Eating Lunch with two Apartheidists on MLK's Birthday

Reply Tue 17 Jan, 2006 05:19 am
How strange it felt
to be abused!
Epithets hissed through heated air
and landed like slaps
on skin that had only ever
known stroking.
Ears trained to seek
harmonic platitudes
jarred by raucous voices-
a flock of black crows circling - cawing-
discordant, atonal,

Their aim was true-
Unerring in their cunning-
-they'd marked me-
I was easy-
wits dulled by years of
kindness and smiles from
strangers, I hadn't recognized hate
when its shadow moved
over me.
I invited it in,
offered it shelter
and gave it a place
to rest.

For a moment.

They talked of shiny shoes
And ready-made meals as
Inappropriate Indulgences
for those whose
dignity lay trampled
in centuries
of ancient South African dust.
Begrudged of even the shine on their shoes

These souls who'd been
ground silently into
desert sands that
glittered with
shards of diamonds
and flecks of gold-
their treasure and birthright
then ground into their
skins as the sheen from the sweat
Of their labor
Of their torture-
Of their stolen songs.

Hate struggled to balance its
Crushing weight on my
But I wasn't built for it.
I looked into the ebony eyes
Of my daughter
"Bringer of Peace"
My eyes delighted in her coffee skin-
her dark cloud of hair
And in her I found the remnants
Of that proud people
That ancient country
The dignity stolen but
Never discarded
And I sought the strength
To Love.
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Reply Tue 17 Jan, 2006 05:28 am
aidan, that is a poem that made me feel. You have a wonderful way with words. I read it several times, and am still immersed in your message.
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Reply Tue 17 Jan, 2006 05:42 am
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Reply Tue 17 Jan, 2006 06:01 am
Thanks Lettie.

I'm still immersed in the experience - (it really did happen)- coincidentally and ironically on MLK's actual birthday (of course the holiday isn't celebrated over here).

In a way, I was horrified that my daughter (she's 13) had to sit there and was exposed to such bigotry, but at the same time, as I expressed, she brought me strength and reminded me of the power of love.
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Reply Tue 17 Jan, 2006 06:15 am
Well, aidan, I experienced the same, but in different ways. Your daughter probably needed that bit of a shock, and she was quite lucky that you were there to explain things. Where do you live? England?
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Reply Tue 17 Jan, 2006 07:18 am
Yes - we're living in England right now. I think that's part of what made it so surprising - we really hadn't experienced any out and out racism (directed toward us) at any rate since we've been here.
By the way - these people weren't British - they actually were Afrikaaners who had been born and raised in South Africa and had participated in apartheid, and as I learned, were upset at its abolishment and believed that the blacks in South Africa were not innately equipped to live with all the rights and priveleges of human beings. They actually expressed these things to me (over lunch).

Having been married to a black man and being the mother of two interracial children - I know bigotry exists. But I've never had it expressed so hatefully and clearly (and in front of my daughter - who is clearly black) before. And the total lack of regret or responsibility expressed in terms of how the society these two people participated in and profited economically from while inflicting indignity and torture and death on a whole race of people - blew my mind.... Okay - there - it's off my chest. Thanks for letting me vent.

P.S. But I'm determined not to view all white south Africans as evil.
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Reply Tue 17 Jan, 2006 07:27 am
Frankly, aidan, I'm glad you did. Your poem and your subsequent explanation gives me further insight into what I never quite understood as a child growing up in Virginia. No one taught me prejudice either.

Now, living in Florida, I have seen it from all sides. What I really don't quite grasp, is the open hostility I see on some of the threads here.

Well, creative people are different, and you are a perfect example. I salute you.
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Reply Tue 17 Jan, 2006 07:46 pm
aidan- beautiful. thank you.
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Reply Tue 17 Jan, 2006 08:13 pm
That's a nice one.

I particularly liked:

and landed like slaps
on skin that had only ever
known stroking.
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Reply Wed 18 Jan, 2006 12:51 pm
I was really moved by your poem aidan,

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Reply Fri 20 Jan, 2006 03:24 am
Thank you all for your encouragement.
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