Well that’s according to Paula Marais, the publisher who has taken responsibility for Rainbow Nation Navigation: A Practical Guide to South African cultures. Actually, I personally don’t believe Paula is such a bad person – she just did what in my opinion all human beings do, whether they willing to admit it or not. We stereotype.
I’m not sure why though, probably driven by potential financial gain, did she think she was going to get away with it, without being on the receiving end of some backlash. Most of us just stereotype others in private conversations or in various forms of personal communique.
Admittedly, I would have loved to see what she wrote about other cultures, to judge for myself if she was just being blatantly racist towards coloured people, or if she really applied the same idiotic mentality throughout and misrepresented other cultures too. I unfortunately can’t get hold the book because it’s been withdrawn by the publisher.
Look the point of this blog is not to blast the lady. I did a bit of research before I started writing and I found an audio clip where she apologised and told her side of the story. She explained how she is making amends and then stated that she has been ridiculed and even threatened as a result of the book. Me…., I accept her apology although based on some of the excepts from the book that I found I still feel I have justification to blog about the incident and say “Really Paula Marais and Co., what were you thinking?”
The one except I read which wasn’t so bad was: “Coloured People also have baby showers. If you’re invited to one of these‚ then here are some hints: – Hand-me-downs are acceptable gifts‚ although in the younger generation‚ this is becoming rare.” Really…….
I’m almost 40 years old, and even if I tried to remember how many baby showers I’ve been to or organised, I could not, there were so many. Yet I honestly cannot recall hand-me-downs being doled out, not even once. There may have been, since I did not make mental notes of this with scientific rigour, but for the life of me I can’t remember second hand toys, clothes or toiletries being passed off as a stock standard gift.
Another excerpt reads: “There’s a little (unacceptable) thing called ‘vat en sit’‚ which refers to a man moving in with his girlfriend and‚ often‚ letting her pay for his expenses. In some cases the girlfriend falls pregnant. She then returns to her mother and makes peace with her (usually by apologising). The girlfriend moves back in with her and then has the child‚ She then leaves the child with the mother and returns to the boyfriend.” What? Really…read that again. Because I had to read again to make sure that I read that properly.
Now that’s a part of the book just ruffles my little coloured feathers. That’s not satirical Paula Marais and Co. That’s just plain rude, in addition to racially typecasting that to the coloured community. The behaviour you refer to exists yes, but is not exclusively coloured. The actor Jack Nicholson as example.
That being said I don’t know if she just implies it’s only more common place in the coloured community than that black, white or indian community. I do however know from my 40 years of personal experience, there in not a single person that I can think of in my community or in my circle of coloured friends that did that.
Then another:“In spite of their friendly and welcoming nature, coloured people can be quite defensive about their culture and identity. They feel they always stuck in the middle between other cultures” This one makes me wonder, did she pay her interviewees to say things that they thought would be entertaining even if it does not make sense? Like what really? I tried understanding what that meant. I wondered what has being friendly and welcoming have to do with being defensive about our culture? Aren’t most people on the planet friendly and welcoming but if you said anything untoward about their culture they take offense? Or did she mean coloured people feel the need to defend their culture if you say something random about them… I only have a M degree in Quality. Maybe when I have the PhD I could possibly make sense of that.
I could do a review of all the stupid excerpts I read, but that’s boring, and I’m over Paula Marais and Co. already. I’ll end up negating each one so I’ll just mention one last one because this one is rather hilarious. It reads: The youths are very concerned about appearances and they like to show their money by wearing it in the form of designer clothes or lavish jewelry. This is in stark contrast with many people of the older generation who are frequently seen in their slippers. Some women go a little further than this and can be seen wearing nightgowns till late in the day”. The only nightgown I have is one I bought 14 years ago for when I went into hospital to give birth to my son. The only other time I wore it again was when I went back into hospital to give birth to my daughter. I better check if I still have it, so I can start wearing it again. Or perhaps I’m just not a coloured woman after all – because I don’t personally relate to any of this.
Jokes aside, truthfully I am getting a little tired of how racist we all still are. No one particular South African race, – we all are racist. I recently referred to someone as white, when a friend pointed out to me that I did not have to use the colour of his skin to describe him in the context of our conversation. I was trying to describe his behaviour which I perceived to be haughty, but So true – it wasn’t necessary. I’m guilty of that. I’m not suggesting we be overly sensitive about this but since then I have become more aware of it. There comes a time in everyone’s lives when you need to make a conscientious decision to stop the racism and practice it. Like stopping smoking – it won’t happen unless you have the will to do it.
Besides that, I suspect we also accuse people of being racist when they really are just bad people. If someone says something nasty and it’s directed at someone of another race we say that person is a racist. But I think there is a case to be made for some events where racism is just a symptom, not the root cause of bad or nasty behaviour. I’m referring to Riaan Lucas’s racist meme after Joost van der Westhuizen passed away. I don’t know the guy but I believe that he probably kicks his dog, and yells at his neighbour and won’t give the coloured kids who accidentally kick their ball into his property their ball back. His meme was in really bad taste, but more than it being racist it was downright unfeeling and disrespectful to Joost and his grieving family.
I think if all South Africans just actually made an effort to be better people in general, then racism would go away. If there is enough goodness in us to truly treat each other with dignity, our own race groups and other race groups. Funny enough my PhD is on culture. The simplest definition I found of culture is “shared values”. Goodness and respect for others are values I think we can all share. I believe there is enough goodness in us South Africans to accomplish this yet.