Wednesday September 30th 2009
So I went for a walk today, which was more like a suburb hike. I am not a separatist, by no means, but I have already begun to see how it is here in regards to racism and social status. ALL of those that work at fast food, manual labor, servers, cashiers etc, are all black. Every white person that I have come in contact with seems to be highly wealthy. I have yet to see a white person who seems to be of average wealth. When I was sitting in the café earlier, I was trying to figure out the internet crap. When I asked my server, she said “let me get the manager”. He ended up being white. Everyone else that worked there was black. It seems that the boss is the white and the employee is the black. Which, naturally, brings me to answer, how is this so? Well history is one of the obvious answers. But I feel like there is more to it. Some lack of human connection that keeps one group of people from merging into another. I believe that lack of connection singes us like live wires barley touching, waiting for that vulnerable moment to ignite and destroy.
When I decided to walk, I was advised not to talk to people and to keep to myself, which is the obvious mode of defense. I found this to be silly actually. I decided to do a little human experiment on my walk. I was going to say hello and strike up conversations with as many people as possible on my home.
Before I go any further, I do have to tell you that there are streets just like any suburb and there are a ton of people walking just as many as cars, and all those that walk, are black. Oh, and dare I say that before I decided to do this I read the local paper that said that the president was ordering criminals to be shot and killed if caught committing crimes? I think I will leave that part out, anyhow…
So, after talking to 3 different men and saying hello to about 15 folks, I made it home safe and nothing was stolen. Some folks were thrown back by me saying hello, though they always said hello back.
I talked with an artist whose paintings were amazing. I may go back and get some. Chatted with another fellow who was waiting for god knows what. He had met some people earlier from Washington DC and they were telling him how they hated Bush and he could not see why they hated Bush. I just let him talk. Another man asked me why I was walking. I said “why not” and he said “usually people take the taxi”. “Well I prefer to walk” I said. This was a little of lie. My cheap side was overridden by my lazy side. Taxis are expensive in Johannesburg. He then asked me to hang out with him, I said “no”. And that was that and we both said our “good days” and moved on.
I have been in some pretty scary parts of the world, including my own home town, and I truly feel that if you treat people as though they were on your level and vice versa, they are not going to harm you. You disengage someone with a “hello” lead by a smile. I would rather have something happen to me while being friendly and compassionate than to turn my head and close heart.