It ain’t the color a the wrapping that count, it’s what we is inside ….

I saw this Facebook status update on Sharon’s facebook earlier today: “A friend Lisette travelled to a family wedding in Tulbagh this weekend with her 2 yr old adopted black daughter. When she got there she was asked to leave the guest house because of Elizabeth… it is shameful that this mentality ever existed and shameful that we grew up with it all around us – it is even more shameful that it continues… Establishments name: T***** Bed and Breakfast, 12 **** ***** Street.”

I will let you re-read that one again …. as no doubt you will want to take another look, to be sure exactly what was being said there.

Initially I gasped – then I grimaced – then I thought to myself, what if the issue was not that the daughter was black – but that she was two years old?

Some bed and breakfasts like their white linen to remain white, and do not like the sweet pitter patter of little feet on wooden floors.  Many have a “no children” policy – rather than a “no black children” policy …. but I shall not tout myself as being an accommodation expert, so really cannot say with any real clarity what happened, why it happened, and how it happened.

My brain does tend to go “what is really happening here….?”

This status post was reposted a few times – and I was interested to read the comments.  Though I was pretty sure that the comments would use the word “horrified” or “disgusted” pretty liberally.  The person who made the booking, Lisette, made it clear she had booked and indicated she had a child – however the establishment’s website does indicate “no children.”

She feels that when she made the booking – she made it clear she had a child, and the establishment responded in a manner that left no hint of uncertainty that there was a child with this booking.

Either way, the establishment is being totally slammed in social media, and at this point do appear to be at fault.  The horses seem to be well and truly hitched to the wagon of “you turned down my booking because I arrived with a black child……”

My brain, however, struggles to grasp how this could occur.  Exactly how do you turn to someone and go “oh, sorry, you can’t stay, it appears your child is black …. sorry about that…..” 

But this is the story that is being copy and pasted on social media. If I owned said guest house I may have my knickers in a lather today, assuming they have realised there is a bit of a slander campaign running rampant.

On a related story I have a person who I work with who was looking for an apartment to rent.  Let’s call him “Paul” for the purposes of this exercise.

Paul applies and chat to various landlords and he finally finds what sounds like the perfect apartment.  It is all going swimmingly and he is just about to sign on the dotted line, but goes to take a quick look at the apartment.

Paul as pretty much agreed that he will take it, and has his spare underpants in the car, because he is that ready to move right in.

Arrives, landlords looks at him and then starts mumbling about how the apartment is taken.  Bearing in mind Paul has spoken to the landlord and they have agreed he can take it, once he has a quick look.

Paul says that unfortunately this occurs quite often – Paul would be classed as black if classifications were important.

I am hearing this story and my mouth is hanging open – and I am getting more upset than him about it.

Paul, being the level-headed guy he is, tells me that it happens, and he can either get angry, but then he will be angry all the time, or he can accept that people are just people, and some people make these flash judgements, and then he can smile, nod politely and move on with his day.

I am not sure I could.  I get cross for Paul about the fact that he was judged based on his skin colour.

But then, I would be naive and a bit mentally slow to think that we are all not filled with our own prejudices, based on the colour of someone’s skin, hair (made any blonde jokes lately?) or their eyes (ever said ‘blue eyed wonder’ ?)

I am not sure what the answer is.

I do not think it is about “not seeing colour” because part of who we are is our “colour” – but it is not the sum of any one of us.  But my colour is part of who I am – and your colour is PART of who you are.  But it does become a problem if you are judged ENTIRELY because of the colour of your skin.

The reality we are faced with – is that we are all prejudiced in one way or another.

I think we like to think we are “the rainbow nation” and sing along and smile – but the reality is that we all have “stereotypes that we have grown up with…..” or have learnt along the way.

Anyone remember the Douglas Green series of advertisements ….. no doubt you can still say the phrase in the Asian accent …..

I love this paragraph from Kathryn Stockett’s –  The Help ….

“We go on in her room, where we like to set. I get up in the big chair and she get up on me and smile, bounce a little. “Tell me bout the brown wrapping. And the present.” She so excited, she squirming. She has to jump off my lap, squirm a little to get it out. Then she crawl back up. That’s her favorite story cause when I tell it, she get two presents. I take the brown wrapping from my Piggly Wiggly grocery bag and wrap up a little something, like piece a candy, inside. Then I use the white paper from my Cole’s Drug Store bag and wrap another one just like it. She take it real serious, the unwrapping, letting me tell the story bout how it ain’t the color a the wrapping that count, it’s what we is inside.”

Leave a comment


  1. cath

     /  March 10, 2012

    It was a lovely wedding though…

  2. Sharon

     /  March 6, 2012

    I’d also like to add, somewhat unrelated to this specific story, that it is naive to think that racism isn’t alive and well in South Africa today. As the mother of a mixed race daughter, I can assure you that while no one has been outwardly rude about Ava’s heritage, the innocent comments that are made smack of underlying intolerance.

  3. Sharon

     /  March 6, 2012

    I think the important thing to note is that the B&B in question did know that she was travelling with a 2 year old child and if you check the cachet of their website you’ll note that the no children policy was added after this unfortunate event – anyone smell a rat?
    In any event, they have issued a statement apologizing for any “misunderstanding” and out of respect for Lisette’s wishes and that of her families, I think it would be best that this issue be left in the past as they have decided not to take the matter further.

  4. julz

     /  March 6, 2012

    It makes me shudder to think that they were sent packing due to the chld being black. I guess you don’t think people still do this so in my” treat everyone as a good human” until proven otherwise I hope it was just because they dont’ allow children. I only realised once Dylan was born how many places say no kids under 12. We are basically left with self catering options only.

  5. fortheloveoffoodanddrink

     /  March 6, 2012

    Good discussion! Love it when I’m yanked back from an instinctive judgment and made to think about it…

  6. I agree that there are two sides to a story but it’s been said the establishment did respond in writing that they would happily accommodate the toddler if the bought their own camp cot with. If this is the case and they changed their mind when they saw Elisabeth was a difference race to what they were expecting then I believe they deserve all the bad media they are getting and I would go as far as to say there should be a formal investigation and if it’s proven they are guilty they should be closed down. There should be no place for racism in SA and that’s against whites, coloureds and blacks.

  7. Loretta

     /  March 6, 2012

    Celeste I think one needs to distinguish between prejudice and unlawful discrimination. The distinction is that the first is thinking, saying “I hate Jews”. The latter is I have a public establishment and I do not allow Jewish people to use that. Some may even argue that it goes as far as the Paul situation where it involves your private property.

  8. I dunno, I guess I may be seen by some South Africans as radical/left wing or whatever but I just cannot tolerate intolerance if that makes sense 😛 So yes I am totally intolerant of other people’s racial intolerance. The level of intolerance that I see in SA makes me freak out. I am setting the wheels in motion to move back in a few months time, but I feel grave concerns about this issue. Like it makes me feel sick and powerless. Like by moving back I am condoning such attitudes by plugging right back into the implicit white privelege. I know it will make my head explode. Your friend Paul’s situation is unnacceptable, and the fact that he no longer fights it means that the attitude he encounters is so common it is not worth fighting it. Sorry, I usually try to keep my opinions quiet because people find them too out there, but this really freaks me out 😦

  9. Sadly, this is not unheard of yet we all still gasp when we hear about it. Just as our country allows the ‘Black Editors Forum’ to exist, so should establishments allow their own rules and limits. It is a very sad state indeed. I do not advocate such practices but it is allowed in our country. The only time it becomes a ‘sin’ is when it is an injustice shown towards a black person by a white person. Yet there are many instances of the reverse where white people are not allowed. Hell, us white people prejudice white people too – as does one black culture do to another!

    I do feel that there are a lot of prejudices thrown about and that people are very quick to stereotype based on appearance. I feel cross for Paul too – but he has a good, positive way of looking at it. He manages to pick himself up and move forward regardless of the prejudice – not like others that wallow in it.

    I have a very racist father in law who isn’t afraid to go off like a baffoon about a white family raising a black child. I just got up, walked away and cried when he did that. All children just need love it doesn’t matter the colour of their ‘wrapping’.

    I am on the fence in this situation as I do not know the story from both sides. But I do like the extract from ‘The Help’ you posted. We can teach our children many a lesson through that extract.

    • Loretta

       /  March 6, 2012

      TJ I think you are confusing two things here. The Black Editors Forum is not excluding anyone. It says if you want to advance the cause of black people in media you are welcome here. Telling someone I do not want you in my establishment is not only racist its against the law.

  10. Princessie

     /  March 6, 2012

    We are a white family with a little black girl. When we first received her into our family we were very concious of what people may say or do when they met us. We are however very happy to say that 2 years later, we have never had a negative remark passed or people staring nastily at us.

  11. Charne

     /  March 6, 2012

    I saw this on FB, was mortified, posted a comment and then read it again (as one does) and then also started thinking: “wait a minute, lets backtrack here, it says they were asked to leave BEACAUSE of Elizabeth, not BECAUSE Elizabeth is black. And if they were asked to leave because maybe the child was disruptive (as children are) then the establishment is well within it’s rights. Some establishments dont allow children and that’s ok…….

    I cannot, cannot, cannot imagine ANY establishment in SA, in this day and age, turning away anyone because of their skin colour (especially not a child). My gut feeling is saying that maybe, this family was asked to leave because their child was disruptive and now, in their anger, they are trying to make this about colour.

    If that is the case, it would be even MORE sad than the establishment turning the child away because of colour. IF the parents are the ones playing the colour card, I feel really, really sorry for Elizabeth. I sincerely hope this is not the case.

    • reluctantmom

       /  March 6, 2012

      You appear to have said what I was thinking — but was struggling to verbalise ….

      • countesskaz

         /  March 6, 2012

        We went to a wedding in Tulbach 6 weeks ago, with my two kids in tow, one 5 year old cerebral palsy girl with her Xhosa nanny, and one 6 year old boy. Nonkoliseko, her nanny has a white painted face and wears traditional type clothing. Not once were we treated with anything but respect towards my kids, Nonkoliseko, my husband and I. In fact we found the accommodation, service and atmosphere most accommodating and positive.

  12. nicky

     /  March 6, 2012

    I am one half of a “mixed” relationship. I am coloured, my Mr is white. When booking family holidays along the Garden Route, I have to TELL the owner’s of guesthouses/cottages, that we are a “mixed” couple, in order to save ourselves drama and embarrassment upon arrival.
    It’s humiliating to even have to mention this- but it must be done.

    This is our reality. It’s not often that we get racist comments etc, but it has happened before.
    We have a friend who has an extremely racist family member, and as such, I have refused invitiations to events at her place, as I want to avoid any altercations that might ensue(since I will NEVER take these comments lightly, from him or anyone else, and especially if I’ve had even a sip of wine)
    Last year I decided to H E double hockeysticks with it, I can’t allow this man whom I’ve never met, to enjoy this power over me, and I went to a party there. It went well(the hostess had spoken to him beforehand) but he STILL introduced himself as the racist brother in law.

    I understand everyone has prejudices, but I also think that people need to be a little more tolerant.

    • reluctantmom

       /  March 6, 2012

      I do agree …… it is devastating that you need to think about this when planning your life, but as you said, accepting that it occurs does not make you approve of it … I get really angry that it occurs, and that this is a lot of people’s reality …. non related situation, but I recall how angry I got when I was trying to buy a car, and the car salesman kept speaking to Kennith – because he was teh boy person and I was the girl. But it was my car, and I was paying for it.

      It really made me angry …. and I still spew a little when I think of it.


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