White Guilt Does Not Sell Anymore

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I had two interesting conversations on my recent trip to Barrydale to screen my documentary film “Steek My Weg” (Hidden Away). These conversations gave me a peek into the psyche of white people in South Africa. In both instances, I appreciated the honesty and the comfort they could speak to me.

So the first conversation took place at a restaurant. Since I love coffee, I am always looking for good coffee places. I review and share them on my Koffi Kulture Instagram account. Since this restaurant advertises “good coffee,” I decided to check it out. After I had ordered my coffee, I sat down at one of the tables to enjoy it. Shortly afterwards, the owner came up to me and asked if I was from Barrydale. So I told her no, I am not. I was there to screen my documentary film “Steek My Weg.” I explained I was working for a specific university, and it was through my work, I came to know the story of “Steek My Weg.”

After hearing which university I was working at, she casually asked if I knew what the abbreviation of my university stands for? Since I heard it many times before, I entertained her and asked her to tell me. So she said, “They call your university the ‘University of the Restless Coloureds.’” So I corrected her and said, “You can say it stands for “the University of the Wild Coloureds.” She realised she had walked into a trap. So, she apologised and tried to pin it on her so-called ‘coloured’ friend. Who apparently was the one who told her that. After her lame apology, she wished me the best of luck for the screening and offered to screen the film at her restaurant. After that, she left. From the moment she uttered those words, they did not sit well with me. What gave her the courage to call me to my face a “restless coloured?” What was she trying to achieve? The more I reflected, I realised she thinks of herself as a ‘transformed’ white person. Hence, she was oblivious to the racist remark forming in her psyche. Since this remark was formed in her subconscious, she only became conscious of what she said once trapped.

The second conversation was a day after the screening. I love books, and there is an excellent bookshop in Barrydale. Since the first time I visited Barrydale, the owner and I had some interesting conversations. When I visited Barrydale in 2020, I asked him if he knew about the forced removals in Barrydale. He said he heard some stories but did not know much because he is not originally from Barrydale. So the day after the screening I went to see if there were any interesting books I could buy. As I entered the porch to the bookshop, I saw him standing outside having a smoke and a drink. We greeted each other, and he said it was nice to see me again. I said I was surprised that he still remembers me. He said he does because I am the guy who is interested in the forced removals in Barrydale. I said yes and updated him about the film and the screening the evening before. After hearing that, he said something so interesting and so honest. He said, “White people are tired of white guilt, and it does sell as much as it did during the first two decades after the apartheid.” In just a few words, his opinion of my film rendered it to white guilt. His opinion presupposes that I somehow wanted something from white people. I do not.

The film is not about white guilt or intending white people to feel guilty about apartheid. The reality is that South African white people, who lived here for generations, benefitted from old apartheid and continue to benefit from ‘new apartheid.’ “Steek My Weg” is about the pain the so-called ‘coloured’ community in Barrydale has to experience daily. They are not allowed to speak about the pain, and those who dare to speak out are marginalised within these rural communities. This is because rural economies in the Western Cape and Northern Cape are still primarily controlled by white people. Anyone who dares to speak out will starve. However, since they knew they could not starve a visitor like me, they tried to silence me. First by calling me a “restless coloured” and then rendering my film as “white guilt.” The reality is they are the ones who live with a guilty conscience, and their conscience is loud. They are aware of the injustices of the past, and the existence of the black other in South Africa does not make it easier for them. The image of the black other reminds them daily that they are benefitting from a crime against humanity. This drives them to insanity. This is why the people of “Steek My Weg” must stay hidden away. They must not be seen or heard off.

So here are views on guilt. Guilt does not help South Africa or me much. Guilt has not helped anyone yet. Any black person who accepted something in return for white people’s guilt has exchanged their healing for temporary gain. For me, the real question is: Can black and white people in South Africa build a relationship since there never existed one in this country? I would not call genocide and subjugation a relationship. I will also not call the Interim 1993 Constitution, the 1996 Constitution, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) attempts to build a relationship between black and white people. Black people realised the ‘postapartheid’ state-driven instruments were to silence them and continue their domination and psychic annihilation. This leads me to my final question: Is it possible for black and white people in South Africa to live as equals, and what would the conditions be for such a relationship?

If you are interested in watching the film, please click on the link below.

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