Michelle Atagana
Michelle Atagana

Dead smart?

I live in a relatively safe neighbourhood, I use the word relative because let’s face it, nowhere is entirely safe. I have been mugged twice, the latest happening just last week on my way back from the gym. I live about 15 minutes from the gym so I prefer to walk there and gym at reasonable hours, when the sun is out and the roads are fairly populated.

During a free moment last Thursday at 3pm I jogged to the gym and on my way back I was accosted by two guys with a knife, it’s a weapon of choice for most muggers. They didn’t harm me in any way, they just took what they wanted and went on their merry way after barking threats and flashing their weapon.

I am smart, I know not to argue with someone who might do me serious injury if I talk back, I know that muggers might not get my wit or the fact that they are an inconvenience to me. I learnt this lesson the hard way during my first mugging when I argued with the mugger about getting back my SIM card as the idea of replacing it was not something I particularly wanted to entertain or see come to fruition. He looked at me, attempted to remove the SIM card and when he couldn’t, I said, “Oh don’t be silly it’s quite easy”. They had guns and the minute I uttered those words I felt cold steel against my neck, I always imagined guns to be made of plastic somehow and never thought they’d be so cold. Needless to say I shut my mouth and learnt two valuable lessons that day. Lesson one, don’t talk back to people with dangerous weapons that can do you serious bodily harm.

The second lesson, the point of this post, is when you are suspicious of two strange-looking men walking toward or behind you change direction. I firmly believe in the “rather be safe than sorry” concept. If I had taken that option, I could have avoided being mugged twice.

The catch, however, came in a conversation the other day with some friends who thought it was prejudiced to judge people like that. Is it? Especially in a country like South Africa where political correctness is important and the race card can be played at any given time.

Before I get pounced on, I have noticed EVERYONE plays the race card these days so I am not sidelining one specific race group. Mostly I notice that we are too polite to speak our minds sometimes because we don’t want to offend anyone and we’ve become so sensitive that little things offend. We watch our behaviour in case it is deemed prejudiced.

I walk down the road and a suspicious man walks toward me. I change direction and he looks at me in an accusatory way. I feel bad. Why do I have this guilt? What if he had attacked me? What if he had raped and sliced me into pieces? Then what? I would have a clear conscience but I would be a rape statistic with scars or dead. Which option is better?

Again can we really call it prejudice? A case of mental algebra and gut instinct, is it prejudice? If you take into account the millions of safety messages we’re bombarded with every day and the crime statistics, can we call it prejudice? If you take into account things that lead to crime and asses your reactions based on that, can we call it prejudice?