I've spent the better part of the last week consulting with lawyers and government officials. As it turns out, someone has thought it apt to try to victimize me - without any prior knowledge on my history or what I tend to do to people who "want to teach me a lesson". But I won't get into that right now. Not today.
Anyway, I was discussing racism with my class the other day and one of my students told me a story that left me both disgusted and thoroughly amused.
My student, Miguel, is an Angolan National. I asked him to tell me about his favourite place on earth and he replied "my country". So I responded, "Really? Surely you must have been to other countries?"; to which he responded "Yes, Portugal, Brazil..."
"OK, good" I said, "tell me about Portugal, and why it isn't your favourite place?"
And that's when he told the class that as an Angolan National, he couldn't walk through the streets of Funchal without random strangers calling him a "Monkey" and then hiding away.
Shocked, we all laughed. And then he continued "yes it's true... they call you a monkey and then run away or hide behind pillars. Sometimes they throw bananas at you while you're walking in the street. And if you're in the supermarket, they come up to you and give you a banana - because you're a Monkey".
We laughed again and after making a concerted effort to be serious about a serious matter, I told him that was the most appalling (and funniest) thing I've ever heard. I guess what's most surprising is that this kind of activity continues in this day and age, when people are supposed to be at their most tolerant and accepting. But alas, it's not to be.
I then proceeded to explain to Miguel something worse than being called a monkey in the streets of Portugal. That, 18 years after Apartheid was abolished, we as South Africans are still required to specify which "race" we come from on just about every piece of documentation - official or non-official. That, 18 years after the Blacks have gained freedom from an oppressive regime, most of them have emerged as racists of the new world, often discriminating against everyone else as well as each other and each other's tribes e.g Zulu's against Xhosa's etc. as well as being extremely Xenophobic to immigrants from all over Africa.
And worse, that in a country where Indians are 5th and 6th generation descendants and recognise themselves and their nationalities as proudly South African, there is still an overwhelming majority that are prejudicial and will discriminate against each other because once-upon-a-time their ancestors came from different villages in India... absolutely ludicrous, but true.
We all laughed again. At least we can laugh at these things.