As visceral as “When they see us” is, I think the docu series about The Central Park Five, should have been titled “How they see us and not when they see us.”
Let’s be frank here white people have always seen us. They have always known we were here. We were here for years to serve them, to obey their commands, to listen to instructions and directions from them. It doesn’t matter if you had the ones that were nice and kind because those white people were known as traitors by their own people. The majority of white people were used to waking up in the morning to a cup of tea being served by a person of colour.
They went to the shops and a poc served them and it was generally done with a smile and a greeting beginning and ending with sir or madam. At work poc’s were the labourers and often due to language barriers and legislated substandard education, poc’s were regarded as “beneath them.” Much like an ordinary Brit would curtsey or bow to a member of the Royal family.
While all this was happening, in order to maintain the status quo, poc’s were killed, raped, maimed and everything that was evil was reined upon them and white people would simply wash their hands, put on their “Sunday best” and attend church where, though they heard about love your neighbour as you love yourself, they felt they did because the neighbour was white. Nothing difficult in that instruction until people like Dr. Beyers Naude came along and preached about black people being human and black people needing to be treated with dignity and equality.
His teachings could almost have been seen as “New Age” or directly from the devil and of course there was the “pushback” and resistance from those wanting to maintain the status quo. How could he teach about equality and humanity when poc’s were not seen as human?
Fast forward years later with the likes of Steve Hofmeyr et al from the right wing groups trying to maintain and hold onto their perceived superiority and Donald Trump (the less said about him the better) and white people are back to the way it was in the past.
How they see us has always been lower than them with maybe a bit more education for some, to assist the white manager to “keep those people in line!” How they see us is exactly as their forefathers saw us and that’s as “die swart gevaar” and what happened in the past when “die swart gevaar” stepped out of line? They were simply taken out. Done away with because they cause division! You need simply look at Steve Hofmeyr’s tweets to understand the simple “order” he issued to Zinzi Mandela.
- They want land? “How can they want land when everything they touch they break or mess up!”
The fact that black people were land owners and worked and continue to work the land is of little consequence to some white people.
- They want integration? “Have you seen how they slaughter their animals?” The fact that abattoirs (white owned) slaughter animals every day and animals suffer terribly whilst alive on farms is of little importance because its white people who are doing it so therefore it’s ok.
- They want to use our facilities? “They don’t even know how to use public toilets!”
The fact that I have seen many white people urinate in public is of little importance here because it’s about keeping the lie alive.
- They want to be educated? “Have you not seen how dismal our matric results are?” “This country is going backward is all you” hear. Let’s ignore the black graduates here shall we?
- They rape, murder and plunder. “All they do is steal, rape, murder and plunder!” Mmmm! Now let’s go back on history with this one shall we?
- They can’t pronounce words properly! “It’s such an embarrassment, have you heard those politicians pronounce words?”
Yes, I have and considering English or Afrikaans is their 3rd language, I must commend them. Have you heard some Afrikaans speaking people butcher the English language? Have you heard some French or Italian people struggle with English? But let’s continue to believe the lie that poc’s are “stupid!”
This is how white people see us. Of course there are exceptions but we are talking the norm. If you were reared to think you are special and only your needs matter then that’s how you will approach and view the world. It’s the reason patriarchy exists and is such a danger to women worldwide. If white women struggle with white patriarchy then imagine how far down the line poc’s are?
It’s never been about when they see us but how they see us when they do see us.