In the Middle – South Africa: Unwanted (Part 1)

by Toni Wallis

“I’m sorry, I just can’t do it. I can’t date a white woman.”

His words left me cold. Shakil and I had spent a lot of time together and we’d become good friends. After nearly a year of friendship, I’d hoped that there could be something more between us.

“What difference does it make that I’m white?” I asked, with a mixture of indignation and surprise.

“Don’t take it the wrong way,” Shakil began, looking awkward. He paused, wiping the condensation from his bottle of Castle Lager, trying to find the words. “It’s just that you and I come from different worlds.”

That much was true. Shakil had grown up in Port Elizabeth, an industrial coastal city a few hours east of Cape Town. His mom, a single mother, had struggled to raise her two sons in the dying years of apartheid.

As a colored woman, the name given to people of mixed race in South Africa, the regime killed her dreams before she even realized that it wasn’t her place to dream. The Bantu Education Act, which meant blacks received an inferior education, and the social constraints of being a woman in her generation meant there were very few opportunities to study further and most of the jobs available to her were menial ones. She had married young, a way out of poverty, but soon after her second son, Salie, was born, her husband left to find work in another town and never came back. It was a struggle to make ends meet, and there were times when she would go hungry so that the boys didn’t have to.

Shakil and Salie had spent the first part of their childhood in a segregated neighborhood and even though apartheid ended in 1994, everyday life wouldn’t change for a few more years, so they continued to attend the under-resourced and overpopulated high school in their neighborhood and missed out on the opportunities that their white counterparts had. They didn’t dream of going to university after their Matric year and looking for a job was the only way out.

Unlike me. Born just three months after Shakil on the other side of the color line and the other side of the country, in the economic and intellectual capital of South Africa, Johannesburg, my story was very different. My family had arrived in South Africa a few years earlier as refugees, part of a wave of some 500,000 white Portuguese who fled Angola as a bloody civil war broke out in the aftermath of its colonial independence from Portugal. They trekked from Angola into Namibia before being rescued by the South African authorities.

Upon their arrival in South Africa, my parents had first lived in the spare room of a Portuguese family who gave them free lodgings until they could get on their feet. Even though they didn’t speak English at the time, they found work easily enough: my mom as a shop assistant and my dad starting out in a steel factory, working his way up from a smelter to a sales manager by the time he retired 30 years later.

Growing up, there were never any luxuries at home, but there was always food on the table and my parents sacrificed many nice-to-haves so that I could study at a private school and receive some of the very best education available in South Africa at the time. My excellent primary and secondary education opened the doors to university studies on a full scholarship.

(to be continued…)

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Sarah Leah Pimentel

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Toni Wallis

Living for Today – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Walls and Resettlement – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Durban, South Africa – Peeking out – Kyle Cut Media (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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