Mommy makes a racist friend …….

We walked up to the voting station – on voting day (because we are good citizens that way) – we thought we would make it a little family outing and throw in a bit of exercise to boot (as opposed to driving you see – yes, I realised I have worded this entire sentence badly, but any the who….)

<sure we were going  to head to Mike’s Kitchen afterwards and eat our weight in animal fat and sugar-laced drinks, but I felt the walk was a good way to start the day>

After the voting process – which I must confess was very efficient and organized, big thumbs up for IEC – we stopped at a little park and the kids could play around on municipality equipment.

It was a balmy sunny day and all seemed good with the world.

A few moments passed, and a mom came walking up with her daughter to play on the swing set.

My lack of social skills kept me at a distance – but she (the mom) clearly had a better developed personality, and asked Isabelle’s name and introduced her daughter to Isabelle, and was pretty chatty and smiley (which I am always a bit suspicious of.)

In my attempt to be one of the ‘cool kids’ I started chatting back to her.

Her daughter Kaitlyn/Caitlyn/Caitlin was 6 months older than Isabelle, but Isabelle had about 5kg on her (the daughter), so I knew if it turned into a skirmish about the swings, Isabelle would be able to take her without having to stop sucking her thumb.

I asked her whether her daughter was at playschool, and she said she was, and I asked where – as I am always on the scope for a good playschool or crèche. (I am UNABLE to make small talk, I talk for a reason ….. it is an annoying trait at cocktail parties, to which I am no longer invited…..)

Though I do realize that often ‘good’ and ‘creche’ is seldom if ever used in the same sentence, I was willing to ask anyway.

She told me the name of the one she had her daughter was at.

We chatted a bit about that as only mothers with children can – any other time and this subject would have made me shoot myself, but as I have a vested interest in this information I was riveted.

She then started indicating that when Kaitlyn/Caitlyn/Caitlin was ready for Grade R/Grade 1 school she was planning to send Kaitlyn/Caitlyn/Caitlin to a private school.

I decided at this point to interject with my wealth of experience in this regard.

I was all ready to show off, as I have researched this subject extensively.

I explained how I too was (am) a snob, and had my son at a private school before we moved into the area.

How I battled to align my head with the fact that there were no private schools around here and my only option (logistically) was to opt for a government school. (There are private schools but they are a bit of a drive
and trying to get to work in time would require me to leave rather early which is not viable as an every-day event in my world.)

When I stopped rolling around on the floor in agony over my decision to send him to a government school, I was able to find a really good – if not great – government school that suited my needs and I was really happy with the school.  The school was a few suburbs away.

I agreed that it might not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ because we all look for different things in a school.

But I was really happy with the (government) school I had found, and my son had been there for three years and my daughter was due to go there next year.

I was explaining it was in a very conservative suburb, had a very active PTA, and parents were very good at contributing and supporting the school.

We were even more lucky that we were English in a predominantly Afrikaans school so got the benefit of small classes.  My son has less than 20 kids in his class (can I get a holler-holler!!!)

The school managing body was efficient and organized, and I generally was really happy with the situation.

Blah-blah-blah-blah ……gloat gloat.

I explained that I had adjusted my perception of government schools, because like all schools – government or private there are good ones and not so good ones.

So there I was making my little speech about the school and I finished off with a flourish, happy that I had conveyed my message so well and with hand movements and everything.

So new-mom-I-just-met-whose-name-I-never-asked goes: “What is the colour split?”

Me – caught slightly off guard: “Er …….. (penny drops)……it is about 10% non-white, I think, but I really have never really noticed.  It services suburbs that are historically white Afrikaans, but the suburbs are changing, and I would guess around 10% or less is about the non-white break.  I would prefer a bit more of a mix, as I would prefer my kids to have a more healthy mix of kids they interact with, I am hoping it will improve as the years go by and the suburbs change.”

Her: “No, I am just the opposite.”

Me – eyebrow raised, ever so slightly : ”Uh-huh….…”

Her: “Yes I want my child to be safe, so I definitely want a school with fewer non-whites ….it’s important that my child is safe.”

Me: “KIDS, KIDS, LET’S GO, DAD WANTS TO GO HOME NOW, CONNOR,GEORGIA, ISABELLE, LET’S MOVE ….. NOW, KIDS!!!”

I think there is something to be said for NOT SPEAKING to strangers in parks!

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30 Comments

  1. Shurainian

     /  February 14, 2012

    Hi, I’m a newbie on moomie and happened to spot your blog here, ya i am reading your old posts at work *addicted*

    I am a foreignor who married a coloured , non-white, whatever you call it. Heaven knows what colour our children will turn out to be – more brown or a chocolate-hue, orange tinge? Doesn’t really matter to both of us, but is SA ready for the colour difference. We are, you are, most of us are, but there are still a handful of them who are not.

    In my 3-4 years here in Cape Town, we do still get ‘different’ treatments from the old-apartheid era people. Sad, but true. Obviously me being not used to the lower treatment demand for my rights, but hubby tends to shrug it off (agh, leave them, they are stuck in the past, bla bla … *while i’m fuming*)

    Reason for me stating this is that – I always have a fear that if our children turn out to be a little more to the brown side, how can I protect them for not being mistreated in school? I probably wont know about it.
    I hope I am not sounding racist (the other way round than the lady you spoke about), but rather felt disappointment and hurt by the treatment of other people to my hubby or people of other colours.
    Being the person I am, I am not comfortable with any chance that my kids were to be treated any less better than the rest.

    On another note – when do people start registering their kids for school? Some told me as soon as they were born – I wasn’t sure if they are joking? Hell…

    We are staying in Welgemoed area (judging by your blog posts, you are close by?) Any recommended creche / schools for my future kid (*paranoid in getting them in good schools) and would help my sister a lot as well – her son is 3 this year.

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  February 14, 2012

      Welgemoed offers a great pre-primary and primary school in the area, definitely register at the pre-primary when your child is about 3. Because you live in the catchment area you will automatically be accepted into the school, so you would enroll there about two years before.

      I think that children are treated differently as soon as they are “different” from the masses. Kids are kids, and they do see colour, but fortunately not with the same “labels” that we were raised with, and hopefully by teaching our children that we are all different, but not different bad, but different interesting, our kids accept themselves and each other as not being the same, but of having differences and with acceptance.

      Well, we can only hope.

      A multi-ratial family/multi-culture child is going to met with some resistance, but such is life, and the only suggestion is to offer a child acceptance at home, and a strong sense of self, so that when they go out into the cruel world, they have enough “resistance” to get through the various things that are thrown at them.

      Reply
  2. In a very strange way, I have a tiny little bit of respect that she was honest enough to say this. Or stupid 🙂

    I think a lot more people think things like this but pretend otherwise.

    One of my big deciding factors on schools is colour split but I want a good representation of all colour groups 🙂 After all, we’re mixed!

    Reply
  3. “Her daughter Kaitlyn/Caitlyn/Caitlin was 6 months older than Isabelle, but Isabelle had about 5kg on her (the daughter), so I knew if it turned into a skirmish about the swings, Isabelle would be able to take her without having to stop sucking her thumb.”

    Love this! Can just picture it in my mind. Isabelle taking her down ever so casually. Without missing a suck of her thumb.

    Ja, and as for the ‘safety’ issue…I just feel sorry for the child. The Mom doesn’t realise the damage that she’s doing to her kid.

    Reply
  4. Sue

     /  May 26, 2011

    I have a bruise on my jaw from where it hit the desk as I read your post. What Is really sad is that racist grownups breed racist kids. So scary. Unbelievable!

    Reply
  5. odd one out

     /  May 26, 2011

    Am I correct to asume that most of the comments are from people living in Suburban Cape Town? This is not the first time that I have thought how lucky you are to be surrounded by like minded people who don’t see ‘colour”. However, coming from the Eastern Cape, where colour coding is rife and very much alive, it doesn’t automatically mean that you see someone in a negative light if they are a certain colour. There is a major language difference and rural cultural difference here. It is more pronounced. Because you notice it, does not mean you do not have the other person’s best interests at heart.

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 26, 2011

      I have read your comment three times, and each time I think “you have really made me see something from another perspective” – I will read it 3 or 4 more times and see what else opens in my mind ……..

      Reply
  6. I’m just so shocked that I have no words! Okay, I can think of some but I might have to use bad bad language

    Reply
  7. Ok, so firstly she assumes that in a private school the colour ration would be more to her liking? I think not!

    Other than thinking she is possibly one of those really stupid people out there that just like to believe what they incorrectly believe, I have no comment.

    Stupid duck.

    Reply
  8. In pure South African – EISH!!! It is completely stupifying to think that people like that are still in existence but I guess, if one looks at other so-called “non-rascist” countries, it’s obvious that race will always be an issue to some small-minded biggots. The best we can do is raise our children to realise that, whilst there may be differences between them and someone of another race, these differences don’t really make a difference…

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 25, 2011

      I do think our kids have it different to us, my kids have far more cross-spectrum exposure than I do ….. I am hoping their map of the world will be different to ours, but at the same time we still need to be aware of how small comments affect them. There are still a lot of people who definite people by colour and often do it subtly.

      Reply
  9. You should’ve asked her why she says that. It always get people uncomfortable. Not that she would’ve backpedaled, of course…

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 25, 2011

      I think I stopped a long time ago trying to change people’s opinion – I just found it so exhausting having to get on my soap box and preach to them, and then get myself or harrassed and then after 45 minutes of arguing my point, realise that this was not making a dent in someone else, and they were going to go on with their lives, while I was going to internalise all my frustration.

      I have realised there are people I cannot change, and I prefer to just say ‘good day’ and be on my way in most cases ….. not all, but most …..

      Reply
  10. LoriF

     /  May 25, 2011

    Whilst working at my previous employer I had a co-worker who picked up her kids after school and one day her little girl (4) came back to the office with her. She eventually wandered into my office and started chatting with me and we talked about school. I asked her who her friends was and then a little devil came to sit on my shoulder and I asked her do you have any black friends and I guess since I am a “light skinned coloured” she felt she could be honest and said no I don’t play with “them”. I asked her why not. To which she replied: “My mom says we don’t like them”. ….
    An eyeopener as to the true colours of the mom (excuse the pun), but also the levels of indoctrination at home 😦

    Reply
  11. Scared & Imperfect Mother

     /  May 25, 2011

    Shocked!!!! Thats all im going to say.

    Reply
  12. Charne

     /  May 25, 2011

    Best she home schools. Her child won’t be “safe” anywhere.
    I guess “stranger, danger” applies to mommy’s too.

    Amazing that people are still so ignorant and incredibly sad that her child will be taught to “fear” non-whites.

    Reply
  13. It’s sad that people still have that mindset. Really sad!

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 25, 2011

      I personally had no issue that she had this mindset, though I was suprised because she was easily only around 26 – 28 at a push, but it was sad that she was probably teaching this to her daughter, no matter how subtly. I did visit the school she mentioned where her daughter was, and I recognised her daughter, what was odd, was the daughter was in a school that was very mixed from a colour point of view – easily closer to 35 : 65 so in retrospect I thought it was even a stranger thing to say from her point of view.

      Reply
  14. I am speechless. What bothers me the most is not that she asked about the colour split, but that she just assumes that if there are coloured children in the school her children will not be safe!

    The sad thing is that her child will probably grow up being pretrified whenever they see a black or coloured person!

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 25, 2011

      I know, the same thing occurred to me. But where, oh where, do you start this conversation with someone in the park …… I have no idea what her background or influences are or how she picked up that idea that non-white = danger! Best for me to skip on my way.

      Reply
  15. I actually have got no comment. That is how speechless I am right now. I think you handled the retreat well. I probably would have been less subtle.

    Reply
  16. Dear god! I hope you didn’t give her your number/email address/blog address/any other personal information!

    Reply
  17. Momto1

     /  May 25, 2011

    It is sad that there are still people who are obsessed with colour and the “colour-split.” I (& I am black) was chatting to a mom (hubby’s friend’s wife) & she was also in the process of looking for schools for her son. She says at one of the schools she went to, what discouraged her was the lack of white people! YEP! (that wasn’t a typo) Her attitude was that white ppl generally did more research and “due diligence” on the schools that they send their kids to than we do. So, her whole thing was “What is it about that school that had discouraged white people from sending their kids there???” She did no further investigations on the school than that. That was her sole decision making tool. The more white kids, the better… So…guess it works both ways. Needless to say, I also found a new unrelated topic VERY interesting at that point.

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  May 25, 2011

      It is very difficult to counter someone’s prejudices …. it really is. I had much more energy for it when I was younger, and would take up the gauntlet at any given opportunity.

      But all I did was exhaust myself and walk away frustrated. I have realised some people are a certain way, and all the power to them – I hope they change and I hope that they see things that change their mindsets, but really my job of trying to change the world sort of stopped when I had my kids – my job is to change their world, I am not responsible for the other idiots out there any more.

      Someone younger and more vocal can pick that up ……. bless them.

      Reply
  18. To Love Bella

     /  May 25, 2011

    Oh me oh my. Shoo. Didn’t think there were many of ‘those’ types around. And a current generation to boot. How embarrassing.
    I once overheard a conversation of a friend of a friend, and they had asked their daughter what “colour” her friend was. Apparently said daughter didn’t understand the question.
    What is really sad is that we want our children to change this country for the better – but with parenting like that….. It’s never going to end, is it??

    Reply
  19. Alice

     /  May 25, 2011

    Interesting post Celeste!

    Wow! Does this woman realise she’s living in South Africa 2011? Perhaps she’s not quite woken up to that fact in the little suburban bubble that she clearly lives in.

    Good luck to her in trying to find a school such as the one she’s envisaged… thank GOODNESS no such place exists in this country any longer (if it does, I’d rather not know about it thank you)!

    Wow! The extend of the ignorance that is still out there boggles the mind…

    Reply

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