I finally met a real one. A real live, honest-to-goodness racist. You don't meet one of those every day.
Now I don't mean the kind that protests, "But I have lots of black friends"; the white businessmen and women who talk about the forty-year old "girl" who brings the tea; or even the one who smiles at the black kids in their class but goes home to their braai on a Friday night to complain about the "coolies" who no-matter-how-fast-you-squash-them-just-keep-popping-up (FYI: that's also a real live experience). I mean the kind that is the unashamed kind.
She is the unfortunate stereotype that has been satirised so many times you half-doubt that they really exist. Surely someone just told a story and in the re-telling it got more and more embellished? Surely?
So I was working in Pretoria (it had to be in the figurative shadow of the Union buildings) and I was working with this Afrikaans girl (she had to be Afrikaans). She and I were the managers in training, and there was pressure on us to perform. On our way out of the centre one day, she told me she was happy to have me there, and although I was confused by her evident enthusiasm at the fact she was "no longer alone", I thought she meant she now had another trainee manager to work with and I smiled tentatively back.
Her enthusiasm waned a little as we approached the parking lot. We were both waiting for our boyfriends and I saw Zwe (my handsome boyfriend who also happens to be black) as soon as I came out. I walked up to him to take his arm and smiled and said I would see her tomorrow, indicating that this was the afore-mentioned boyfriend who was taking me home. She looked momentarily confused. and then the smile froze a little on her face, but she walked on.
By the next morning, I had forgotten it, but she cornered me that afternoon whilst I was shelving DVDs and told me that she wouldn't say it wasn't a shock. This time, I was the one who was momentarily confused. She said she never expected she would see me with someone who was black. She said each person must do what they wanted but she wasn't brought up that way. I was suddenly reminded of people who sniff disapprovingly and say that they weren't brought up to murder anybody, or to pick their noses at suppertime (or any time for that matter). I also suddenly realised she hadn't been talking about having another manager on the floor, but another white person.
Now, white people do make these kind of racist statements to other white people. It's not uncommon (although unusual to be making them to me once they know I am not only quite liberal, but actually dating someone of another race).
But this racist - when asked by a black colleague - whether she would allow her daughter (now two years old) to date a black man, said absolutely not. She would disown her if she did, but anyway, she would bring her up not to. She is so blatant I practically gasp when I think of it. And people wonder why the new generations are not yet free from prejudice...
She is so racist that her black colleagues want to believe they have misunderstood her (because again, surely, those kinds of racists only appear in Leon Schuster send-ups?). I have heard a girl say that she "thinks she is racist". I could only smile sadly at her attempted kindness.
The final straw, however, came when she heard what Jube-Jube did. She was horrified, said it was terrible. "I mean, I know they're just black kids, but they're just kids, you know?"
I know...just black kids.
But I was reading this article by Jonathan Jansen (the black Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State) and he was saying that perpetrators of racist statements are victims of their hatred.
And this racist really is a victim of herself. She is an over-weight girl with bad teeth who hates her job but doesn't have enough skill to work anywhere else. She's had a child with a boyfriend with whom she lives but still hasn't married her (and this in conservative Afrikanerdom). She craves friends but cannot get any because she is imprisoned by her racism and her out of control emotions that threaten to over-whelm her almost every minute of the day. No-one respects her and few people like her of the black or white staff.
The real live racist is actually really lonely. And alone.