Category Archives: Africa

Attack of the Liberal Nazi

When I told my boyfriend that I just had a fight about white privilege with Grethe K*** his response was “Whyyyy?” “Why would you enter into that?”

France2014_138

I just shrugged my shoulders. I guess it felt like the right thing to do? I was in the mood for debate?

In the end morbid fascination got the better of me. I know all too well that these things never leave me feeling wonderful.

Grethe was having a rant about English speakers (read ‘white people’) and how she was fed up with them and their poor attempts to correctly pronounce anyone’s name that’s not English and might be difficult to say (including hers. She is white). Her point being that English imperialism is shit and white people are shit for failing to respect someone enough to pronounce a Zulu, Xhosa or even Afrikaans name the way it is supposed to be.

My response mostly ignored her racially charged rant and suggested that all over the world people find it difficult to pronounce words and names that are unfamiliar to them. That in Spain all B’s are V’s and all V’s are B’ and therefore I am often Bicky in that country. (She loved this point, retorting with my own personalized meme highlighting my white-people problem).

My Korean student the other day said that she hated Jews. After some discussion we came to the conclusion that what she really hated was zoo’s. That damn racist Korean mother tongue. We’re still working on that.

IMG_8741

The point I was trying to make was that mispronunciation of names and words is not something only lazy English speakers are to blame for. But after a few back and forths, our deeply connected Facebook friendship came to an end. (calling her a Liberal Nazi was probably the last straw).

A Liberal Nazi is someone who identifies as a liberal (i.e. accepting of other opinions and behaviours different to their own) but in reality is inflexible to opposing ideas and behaviours. There are a lot of these around. Should you encounter one, try your best not to make eye contact and certainly don’t bring up how you truly feel about illegal immigrants.

There is no winning in an argument with a Liberal Nazi. They will eventually accuse you of failing to acknowledge your white privilege, to which you can say nothing. There is no test or way to prove yourself, especially when using Facebook as your platform for battle.

Instead of being open to discussion she began with ‘Victoria you are the worst when it comes to this….” I hammered out a reply, hovered over enter and then backspaced. Wrote something else and backspaced. And eventually went with “How am I the worst?”

I knew then and there though, that I was dealing with someone who judged me for choosing to live outside of South Africa (a common phenomenon). Deciding for herself that I’d left hoping to live with my white privilege in peace. Or maybe she meant I that exploit my white privilege by travelling the globe with initial the help of my parents’ financial support 6 years ago?

Ok, Grethe. (How do I say that?)

According to Grethe, travel is nothing but a slap in the face to underprivileged and marginalized people. That’s the message I received anyway. According to her, my travelling has done nothing for my white-privilege-enlightenment, how could it? I’m too busy flashing my money and pale skin to ever consider the real issue of  whiteness in this world.

IMG_1922

Then I realised why I had entered into this discussion back when Grethe and I were still floating around each other’s cyber personal space. My gut told me to, and by now I know to always listen. My gut knew there was a lesson to be learnt here. And believe it or not, the lesson was not ‘don’t mess with Liberal Nazis’….. do whatever you want with them, they might explode and that could be fun to watch.

I learnt, not for the first time, that my choosing to live and work around the world has made me a spectacularly enlightened person. If I may say so myself.

IMG_9709

Here is a list of times I’ve been made shamefully aware of my white privilege:

  • That time in Chile when my interview for TEFL teacher involved a brief meeting where they made sure I was white.
  • That time in China when I made more money than my Chinese co-worker, because I’m white.
  • That time I met a Filipino girl on a train, on her way to becoming a qualified TEFL teacher, who wondered: would anyone in Asia hire me?
  • That time in the airport when Veronika, a beautiful young Filipino teacher, was questioned by immigration about the reason for her visit to HK. You see, if a white trans-gender person came through, with their passport saying male but their appearance saying female, would they be accused of being a prostitute? Probably not.
  • That time my previous boss outwardly admitted that she’d never hire a black person because it would be bad for business (Chinese are more racist than anyone). (A Liberal Nazi almost exploded that day).

A few months ago South Africans began a dialogue about the importance of recognizing your white privilege. Some folks got defensive, but the take home message was this: we’re not asking you to feel guilt necessarily, but simply acknowledge the fact that you have benefited in this world and in South Africa because of the colour of your skin. Just say you understand.

I understand, Grethe.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

On Being an ‘Angry South African Expat’ and What Really Makes us Tick

Lets get one thing straight- there is no such thing as a ‘South African expat’.

People who have chosen to live outside the country should not be lumped into one category. Even though the term applies to anyone living abroad, its much more complex than that. There are South Africans living all the over the world for reasons that vary from being racist, to a career move, to prolonged travel. And for a long time now ‘South African expat’ has become somewhat of a curse word, a word used to describe deserters full of hate.

I felt the need to bring up the issue of the South African expat because a) I am one of them and b) I’m pretty damn tired of feeling guilty about it. (And also a recent trending article got me thinking.)

IMG_0124

The first category of South African expats are of an older generation. These individuals have many enemies. They have been living outside of South Africa for years, if not decades. They are targeted by anti-expat articles written by naysayers who write with just as much hate as their accused ex-countrymen supposedly harbor.

This generation of expats left South Africa around the time of the country’s first democratic elections. In the months leading up to them, petrified white South Africans fled the country for fear of being the victims of a counter attack. (That or they were just downright racist and couldn’t deal with a black president).

There is a certain (large) amount of negativity towards this group of people. You can find proof in all the long winded pieces about evil-expats written by gushingly proud South Africans. We get it- there are South Africans living abroad who talk shit about their native country, it’s crime stats and corruption.

But if you ask me, one of the few places one might be exposed to these bad vibes and negativity is in the comment section of an article written by aforementioned gushingly proud South Africans who love singling out expats and their ‘stupid’ decision to leave. Being picked on for being ‘unpatriotic’ and leaving is only going to cause debate, negativity, a lot of back and forth and name calling. I do not condone bad behavior from either side. No-one is idiotic for choosing to leave or stay.

But, as with most things in life, there is a new generation.

Not all expats decided to ‘run for their lives’ around 1994. What about those who left more recently. Those who stuck around long enough to see Mandela become president, watch the ’95 Rugby World Cup and maybe even long enough to enjoy the 2010 festivities….. but eventually still made the decision to leave. While l don’t hold the all answers about the increasing flow of South Africans out of the country, I do have a few questions for those who love to complain about it:

Did you know that people all over the world leave their native countries to pursue better opportunities? Did you know that it is not necessarily unpatriotic to leave your country to live in another one? That often, living outside the country makes us more patriotic than ever before? Especially because, and did you know this, being removed from South Africa and it’s problems helps us keep a more positive outlook on it that you might?

Arriving home the day of Mandela's death was extremely special for for. I was humbled and totally appreciative of my country.

Arriving home the on day of Mandela’s death was extremely special for me. I was humbled, appreciative and proud of everything my country stands for. I was like a tourist experiencing the magic for the first time.

If you meet an American living outside their country, or a Swede or a Kiwi, would you question their patriotism? Probably not. And their countrymen probably wouldn’t give two hoots about their decision to leave either. So why do South Africans get so upset at the idea of, God forbid, a South African living outside of South Africa?

Remember, a lot of people who leave South Africa intend to return in the future. The experience and knowledge they gain overseas and eventually bring home is priceless and should not be underestimated or downplayed. I like to think they’d contribute massively to a better South Africa one day instead of assuming they’re making things worse.

Unfortunately the dilemma continues for new generation ‘deserters’. Although we’ve gained the right to vote abroad, we’ve somehow lost our right to an opinion on the state of the nation.

American expats wouldn’t think twice about calling George Bush out on his stupidity. They’d second guess their country’s gun laws in the blink of an eye . So why are South African expats at the point where they feel guilty about making judgments about home? We seem to have lost our right to speak negatively about South Africa after making a decision to leave. Apparently leaving means we’re no longer entitled to think along the same lines as people who remain to contribute: Zuma is a dick, crime sucks and growing your savings account takes decades.

If someone makes the decision to leave, so be it. Instead of reacting with negativity and blaming them for their lack of positive contribution to the country, rather give them a hug because you know how hard it must be to leave and a high five for managing to do it on a South African passport.

In the past four years living abroad I’ve encountered a lot of questions related to South Africa, its political and social situation. I don’t sugar coat things. I say yes, my house is fortified and yes, my heart does race when I arrive home late at night for fear of being hijacked at my gate.  I say these things because I have been asked and because they are true. NOT because my favourite past time is to talk shit about South Africa.

IMG_9969

It is also my experience that once these people have heard what I have to say they are, naturally, quite shocked. My answers are often met with more questions. And this is most likely the reason why when you meet foreigners they might bring it up in conversation with you. Not because I’ve exaggerated or gone on, but because they were shocked by what I had to say. Because a lot of the time what South Africans call their reality, is insane.

In the same breath I try and encourage the people I meet to visit there one day because just like a problem child, my problem country is completely delightful and they’d be missing out if they never got to know it.

Tagged , , , , ,