Going on to three years ago I wrote a post titles “my Afrikaner myth of meaning“. It was births from an experience in explaining the wall images from the Voortrekker monument to a visiting lecturer. This paragraph says something of what happened:

But something happened while I was explaining this to this international theologian. I got to see the story anew. Everything I ever learned about myth suddenly seemed to fit my own history, even though it only happened 150 years ago. This was the Afrikaner myth of origin. This was how we became the Afrikaner volk, how we differentiated ourselves from the Netherlands, also from France, Germany, and especially from Britian. It was by moving.

In the above mentioned post I tried to find positive implications from the Afrikaner myth which I could use in my own self-understanding. In the months and years after this post, my talk about the Afrikaner myth and the vow focused more on how the vow was part of the myth which explained why Apartheid was to be accepted, since God chose the white people over-and-above the black people of South Africa. I became less positive about this Afrikaner myth of meaning. Although I have continued my talk of being Afrikaner, maybe bet summarized in a recent post titled “I’ll just be that other white African, an Afrikaner“.

My reason for writing this post, however, is simply to point you to words by Christi van der Westhuizen concerning Afrikaner Mythology. In White Power she writes:

Malan, the first NP leader to become prime minister under apartheid, leaned strongly on his background as a dominee (clergyman) to alchemise Afrikaner nationalism into a civil religion. This was encapsulated in his slogan ‘Believe in your God, Believe in your Country, Believe in Yourself’, compelling enough for Afrikaner nationalists for it to remain the NP’s motto until the 1960s. Malan was a consummate ideologue who conjured up heady visions of the future in his rhetorical mix of religion, history and nationalism. Afrikaner nationalist mythology reinterpreted the motley groups of families that had left the Cape colony as a coherent nationalist action, the Great Trek, by ethnically similar people. Figures such as Piet Retief, Andries Pretorius and Sarel Cilliers were exhumed from the depths of history and paraded as leaders inspired by Afrikaner nationalism. To them, the Great Trek was more than a conquest of territory, proselytised Malan – it was ‘an act of faith, and the acceptance of a God-given task’. The Voortrekker victory over Zulu forces at the Battle of Blood River was immortalised in the Day of the Vow on 16 December, when Afrikaners were called upon to remember their promise to God to remain Afrikaner nationalists. The Afrikaner were ‘a volk with a calling … behind our South African volk existence and history sits a purpose. We as volk should be aware of it, and live it to the best of our ability.

White power & the Rise and Fall of the National Party page 23-24

White kid in a white school

February 24, 2010

When I reached the age of 6 or 7, it was time to go to school. So started some of the most formative years of my life (obviously). Where the community in which I lived was mostly black, and I had a lot of interracial experience, although it might not have at that stage translated into amazing friendships, the school in which I found myself was all white. Race was not an issue, since we never dealt with it.

I was in grade 1 in 1991. Before the referendum of 1992. I remember my parents voting, and I remember that the outcome was good. I can’t remember Apartheid being discussed much in the house, but I had no doubt about my parents’ position on whether blacks may vote etc. I think it must have been around this time that the black lady that worked for our family, her name was Eniy, did Bible study with us in the mornings.

But somewhere around this time I must have picked up some implicitly racist ideas. I remember singing a song at primary school with these words:

Strawberry lippies, die kaffers gooi klippies

Mandela’s ‘n kaffer en nou moet hy suffer.

Kaffer is the most oppresive term white people ever used to refer to black people under Apartheid. The rest translate as follows:

Strayberry lips, the kaffers is throwing rocks

Mandela is a kaffer, and now he must suffer.

If ever I was a white man toi-toi’ing against the struggle, it was when we were singing this song. I do remember that it was with some discomfort though. This wasn’t how we were brought up. But although the school would never have propagated Apartheid ideology in those years (remember this was very close to ’94), and since I was living in Swaziland I never knew about all the Apartheid issues (I heard about pass laws only while in high school), the system in which I was finding myself was strengthening the idea that black people were somehow lesser humans than white people. It’s not something we argued about, and about which people made explicit cases for, but in our jokes, in our talking, somehow as if it was in the water, in our blood, we knew that we were better, and that black people were dirty.

In about 1995 I remember the fights for transforming the schools. I know my father was taking a leading role in our school to have them open up for black kids. Eventually they did. But I remember the day when we were driving to the high school to pick up the high school kids that were living in Swaziland, and seeing the march of armed white men who was fighting against the first black kid that was allowed in the school.

Some black people were different though. We had a child from the kingly lineage from Swaziland, a Dlamini, in our school who was our fastest athlete. Somehow he was considered to be touchable. I remember Chester Williams (Invictus reminded us of him), he was a hero of sorts. And I guess there were others as well. Some called them “good kaffers”, which in a brilliant way describe the experience that some had when they realized that there were black people that was really just better than white people in something. Usually sports was a good first place to notice this. How do you recognize the fact that a person is truly contributing to the school while still being inherently racist? But even when black students performed, you’ll find the jokes like “he can run so fast because he used to run away from the police”.

There was good coming out of this system. We were getting to know black kids, but usually we remained divided along language lines (actually if I remember correctly the school was mostly divided along language lines even before 1994). But 5 years later, by 2000, I was even more of a racist than before. And if I still wonder if I was a racist as a preschool kid in Swaziland, I know I was one by early high school. Even though still in a reserved manner. I was well-trained by my parents never to speak of maids or kaffers or openly discriminate against black people. None of my friends would have considered me a racist though. In most circles I would have been considered very open to black people. It took an “other” to help me realize my own inherent racism.

a freaking joke!:-)

August 5, 2008

Well, check this out! I’ve apparently been the inspiration for this friend to start his blog! You will have to be able to read Afrikaans though. No, I don’t agree with what he says, but that he knew, even though we basically lost contac for almost 5 years. I will be following this blog, and engaging in discussion, since the invitation was sent to we together with the words: “Jy was mos nog altyd ‘n kritikus van formaat?”

Oh, and I know I haven’t been blogging the past few days, maybe you’ll get another post tonight.