I don’t want to hear tomorrow that America has its first black president. It’s not about Barack Obama being black. It’s about him being right.

The only thing that has bothered me since we welcomed political change and proper democracy to our sunny shores in 1994 is that government in this country having been worrying white for all of my life, it suddenly became worryingly black. Worrying because I believe in nonracialism, rather than majority power. We need to cast ourselves as people, as human beings, not as members of a certain race.

We need a society mature enough and sufficiently nonracial to have most sane people choose a Helen Zille over a Jacob Zuma, not because one is white and female and the other black and a struggle veteran, but because one of them is likely to be better at governing the country. I know which of the two I would vote for. It begins with a Z. (OK, Zille, just for the record.)

In the US, worryingly many African-Americans (I dislike the term, but it’s current and will one day pass, I hope) are regarding Obama as one of their own, their candidate, a breakthrough candidate, all of which is true. Which is why it is heartening that so many white Americans (American-Americans? European-Americans? Caucasian-Americans?) support Obama. He has their support and not because of his race or because of the subjugated past of his tribe, but because he’s right. Of all the candidates who came forward, right now he’s The One.

We went to Durban last year for the first time since our four-year sojourn in the UK. (If this seems like a non-sequitur, the context remains colour and perception.) We were shocked (read on) to find that the centre of Durban had become 100% black. Shocked? Not because it offended us that (as some whites choose to see it) “the blacks have taken over”. But shocked because, well, where was everybody else? In West Street, where was the white madam with her shopping bags? Where were the Indian people? Every face we saw, driving along the main thoroughfares of that humid city, was black. We went to a huge shopping centre for lunch, one that used to be a hub for all Durbanites. We saw one — and I mean one — Indian face. What’s that about?

A mixed, nonracial society is not about people of one race swamping all else. It’s about us living in the same space together, as equals.

Do we blame “black Durbanites” for this? I somehow doubt it. In Pietermaritzburg, for instance, most white people talk darkly about how “the blacks have taken over” the town centre. “You can’t go there any more”.

What crap. One race will only “take over” a place if the other guys give it up. If you move out of a parking bay, another guy will move in. If you all move your cars out, all the spaces will soon be filled — and if all the whites decline to move their cars back in, cars driven by people other than white will inevitably fill those spaces. Let’s share the parking lot.

It’s time that white Durbanites and Pietermaritzburgers got out of doors, out of their cars, and started going back to the places where they feel they cannot go.

It’s one of the many things I love about Cape Town. We share the streets, we share our city. No one is elbowing anybody else out of the way.

My hope is that Obama will be a superb leader and that during his (please God) long reign, many blind people will start to see — that colour is meaningless, that it is human qualities, intellect, strength, compassion and a myriad other worthwhile qualities that count. Just as long as some neo-Nazi prick doesn’t spoil it all for everybody.

In the meantime, here’s to tomorrow … and sanity.


Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman is a journalist, budding playwright and sometime chef. He's written two plays, An Influence of Ghosts and Blue Train Coming, and back in the day wrote loads of songs. He paints a bit in watercolours...

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