By Jessica Klinkradt
Her eyes were soft and understanding. Her hugs were warm and welcoming. She made it through every day with a song in her heart and shared it with the world. Her laugh was contagious and uncontrolled. It roared over me, providing a place of safety. Her skin was never welcomed by a flaw as it glistened in the sunlight.
I was white, she was black.
But calling Nancy by the pronouns “her” or “she “is causing her a major injustice. Nancy was powerful, insightful and voluptuous. But Nancy was not her name. It was just easier on the tongue for my English parents whom did themselves a great injustice as they were never able to grasp the pure love she had for her culture or the great clicking sounds in such a language. I was never introduced to her real name and I was too young to understand. In fact I was so young yet I was held a quality many adults seemed to lack or felt indisposed to share. I carried a character of non-discrimination. I barely knew what a skin tone was. Later in my life I researched what the name Nancy meant and I was astonished at its Hebrew originality- “Grace.” That’s who Nancy was… the epitome of pure, God-like grace, showing me mercy and compassion when I thought I never deserved it.
Nancy rejoiced in her culture and every single time a Xhosa proverb rolled off the edge of her tongue and slipped into the atmosphere, it sent tingles down my spine and smacked a smile to my face. Her beauty was undeniable. Tenderness and kindness gushed out of her. Integrity and patience oozed from her footsteps.
I have many fond memories of me and Nancy that form the solid foundation of my childhood. These include many strolls in the street while she pushed me in a brightly coloured pram and bath times where I would playfully splash her and she would in return reward me with a wide display of her teeth or she would begin to sing to me.
I am white, she was black. But she loved me as her own.
I slowly started to notice a change in the way she walked. Nancy’s curves no longer swayed as she entered a room or bounce when she giggled. Her body always ached and she could no longer hold me. Our walks in the street slowly started to withdraw from my life and my bath times were uneventful. My heart began to harden and I longed for her healing. Nancy still carried herself in dignified defiance and persistence. Nancy’s body became weaker but her passion for culture did not. I was still continuously blessed with her adoring smile and wild laughter, followed by a subtle cry of pain. My mother took more time taking care of me as Nancy showed her what I enjoyed doing and how I spent my days.
Nancy slowly spent less time with me and as her last wish she bought my family together. Before that, she was my only family. She is my family.
I am white, she was black. But colour did not separate us.
Nancy taught me the meaning of Ubuntu. She taught me about accepting others and embracing everything they bring to the world. And when she died a few weeks later…so did a part of me.
I am white. I have not been given this description by the opposite race but by people before me, of my own race, who resided in the idea that labels were necessary. I have worked with people of a different race; I have cried with them, I have laughed with them.
Generation after generation our country cries out for a youth of no racism which we are all willing to accept but not practice. All I see is more educated races, welcoming more racist labels.
I am white. And yes, I am totally ashamed of how people of colour are treated by members of my race solely just for being 2 shades lighter. But I have my own ideas, my own values and my own opinions that coincide with not caring about silly things such as pigment. Unfortunately generations before me did not believe the same and I am constantly punished for it. I am reminded about it and I am looked down because of it. A man by the name of Thomas Sowell stated, “The word racism is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything- and demanding evidence makes you a “racist”.” The problem with our racist issues is that we do not heal. You can’t help heal a country that does not want to heal itself. You can put in every action possible but society will refuse because the excuse of Apartheid is a refuge for many. I’m not saying no one suffered due to Apartheid or that any of its actions were just- in fact it makes me experience an overwhelming feeling of disgust when I think about how people were treated. I’m also not agreeing with the facts that people are still suffering from the corrupt government of the Apartheid era, I still believe they are accounted for and should be considered. I’m simply asking when our past will turn into a seed so our country can grow?
Race is a poison that is continuously injected into our system. It is a wound that is constantly being tended to and we somewhat enjoy reopening the scab it forms and for some reason we expect the body to be repaired? I long for acceptance and accountability in our country.
Slowly as we grow older the idea of racial division grows- it heightens from an idea into an effort. But as I got older, Nancy’s teachings manifested into my actions. She grew a spirit in me with that thrives on the idea of ‘”Umntu, ngumntu ngabantu.” This African proverb means we are people through people. We are all facing our own problems. We are all fighting for something we believe in.
I am white, you are black. We are South Africa.