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Ryland Fisher

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

No More “First Black” Stories

Last week was a good/bad week for “first blacks”. The media made a big fuss over the appointment of South Africa’s first black Springbok rugby coach. And, of course, we have had all the troubles related to South Africa’s first black police commissioner.

But the “first black” story that was the icing on the cake, or the milk in the tea, for me was about Hlengiwe Gcabashe, “the first black female tea taster in Southern Africa”. This story was prominently displayed in the Sunday Times Lifestyle magazine.

I normally switch off when I see “first black” stories. If the newsworthy angle is that the person is black, then it is probably not newsworthy at all. After all, news is something that is new and what is new about being black in a country of more than 40-million black people?
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Reading: Ryland Fisher at Distrix Cafe

RaceI will be reading from my book, Race, at Distrix Cafe in Cape Town between 6 and 8pm on Wednesday, 31 Oct.

Books will be on sale and all are welcome to attend.

I hope to see you there – please note the event details below.

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All of us are racists

Race is not a subject that South Africans talk about easily and readily, and I think that this particularly the case with white South Africans.

The other day I was presenting a lecture on race at what used to be known as Pentech but now is known as the Bellville campus of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Most of the students in class were generically black, with only three white students in class.

We had what I thought was a good discussion, but I noticed that the white students did not say anything.

Afterwards I was walking to my car and the white students walked in front of me, unaware that I was behind them. One of the white students, a young woman, said to her friends: “I am sick and tired of race. I am sick and tired of people complaining about race. I have also been discriminated against, but you don’t find me complaining.”

I wished that she had said those words in class and then we could have addressed her concerns.

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Finding Myself

Along with about 300 other Capetonians, I have started a process of establishing my heritage.

I was one of the people invited by the African Genome Education Institute, in partnership with Ancestry24, to take a test that would determine my family’s geographical origins. The event took the form of a town-hall meeting at Bishops High School on Saturday.

The test is simple and painless: it involves taking a cheek swab, and after four months I should know whether my family lineage involves the Khoi Khoi or whether I have roots that come from the East or West.

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Tackling racism and sexism

As I read an article about the alleged racist remarks made by Badih Chaaban, a controversial Cape Town city councillor, I thought to myself: I have heard worse in Mitchells Plain and Hanover Park.

Chaaban had apparently called mayor Helen Zille a “f***ing b**ch”, Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille a “coloured k****r” and said it was time for the Jews to be “f***ed” again.

This was the findings of a city-council report that has now been sent to the city’s disciplinary committee and provincial minister for housing and local government.

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Blacks Only

It can only happen in South Africa. Where else would you see a sign saying “No white students are allowed to enter”? It is almost a throwback to the apartheid days, but in reverse.

I am, of course, referring to a story that appeared in the local newspapers this week about an accountancy Olympiad that was for black high-school learners only.

The irony was that the offending parent, according to the article I read, was a white ANC member who sent her daughter to a black school intentionally and now she has to explain to her daughter that, while the other children at the school were allowed to go the Olympiad, she was not allowed.

The woman, Rhett Kahn, said her daughter was the only white learner at the school. Which begs the question: Why did the school find it necessary to put up the offending sign? Why did it not just tell the learner that she was not welcome?

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Read an Excerpt of Race

Here is the link to the excerpt of Race that ran in yesterday’s Sunday Times. There will be more promotional activity coming up as follows: eTV at around 07h10 on Tuesday morning (August 7) and SAfm at around 13h00 on Sunday August 12.

Please tune in. But most importantly, go out and buy the book. And encourage your friends to do the same. We need to get the conversation going.

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Two Reviews of Race

Two reviews of Race are now available online. Here are excerpts, followed by the links to the full reviews.

First, from the Sunday Independent: » read more

What’s in a street name?

Ryland Fisher

It was interesting to listen and read about the various responses to proposed new names for Cape Town streets and other places.

One of the callers to a radio station said that it was clear that the majority of the new names were ANC people and that the ANC would stop at nothing to “replace white history with black history”.

So race becomes an issue once again.

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Racism and identity

One of the problems with South Africans is that we quite often blame racism when it might not even be a factor.

I thought of this last week after reading a story in a newspaper in Port Elizabeth about a Xhosa girl who had been crowned Miss Teen India, or something to that effect.

Immediately after she was named the winner, there was an outcry among the audience, who believed that an Indian girl should have won. The paper called this outcry “racist”.

On the face of it, it seems to be racist, but it could also be that the people who felt offended felt that this was an Indian competition and how does one explain that a Xhosa girl, as she was identified by the newspaper, could win an Indian competition. » read more