“I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny. I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” George Wallace, 45th governor of Alabama.
South African Airways, SA203, took off at 9:00 PM, on Monday. The group, 110-strong, was air bound for 16 ½ hours. Between takeoff and landing, few onboard remained alert. Collectively, the travelers had thousands of sleepless hours to recover from. The Airbus A340-600 landed, at JFK International Airport, at 6:30 AM in a fog of confusion and disorientation.
Kemp, my driver, was already in waiting. But it took a moment for the transfer bus to arrive. I then saluted friends, colleagues and fellow travelers before collapsing on the back of the new limo. The image of a little boy at Molemo Primary School, in Soweto, popped up into my forebrain. Then I realized how close we were, and how distant we were.
This was my third trip to South Africa. For the first time, I was able to wrap my brain around the quintessence of the lesson in History taught by this faraway land, a tutorial on colonialism and apartheid.
Going through museums and monuments, talking to whites and blacks, reading magazines and encyclopedia, I finally gathered what Martin Luther King was fighting for. The right for everyone in America to live a regular life no matter the percentage of melanin in their skin.
For the first time, I was able to comprehend that slavery, Jan Smuts’ apartheid, Jim Crow’s segregation were not about the glorious victories of Louverture, Lincoln, King and Mandela. They were about the daily pugnacious atrocities committed against millions of innocent men, women and children, for the simple sake of the enrichment of others. The system taught one group to hate the other, to the benefit of the oppressing minority.
Savagery must be redefined. The substantive does not belong to half-naked men in the tundra, but to booted and helmeted “civilizators” armed with carabines and shadowed by ferocious dogs. Theft is not about stealing bread at the grocery store; it is the legal consequences of apartheid laws, confining humans in townships and bantustans, plantations and mines, for the sake of robbing their land, resources, wealth, family, wellbeing, future and life…
Again today, years after Louverture and Lincoln, King and Mandela, the struggle is about social inequality within a system where the rich get richer, the poor poorer, for no valid reason but the greed, egocentrism and narcissism of a few.
The flip side: South Africans are seriously and sincerely trying to right the wrong. Education and healthcare are free. Reverse discrimination (affirmative action) is making stride. All jobs go to a black woman first, and to a white man last.
Besides all that, South Africa is a vibrant and magnificent country replete with fun, culture, history and entertainment. Beaches are beautiful, night clubs are exhilarating, shopping is exciting. I will be back for a fourth round. You should go and visit.
I am back from one more trip abroad. I have reinforced my conviction that there is only one human race, with one single set of dramas and dreams. In the novel post-racial South Africa, the dream of every citizen remains similar and generic: a safer world and a better tomorrow for their progeny.
I am a citizen of the world. If a blue-watered Caribbean island is my homeland, the world is my patria, and Warrenville is my home… Yes, I have returned home to the rat race. But it is so good to be back home.
Until the next adventure, that was The Traveller
(The Traveller, Monday, October 16, 2017)