Black and white

Code please.

My girlfriend punched in the code for her credit card and paid for our theatre tickets. The guy then looked at me, said thank you so much, and asked for my name.

Violet.

I thought it odd he wanted my name. She’d made the payment, it made sense to put the tickets under her name.

Maybe it was because I’d been flirting, but it left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable.

A bit like she was invisible.

She smiled.

We were early for the show so took a seat at the bar.

Whisky for me please.

I’ll have the same, Johnnie Walker Red, thanks.

The guy looked at me. Anything to eat?

Nope.

I shook my head. He didn’t ask her, presuming I’d said no for both of us.

This time she didn’t smile, she raised an eyebrow. A perfect dark eyebrow.

Maybe, I thought, maybe she was actually invisible?

I pinched her just to check she was there.

Pinch.

Hey Violet come on what are you doing, ow, that hurt.

Yeah, she was there.

But what she is, and I’d known this all along, is a woman with a darker skin.

And apparently, in small white villages, people don’t see people with dark skins.

Genuinely do not see them.

It was a leftover, a remnant, from old South African days. White people spoke, black people did not. White people were treated well. Black people were not.

White people made decisions.

White people were heard.

White people were in charge.

And these two men, the theatre guy and the waiter (the owner of the restaurant actually) automatically deflected to me, being the white person.

It wasn’t because I’m gorgeous and lovely and flirted. I would love to believe it was. My friend is gorgeous and lovely and flirts well too.

It was because of the colour of our skin.

I am lily white. And therefore, I am seen.

It’s ridiculous.

And you know what.

It is not okay.

South Africa, it is just not okay.

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28 thoughts on “Black and white

  1. I was just trying to imagine what life is like for the people living in SA, more concisely how have perceptions changed since the end of apartheid. Growing up and living in a very traditional southern state, I know many aspects of what goes on there. I lived through the violence of the 70’s, when schools were *desegregated* by a court order. Cultural differences somehow tend to override the insignificance of skin color. Ignorance is everywhere, and it’s appalling the way it transcends into everyday life…😔

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    1. People are slowly becoming more aware. The guy who sold us the theatre tickets – he realised his mistake and did ask for her name too. But it took a while and a raised eyebrow. Everything has changed on the surface but actually, not much has changed at all. We have a long way to go here.

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  2. It makes me angry that this still happens. I know progress has been made, but there’s such a long way still to go.

    I was discussing with a friend the other day how, when white people read stories, they often automatically think that characters are white. I read a few weeks ago about a theatre adaptation of Harry Potter, and how controversial it had been to cast a black girl as Hermione.

    The nice thing is, there are at least some people who are willing to stand up to it. In the case of the black Hermione, J K Rowling herself pointed out that there is no reason to believe from her descriptions that Hermione is white. Good for her, I thought at the time.

    Someday skin colour won’t matter. Ethnic origin won’t matter. Sex won’t matter. Body shape won’t matter. Disabilities won’t matter. Sexual orientation won’t matter.

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      1. Yes. I abhor injustice. When people are racist, sexist, whatever I ask them to think of a new way to say what they’re saying and stop being bigoted. It doesn’t make me more friends but it ensures I have the right ones.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I know where you went. I am pretty sure, in fact. And welcome to a certain white part of South Africa. Last week I went to a mall and you know those pop up display sections you sometimes get? There was one for a very famous estate agency, with a ‘white person in charge’ talking to the ‘black helper person’ as if he was retarded and deaf. I almost had an apoplexy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Everything is sharp here. Clear. Economical. Precise. You show all the necessary actions and details that let the reader feel and see the whole scene. Sometimes, though, I fall into the temptation at the end of story I’ve written, or an event that I’ve told, to spell out in the last few lines of it exactly what the reader is supposed to feel or think. It is hard to resist this especially when we want so badly to get our point across—but, trust me, we already have.

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      1. Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself. I’ve got dozens of stories where I’ve done the same thing. We simply want the reader to “get” it—and end up sometime being too on the nail, slipping into the ole “telling” what we mean instead of continuing to trust what we have already so successfully shown. Easy stuff to fix!

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