Not black and white

Johan van Zyl, Gordon’s Bay

Arthur K Sarna’s subtly-worded letter (“Think out of the box”, Bolander letters, June 13) has prompted me to engage in some more box-thought – whether in or out of, the readers can decide.

Adding to what I’ve already suggested concerning the marriage analogy of Black and White, I see another writer, Michael le Cordier (Die Burger, June 12), telling how Krotoa, employed by Jan van Riebeeck, struggled with the two worlds of the then new South Africa. She tried to accommodate them, but she learned the hard way that it is virtually impossible to sit on both stools at the same time.

She had two cultures, two languages, two religions to contend with.

Today, more than 360 years on, there are still those who think it is possible to put our cultures into one cooking-pot, stir well, and we will blend.

This I find I cannot support. The demography being as lopsided as it is in South Africa, some cultures will in time die a slow, stifling death if such a policy is carried through.

Strength to the Khoi who, rising to the challenge, are honourably trying to retrieve at least some lost ground.

Mr Sarna lists a number of factors which he feels contribute to the differences between our colour groups, which make a blending of cultures so problematic. Whether these are mostly fundamental or superficial is, however, debatable.

The most obvious difference – colour – is to me the least worrying. What I feel is important is what needs to be done to bring back some sanity to our beleaguered country. The temperature needs to be brought down. One way would be to guard against witch-hunting.

Take the debacle that has erupted surrounding the utterances of Helen Zille and Theo Venter.

These are but two examples of expressed opinions which should have come and gone without a single whimper of protest. It really boggles the mind that such an outcry erupted. One is tempted to declare: “Somewhere, something is terribly wrong”.

The tragedy is that so many of our political “leaders” are fuelling the fires of distrust, hate and suspicion.

Concerning the level of sensitivity in our communities today, there seems to be no end to the hysteria.

Even if one should implore: “Please don’t be so uptight about these things!”, countless fingers will point accusingly and angry voices will cry out against one’s lack of feeling and supposed racist attitude.

As a lecturer to black students at a tertiary institution, I habitually engaged them in robust conversation to desensitize them towards me, especially at the start of courses. I would ask: “So how do you feel about having a white Boertjie as your lecturer?”.

They would glare at me from under their hoodies. I would continue: “Well, I don’t see a problem and I hope you don’t either.

“By the way, I am not white. I’ve never been white. I am light brown. And I don’t see a single black student in front of me.

“You are all more or less brown, like me. So if colour is not an issue, I’m going to disregard it”.

I think the idea worked, because I have the most wonderful recollections of my lecturing years, and frequently received letters of appreciation from many of these students.