Is racism in Botswana serious or Berry Heart is being “dramatic”?

Last week we heard of an unfortunate incident where a certain Allan Bekker allegedly racially harassed local poet Berry Heart during her holiday in Kasane.

Most people would go, ‘Oh, not race, again!’ However we have to talk about such matters. Some black people are uncomfortable with discussing racism because their minds are colonized – the white man can do no wrong in their eyes and to question racism is to “launch an attack”. When dealt racist behaviour, they cower, because ‘they don’t want to cause trouble’.

We can’t have a victim mentality as blacks. Yes, sometimes people

blow things out of proportion or are just rude. However, in the Berry Heart vs. Bekker case, it’s evident that the alleged racist showed no shame or remorse for his behaviour. 

It is good to have bold and outspoken individuals like Berry Heart in our social landscape, who are not afraid to speak against injustice, without fear of being labeled “attention-seekers” or “trouble makers”. 

Classifying people based on our experience is a fundamental aspect of human cognition. In social categorization, people reflexively distinguish subject people members and evaluate them negatively, which leads to stereotyping and prejudice. 

Racism is a specific form of prejudice, involving prejudicial attitudes or behaviour towards members of an ethnic group. Race is not necessarily always black vs. white issue. Some Caucasians are racist towards each other, like Europeans against Hispanics etc. 

Many people have been racially victimized, beaten to a pulp or killed just because they are black. Racism like sexism is everywhere.

Although in Botswana it’s not overt, it does exist. 

Often time, most people with subconscious racism live culturally polarized lives, or were taught racism at home. They sometimes don’t even realise that they seem dull and primitive. Some white folk think blacks are synonymous with poverty, mental inferiority, laziness and emotional incompetence. Apparently, we are good at nothing else but making noise, dancing, marrying man wives, sex and having children. 

Some people are taught racism from home. I have seen Afrikaners who teach their kids to hate blacks. At a restaurant when the kids are playing, some parents whisper, “ Moenie met daai (of daar die) kinders speel nie! (Don’t play with those kids). They then turn around and give you that infamous fake smile - only the lips curve, the eyes don’t light up.  Most people don’t have control over their facial muscles, which betray their inner thoughts (micro-expressions). Racism is reflected by hate speech, anger and violence. It could be linked to mental problems – bo schizophrenia jaana. 

In Setswana we say such a character, Ga a tlala sentle. I’m being anal yes, but how else do you logically explain the psychology of someone who can hate another based on his or her skin colour? 

White supremacy and inferior complex still exists. I sometimes suspect the racism is embedded in some people’s DNA considering how much effort racists take to not seem racist, or to challenge their mentality.

Most of the time they just loathe you for just being black – the hate is intense, it’s like a cancer that absorbs them. 

Afrikaners are usually the most racist, hence apartheid. While some of them, moet goiese mense (are nice people), others are crude by nature. 

I’ve reached a point in my life where I have decided to be intellectually and emotionally sophisticated, and that means ignoring crap from pathetic individuals, including prejudice of all forms.  It’s a case of, ‘Father forgive them for they not what they are doing....’ 

I have never encountered racism in Botswana. I have had several racist experiences, which occurred when I lived in Pretoria, South Africa, for several years. I’m reminded of one incident when I went to a neighbour’s yard looking for my cat and before I opened my mouth he yelled, ‘No job ma, we’ve got a maid!’ It didn’t help that I was wearing a dress and doek. It’s funny now, but at the time I was seething with anger because I was treated to racial stereotyping. In another incident, I was at a restaurant/bar with friends and some guys pushed us out literally  – calling us kaffirs. 

Racism has caused enormous suffering across history. It’s witchcraft of the highest degree! 

Prejudice is a natural human characteristic. However, bias should be kept at home, under your bed if you are a civilized person. Racism cannot be justified. This is not 1955, but 2015. We will not allow our people to be mistreated. We will definitely not allow history to repeat itself.

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