|(Original Image Via Kat Ross on Pintrest)|
On Friday last week, like many other South Africans, I took part in what BK un-affectionately termed “a whitey protest”. He, like many others, said he would not participate because “Where were we during apartheid?” and “Where were we when people like him were sent to the army and posted at the border?” I suggested to him that as far as apartheid and the army are concerned, I was way beneath voting age and besides, protesting and marching wasn’t really a thing in my hometown. It was just a small town and would have been more of a small gathering than a protest march.
And while BK was wrangling with guilt and the ghosts of the past, I was wrangling with some pressing issues of my own.
The first issue I was faced with was that I was white. Am white. While this may not seem like an obvious concern, I’d read so many articles in the lead up to the protest about how white people didn’t have the right to march, protest or beg solidarity. I felt like quite the imposter even entertaining the prospect of protesting. Like BK, the prevailing sentiment for many people – many journalists at least - seemed to be that, just like the #ZUMAMUSTFALL protest, white people were only prepared to protest when it affected their capitalist privilege. Fair comment.
Still, I wanted to protest, and the only way I could justify doing so was to apply the same reasoning when I have to explain why I became a vegetarian. It goes something like this: Yes, in the past I’ve eaten meat but now I don’t want to anymore. Yes, I did wrong by those sheep and cattle and lambs but now, I would like to take up the their cause.
If we use the same line of reasoning you can see how it doesn’t work to say “Well I ate meat then so I’m not allowed to give up eating meat now.” Same-same with protesting and marching. Just because I didn’t do anything back then to fight for the right of animals doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to do anything now. Surely?
Much like deciding to join in protesting, deciding to become vegetarian didn’t happen immediately but rather over many years and via many messages. The first message was the movie Babe. After all, you can’t eat animals once you know that they can talk. I must confess, however, that the final nail in the coffin for me giving up meat came about when it became personally relevant. You see we got dogs and I just couldn’t eat meat any more because I just knew they were looking at me and thinking, “If she runs out of beef, will she eat us?”
Of course, there are many people who say things like “Oooh, you don’t eat meat but you eat eggs. Have you ever seen how laying hens are treated?” And all I can answer is that for now my cause is for meat and soon, when I have the inclination, I may take up the cause for eggs and milk. And who
knows, I may even wave a banner for the bees. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and then damned all over again if you do.
Another issue was that I didn’t know what to wear. There should be some kind of Protest101 manual. I did “attend” the other #WHITE #ZUMAMUSTFALL march that took place in Cape Town’s city centre but I certainly couldn’t use that occasion as a guide. Why, I saw more brand names, hipsters and neatly trimmed beards than what one might see at Fashion Week.
I told myself that this protest would be different but all the same, I cursed the arctic gale that was blowing in true Cape Town style because this meant I had to wear some kind of warm jacket or coat. And while I did have a Uniqlo jacket, I simply could not bring myself to wear it. After all, nothing says privilege like a Uniqlo jacket, right?
I also knew it would be just wrong to play dress-up and try to look like a freedom fighter. After all, we know how appropriation has landed people like Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift in hot water. So no, no dressing up and no dancing like any other culture but my own would do. Dancing and clapping out of time. That’s the way it had to be.
To add to my outfitorial worry, there was some confusion in social media as to whether protesters should all wear white, or all wear black. This, I feel, should have been made clear. I also think that it would have saved us a whole lot of trouble if we’d stayed well away from both black and white. When in doubt, Reggae colours are the safest. Peace and love bru, peace and love.
I should point out that TFTF, albeit unintentionally, went full guerrilla in his choice of outfit; he wore a hoodie with a red buff pulled over his nose and looked like he was a seasoned rabble-rouser, poised to throw a petrol bomb or at least get tear gassed. I can’t help but feel he was slightly disappointed at the calmness of it all. That’s ADHD for you folks.
Another salient issue was around which Font I should use for my sign. I’m quite a girly-girl when it comes to typography so in an ideal world I would’ve liked my HAMBA ZUMA sign to be fun and attractive. Still, I knew that “Blomster” or “Hippie Gypsy Regular” would be difficult to read and would just look too arty. Obviously “Comic Sans” was a no-go, so I opted for “Helvetica”. I feel I could’ve done more to decorate it though. A few flags maybe.
To make matters worse, the only cardboard I had lying around was from the inside of the fitted sheet I’d bought at Mr Price Home. You know how they kind of wrap the fitted sheets around an A4 piece of cardboard to that they can easily insert it into the plastic sleeve? It was one of those. I had my doubts that it would withstand the rigours of picketing and wind as they are quite bendy. Talk about being unprepared.
Of course, there were other dilemmas. Do we take the kids? Do we take the dogs? (They looked very disappointed when we left without them. The dogs that is, not the kids.) Do we pack snacks? Should we stand somewhere near a loo? Would it be like the Argus and would there be water stations and free mini Bar One’s? Would there be big amplifiers playing songs like “Give me hope, Joanna” and “Redemption Song”.
As if on cue, on arriving at our protest destination, Mr Chilled asked in his deep teenage voice “Um, how long do you think we’ll be here for?” and TFTF announced “I’m cold. I’m thirsty. Did you bring juice?” I’m not sure they understood the gravity of the situation.
Perhaps the last, but not least, critical issue surfaced when we were well on our protest way, so to speak. We noticed that passing cars were hooting and that their drivers were cheering. We knew we had acknowledge them somehow and signal our appreciation for their support. What we ended up with was a kind of mashup of the Black Power hand sign, a thumbs-up, and a wave. It was rather awkward. It would have been really useful if we could have clarified some universal type of hand signal for the day. It felt dreadfully imposter-ish and appropriation-ish using the Black Power sign as a white person. Just saying.
In the end, as in the beginning, I was glad I went along. Who knows what kind of difference will make but one thing is for sure, next time I will be more prepared. My outfit will involve comfortable footwear and my font of choice will almost certainly be “Bleeding Cowboys”.