Just the other day , when I posted the latest video of Die Antwoord I mused:
In the west a case can certainly be made that whites are blissfully unaware of their whiteness, for the most part.
Perhaps Die Antwoord and movies like District 9 with its bumbling Wikus as hero, is changing all that.
My woorde was skaars koud, and in dropped an email from a Dutch friend. He had just read a book about South Africa and it had changed his opinion about South Africa he said. Jaa? Tell me more I replied.
Well he said the book is called, “Help, Ik Ben Blank Geworden”. It is written by a certain Bram Vermeulen, correspondent for seven years in South Africa for NRC Handelsblad.
And here’s a video of Vermeulen explaining his book.
Coming from the left Vermeulen claims that he wanted to integrate with black South Africa. He wanted to be a white Obama. He wanted to do what right wing Dutch politicians expect of immigrants to the Netherlands, namely to assimilate. But try as he might he couldn’t.
The reason for this? Partly the problem is that integration can not come from one side he says. And because South Africa is not the kind of society that helps this process.
He would arrange social meetings, and then never get invited again. (This used to be a common complaint of my white progressive friends in South Africa – that they could not make real black friends.)
He was a victim of crime at the hands of young black men. He asks that if you are constantly feeling threatened by individuals from another group, how is it possible not to habour feelings of fear for the group as a whole? South Africa made him understand racism.
But the why of the racist killing spree of Johan Nel forms the backbone of much of the book. He compares Nel to the Muslim Fundamentalist Mohammed Bouyeri who killed film maker Theo van Gogh, and asks if Nel wasn’t isolated, very insecure and a victim of racism himself.
At the Nel trial, Vermeulen asks how black South Africans could have behaved so threateningly towards all whites – who after all are a minority? How could they tar all whites with the same racist brush? He asks why politicians claimed that this is South Africa original sin. And not poverty, corruption, or crime?
The book also deals with the xenophobic violence South Africa experienced recently.
In Europe he says, he never felt white but “in Afrika was ik ongeneeslijk blank geworden”. He became incurably white.
Vermeulen is of course not the first foreign correspondent of a quality left newspaper that came to South Africa and had his lefty values soiled. Upon leaving South Africa Rory Carroll, correspondent for the Guardian lamented:
This can be a raw society and it took a sledgehammer to some cherished liberal views on race, sex and crime. I did not enjoy their bashing, though those that survived are stronger for it. Imagine a boot camp for progressive ideals.
Vermeulen ends the video on a positive note. He says that – after the politicians left – the families of the victims wanted to meet Nel’s family, to reconcile. And that this need for reconciliation was genuine.