My colleagues came to my home in Constantia for a retreat this past week. One of my close friends who is also a member of the staff team, and is black, went for a walk down a nearby greenbelt, as we were all encouraged to spend time on our own. He was approached by the local security company as he sat next to a pond, and asked what he was doing there. The security guard apologised, and said he just had to ask because someone had called and said there was a ‘suspicious looking person’ walking on the greenbelt.
I could do the usual ‘I am outraged’ speech, which would be true. Or I could say “I am saddened”, which would also be true. My heart stopped for a second when he told me about the incident. I could say “I am embarrassed”, because I am. I think of the welcome I have received in places where I stand out because of my pale skin. Such overwhelming interest and welcome! I could cry “Unfair” as I have so many times when I hear of incidents like this, which would be fair because it is unjust. There is no excuse for behaviour like this and it does nothing for race relations, apart from it being just plain wrong.
But what I am going to say is “Enough is enough”, because it is. The entitlement of those who get to decide who walks where freely in ‘leafy areas’, and who does not, is untenable, bizarre and has to change. The only suspicious looking thing about Constantia right now is how consistently pale those who enjoy it freely are in a country of so many different skin tones.