This disturbing thought struck me while reading about the awful experiences author John Fredericks says he had at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Fredericks is the man who wrote the script for Noem My Skollie, so his words carry a lot of weight.
I thought I was the only one who noticed how he chose to refer to some of the nurses at the hospital until I noticed a few comments on Facebook from people who felt the same discomfort.
Just to clarify, this is not an attack on Mr Fredericks.
I think he has done wonders for the Cape Flats community, if merely by inspiring young people to turn their lives around and achieving impossible successes.
His language is, however, typical of the older generation of coloured people, who persist with very racist and classist language.
What triggered my thinking was an incident a few days later, when I found myself in a clinic setting, waiting to be helped by a busy nurse.
She was overwhelmed and as a result, her requests came across as being cold, rude instructions.
In all truth, she could’ve been a little friendlier, but considering what she has to deal with on a daily basis, to me she remains an angel that is easily forgiven.
A lady across from me decided that I was the perfect person to make a rude and racist comment to about the nurse.
She said something to the effect of “she thinks she has straight hair, so now she’s as good as us.”
It reminded me of some comments I used to hear in my own circle growing up; and continue to hear at certain gatherings among coloureds.
One of the greatest successes of the apartheid government was its ability to divide and conquer South Africans of colour by implementing levels of oppression.
Our parents were taught that they were better than blacks but not as good as Indians and whites.
And with it came services, infrastructure and resources to reinforce that thinking; we got better jobs, better housing, better schooling and a better social standing than our fellow black victims of oppression.
And of course, it worked so well on enough coloured people that the thinking persists to this day.
Black people are still referred to as “they” with just enough condescending disdain as to imply superiority, without having to say it outright.
The reference drips with disregard, suspicion and a clear inference of incompetence.
I tolerated far too many coloured people speaking about blacks in a patronising fashion in private. And for that I am ashamed.
Now I’m hearing coloured people do it out in public; in an ugly way that they try to disguise with humour.
It is not funny, and it should no longer be accepted.
I understand that a lot of it has to do with our history and the fact that many of these perpetrators are old people who don’t want to know any better. But that’s not an excuse anymore either.
Our destinies as different cultures and races are all intertwined.
It is the reason why we failed as a society pre-1994; because we were divided and brain-washed into believing one is better than the other.
The same inter-connectedness could be our downfall again, or it could be the reason why we succeed as a nation.
So while I always preach respect for the older generation, I also want us to teach them and help them progress along with us.
So we need to stop quietly wincing and even laughing about the things old coloured people say in the privacy of their homes.
It’s time to tackle that old aunty who laughs at the way black people pronounce things on TV; or the stereotypes your grandma repeats over and over again because she thinks it’s funny; or the comments about hair, backsides and body odour.
We need to educate and liberate those minds that remain imprisoned in apartheid jails.
Because it’s not just a matter of being mean; it’s also our beautiful future that they are destroying with their thinking.