Increasingly I have been observing black people who have ‘made it’. And made it they have. They live in suburbs where fresh pleasing leaves decorate the streets, not rusty beer cans. Black 4×4’s with armed security patrol their gated communities. Their children attend esteemed private schools – at times driven by a chauffeur. On her way to a shopping spree, the ‘made it’ black wife throws a Louis Vuitton bag in the boot of her Range Rover; its tint on the windows is near black so she remains unseen, in this way she feels safe, she creates another barrier so you dare not ask for some change. She does not even share a smile – either way she is so far removed from you she doesn’t even know what it is like anymore to need a smile.
You are nothing like them. They are educated, which is right. They got money, which we all prayed for. But they forgot you – which none of us saw coming. We never really predicted that most would be left so far behind. They make friends with those we called oppressors and do not put all our issues on the table. As a result, you are still poor and they walk past you. Maybe you remind them of the place they once were and they never ever want to go back. Or maybe they don’t want the poverty association that still comes with being black. They are the progression. Or maybe they think poverty is contagious. Or maybe they don’t want their new friends to see them with the ‘wrong’ crowd. It could be that they forgot what’s it’s like to be poor with little hope. Conceivably they just don’t give a shit. Or they are afraid. Perhaps they think there is not enough for everyone. Or they think that because they have made it you ought to bloody well pick up your socks and go take what is yours….
I observe the wives and fiancés of these ‘made it’ black men. Their conversation is heavy with self indulgence. Their only concern is what personalised number plates their going to get on their next German car. Oh and how they are going to remove their children from a school because the new director is black. It doesn’t matter that he is black with a Harvard degree, or that he is an impeccable gentlemen; HE is BLACK. The children MUST go to a new school. They look down at those who cannot achieve this kind of choice and detail because they have not made it.
They say they don’t want to go to Soweto and Thembisa after dark because it is dangerous. And if in fact it is dangerous – they forget ‘dangerous’ young men are really hungry, suffocating in sickness, angry and bitter because of life’s brutality…without options. They say they won’t shop in JHB’s CBD because these black hoodlums are rough and they smell of sweat. They forget about the girl who has to sell boiled eggs from 4am at Bree taxi rank – isn’t she afraid? Doesn’t she smell the same sweat? Maybe they don’t see it as a point of concern because she is of the same make as the hoodlums. She isn’t a ‘made it’ black. And the mothers going from the townships to town and back, day after day? Are all these women not afraid?
For the ‘made it’ blacks – money can never be the sin. Education is not the culprit. Selective memory and the choice to start thinking that you are better than others is a false sense of security in a very fickle world….