Black and (or?) White – Part 2


I have noticed one thing about the parts of South Africa that we have seen so far. There seems to be a delicate dance between black, white English speaking, and white Afrikaaner South Africans, with each party pretending everything is okay, and politely giving the other a wide berth.

The other night at dinner – apart from the incident of the whole shrimp in my curry with eyes still looking at me and everyone who knows me knows that is one of only three rules I have about food – there we were having a deep and earnest discussion about refugees and South African attitudes toward them. And right there beside our table was a black South African waitress. Surely she heard the conversation. Why didn’t we just turn and ask her what she thought? Isn’t she human too? Or is that part of the unspoken agreement? Did we ignore her because she is black? Or because she is the waitress?

There she was, young, beautiful and pregnant. Didn’t she have an opinion too?

The spoiler in this dance seems to be the refugees. And the more of them there are the more the dance falls apart. Like the desperate people crossing the Rio Grande at night, these refugees keep coming. They strain government services and compete for jobs with the largely disenfranchised South African poor. Just like illegal immigrants at home in America, they compete for work with America’s blue-collar working class. And like the response at home, it becomes more vitriolic and intense as economic conditions worsen.

How long can the dance continue? With or without the refugees?