aloud and jokingly said, “We need to colonise this place all over again!” Yeah! Back to the colonies”, laughed another.
This was enough to set Dylan off. “Ja,” he spittle-sprayed in rage, “this is all bullshit! How can they make a murderer, the President. Everybody forgets that Mandela murdered people.” He stared aggressively, in my direction. Hoping that I would oppose his line of thinking.
I kept quiet and waited. There was more to come. He launched into a lengthy diatribe on the people of colour that he worked with and ended by saying. “I don’t hate the k$#%&rs. But the f%$*&ing. coolies. Now them – I hate with a passion!” I knew that this was initiated by the presence of my guest.
“Everywhere you go some bloody charou is taking our work.” Then he laughed, “How do you know when a charou is lying?” He answered his own question, “When their lips are moving!” A small chorus of uncomfortable laughter, greeted his joke. Already numerous canoeists had physically moved away from his noisy prejudice.
I raged inside. “Dylan, you are just a bloody racist. You can see no good in anybody but yourself.” I had to leave before I made matters any worse.
The strange thing was that this man is essentially a good person. Always willing to help. Always there if you needed him. A good person. I drove home angry that night. I couldn’t wait to write down my feelings about this “kind” of person.
I was sick of racism. Everything that I had been exposed to, from some white people, showed that some of them had a simple belief in the inferiority of anyone of colour. I ran the scenario over and over, in my mind. “Who did he think he was? What on earth gave him the right to behave in that way?” I was burning with frustrated outrage, at his blatant bigotry.
And then a thought flashed in, “Does he think that it is a right? Or is that the only way of thinking, available to him? And if that is the only way that he can think, where did he get his ideas from.” Later, as my anger subsided, my mind shifted, and I began to pity Dylan.
“Poor bloke,” I thought, “he is as much a victim of Apartheid, as anyone else.” It made sense. He is as much in need of help as anyone else. He needs love and more so, he needs psychological help.
As had most white boys, he was conscripted at 17 year of age, by the Apartheid machine. He had fought “terrorists” on the borders to keep his family and country “safe”.
The very people who shot at him and ducked his bullets, were fighting for their families and their country, as “freedom fighters.” Now “free” they called themselves victims of Apartheid.
Dylan’s father and uncles, and their fathers before them, grew up in a black and white world. In race-separated areas. They worked in, “superior” to people of colour.
Always the “boss” and always protected. In their world anyone who was not white, was “sub-human”. And Dylan had grown up under their tutelage. What chance did he have? What chance did anyone have?
And as I began to type on my PC, that night of the 21 May 1996, this is what came to me.
“THEY ARE ALL VICTIMS!
Two victims sit, side by side.
One is black, one is white.
Both fought Freedom’s Fight.
Against each other, through day and night.
The war has now past.
But the wounds they suffered, could forever last.
Yet, the scars aren’t upon their skin,
they now lie deep within.
Images of hurt, harm and pain,
torture their minds and drive them insane.
As puppets dancing to yesterday’s beat,
their actions and words have racial heat.
Their strings are pulled by governments past,
by rulers, by lead, or Mom and Dad …
will YOU teach your kids to be as bad?”
Yes. They were both fighting for a “just” cause. Both sides primed by their leaders to hate each other. Fellow citizens of South Africa. And when the fighting was over, the hate did not stop.
History shows the same. For time immemorial, world leaders have stirred up their followers and mustered troops to “Fight the good cause.” Many of their followers became their victims, and died in vain.
Even the survivors have died – in their souls and spirits. All victims – dead or alive.
Brian V Moore ©
We see still today, 23 years later, that much has to be done to unite our nation!
Our current leaders engage in dangerous racist comments and speeches.
Our nation again is in danger of being divided, with each so-called “group” being lead angrily astray.
We must unite, grow each other, and build a powerful, caring nation.
All for one, one for all.
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