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racists on your game drive

Old Sep 13th, 2006, 09:36 AM
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racists on your game drive

hi everyone!

i finished up my looong trip with a safari in south africa, and the family in the vehicle was white south african (though i suppose racists and people with whom we disagree can exist anywhere).

now, without repeating the vile, nonsensical garbage the game-hunting father of the brood was spouting the entire game drive, i wondered how you all handle these situations? do you act the same way you would if you were seated next to a dolt at a dinner? or do you speak up to defend the defenseless and attempt to "educate"?

i arranged to be in a different vehicle the second we returned, but i'll never forget his comments and that he was raising two (8 and 5) little racists. and given the lack of response by the south african (white) guide and the other south african passenger, i can only (wrongly?) assume all south africans share his views. his wife did.

unbelievable. what have you done in similar circumstances?

was there anything to do?

kerikeri is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 09:59 AM
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First of all, not all White South Africans share hisopinions, but there is a vocal minority who do.

Your guide and passenger are not paid to get involved with the discussion, please don't think badly of them without knowing their real views.

Like the rascist attitudes I found in Georgia USA when I visited in 1986 it will take generations for attitudes to change (God willing) and I did feel a change when I returned in 1996.

I'm getting less diplomatic the older I get. And being in a mixed race relationship (I am white British, my fiancee is black Kenyan) I wont take some of the rubbish spouted. I don't know what he was saying... frankly I don't want to know.

I guess all you can do is examine your own attitudes... and live the best way you can as an example. I have to check my own attitude, because I do make assumptions about people based on ethnicity... sometimes positive, sometimes negative... but I just have to challenge myself. I think there is a little bit of racism in me. I guess the difference is I don't LIKE it. So I need to remove the plank in my own eye before I remove the splinter in my brother's eye.

Oh.. getting a bit deep and self obsessed there. Sorry.
Pumbavu is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 10:03 AM
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How very sad. I'm not sure how I'd have handled it, but I know that it would have detracted a huge amount from my safari.

Racism is learned. It is not inbred. You need only look at a mixed group of toddlers to see that. Unfortunately, I can't offer any good way for people to "unlearn" racism.

I am sure that not all South Africans, regardless of race, are racists. (Besides, there's no litmus test that makes you a racist or non-racist. There are only certains actions and behaviors that are racist. And the same individual might exhibit some behaviors that are racist, and others that are not racist. Labels really aren't terribly useful in this regard, I'm afraid.)

If I were in that situation, I doubt that I would have been confrontational. I am sure that I would have tried to ignore the father/family, and instead struck up a conversation with the tracker, hoping that the guide would catch on and join the conversation. If the traceker and guide seemed amenable, I might have asked them to sing "Nkosi Sikelele Afrika," just coz I managed to learn the song and love it for all sorts of reasons.
DonTopaz is online now  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 10:24 AM
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Not what one wants to come face-to-face with while on vacaton, especially when you can't immediately take your leave. So glad you made other arrangements when you returned to camp.

Sadly, we ran into a situation in South Africa, but not on a game drive, rather while in CPT. We made arrangements to meet up with the brother of a friend of my partner who was living in the US and was in no way a racist. She did, prior to our leaving, indicate that her brother was somewhat strange, that we didn't have any responsibility to make contact.

However, we did and arrange to meet for cocktails or dinner one evening. Generally, we enjoy meeting locals wherever we visit and if a relative of a friend, it's nice to catch up with news for both parties.

Well, as soon as the brother met us at our hotel, along with his girlfriend, we knew this was going to be a very different evening. Being pleasant on introduction, the thing we both thought was "white trash" a common reference to a particular segment of people here in the States. Not wanting appearances to cloud our judgement though, we went for drinks. Walked down to the V&A, where cocktails were actually fun, strange, but fun. More, in that their way of life was so completely opposite of ours, but hey, we were meeting locals.

Coming on 8pm, the brother suggested we go for dinner and headed for a Chinese restuarant in the mall; were seated and given menus. Before all of us had decided on what to order, the girlfriend, "called" one of the waitresses... "Susie* - here we want to eat." She was addressing a cute Black gal who turned to us to take our orders.

*an oft referred name for a maid.

I was so taken back by what had just been said, my partner noticing from the opposite side of the table, knew I was about to smack the girlfriend, and knew immediately I wasn't about to sit thru dinner with these heathens.

As I pushed back my seat, rising from my seat, he knew I was about to rip. Thankfully, he read me only too well, and as my hand went up, he rose, grabbed my hand across the table and announced that we had to leave as we had no intension of sitting with them after hearing the girlfriends attitude to the staff.

Needless to say, the two of them looked at us as if we were crazy and began to rise and leave with us. I turned back and said, "don't bother, do enjoy your meal." On the way out, I caught the attention of the waitress and apologized for the rudeness of the other party at our table. She was surprised by my comment and simply rolled her eyes and said, "some people will never change."

I was upset when I walked out, I was shaking. But knew I couldn't continue thru dinner.

Sadly, there are many places in the world where there are racists, anti-semites, anti-muslim, anti-asian, anti- any/everything. I choose to remove myself once I've had my say, not even waiting for a reply.
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 11:03 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Geez,I don't think there's a full moon so what's with all the steotyping madness today and yesterday. I'm on the heels of Sandi again, but with a different comment or question rather for kerikeri; why would you assume or even wonder if all S. Africans are bigoted because of one bad apple and his moronic wife. Isn't that kinda the same thought process as what promted your original question. Kind of puts S.Africans under suspicion, I'd say.

Pumburu has said it best - in that we all have our preconceived notions about people we meet but do choose to not like that about ourselves and try to change it - sounds like a good thing to aspire to.

As far as the man of opinions in the jeep, I'm afraid that any comments made would surely have not changed his ingrained and cultivated opinions.
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 11:04 AM
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edit; promPted
cybor is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 11:16 AM
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In that circumstance I wouldn't waste my breath giving my opinion. I would have done just as you did - get out as quickly as possible.

It's unbelievable in this day and age that the type of racism you and Sandi described thrives but I have seen it in South Africa and Namibia as well.
sundowner is online now  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 11:36 AM
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Very, very sorry to hear about this, kerikeri. I think you did what you could. If I had the presence of mind to do as Sandi described above, that would be my method of choice. However, when I encounter these kind of things, I'm usually so shocked/freaked out that it's all I can do to keep my head from exploding.

Leely is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 12:16 PM
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thank you all for responding.

i think my reaction and need to post here was an attempt to determine if this was "one bad apple" or if this was the accepted way of thinking/behaving for so long in south africa that it continues unchecked.

i guess i saw so much in south africa that upset me in terms of inequality that it was shocking to be hip to hip with someone who would happily reverse whatever progress had been made.

the susie thing that sandi posted reminded me that throughout the drive the man and his wife and even his kids were speaking to the driver in incredibly harsh commanding tones, "stop! back up! now!" which also irked me, and smacked of a kind of colonial superiority that sandi's story illuminates as well.

perhaps that is even the better way of decribing it, and also makes it easier to view the family as a pathetic throw-back. it was as though they were superior colonists from the 1800's.

anyway, i appreciate hearing everyone else's experiences and opinions and am glad this forum allows us to exchange ideas about all facets of travel.

kerikeri is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 12:18 PM
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Kerikeri, I hope youíll write a report about your further adventures.

Iíve never been in a situation similar to the one you describe, but I do think that I need to make plans so that I donít just end up shocked and silent should it ever happen. Thereís no point trying to reason with that kind of people. A Sandi style reaction is the best. I think I would tell the driver that what Iím hearing is making me feel sick and that I need to get off the vehicle. Then I would pretend to throw up behind a bush.

I did see a racist last Saturday when I was trying to sell some Kenyan handicraft. A young man asked me if I would like some political information and I said yes. When I discovered that the leaflet was from a racist party I said ďnooo I donít want THISĒ and the young man took it back and left. I would have liked to say something ďbetterĒ but I canít figure anything out.
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 12:32 PM
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I havenít been to South Africa and the few white South Africans I have met have been declared anti-racists and kind of cute. Though considering very recent history itís not that strange that white South Africans are under suspicion like Germans after the Second World War Ė itís not fair for the innocent individual and should be avoided by thinking people, but itís just a fact that the majority did not oppose Apartheid and Nazism.
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 12:33 PM
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This is how I have handled it in two different situations.

When I was in my first year of law school I sat with a group of a fellow students at a pub. A couple of them said some racist things. No one said anything. I stood up & said that I couldn't believe that they said those comments and that no one said anything about it. I said that I wouldn't speak to them again (the racists) until they apologized. I avoided them for 3 years.

Maybe 15 years later, I was discussing a case with a witness who made an offensive commment. With a quiet voice I asked him not to make such comments around me. He apologized & never said anything of that kind around me again.

In your situation, I think that the second approach is better. You're on a vacation. You have to be around these people for the rest of the trip. You'll not change their point of view. And you'll feel better about yourself because you did something.

So sorry that you had to put up with something like this.
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 01:42 PM
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thank you all.

the nazi comparison is right on target. that is, how can any of us sit idly by in a situation like that? that's why i keep questioning myself. how could i have let him go on and not have challenged him and still expect the world to change?

is saying nothing tacitly endorsing this point of view and giving the speaker the courage to continue?

i think the south africa situation is so unique in that an entire nation went along with that way of thinking for so long. (as opposed to a lone biggot in the southern usa as mentioned above).

given that this is a sole interaction with such an person and vice versa, their sole interaction with people who think differently, do we have any sort of moral obligation, beyond the polite confines of a luxury safari vehicle or dining table, to speak up?

(sorry to get so heavy but south africa really got my wheels turning).
kerikeri is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 02:06 PM
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I've been forunate enough not to encounter anything like this on safari, though one of the B&B owners I stayed with one one of my visits to South Africa did have some, shall we say, antiquated ideas about how to treat her staff. Needless to say I haven't been back and have not recommended that place to anyone else.

My main concern when it came to raising the matter with this particular person was whether it would cause some sort of retaliation towards the staff (i.e. would she blame them for 'making her look bad in front of a guest').

I did indicate quite clearly that I didn't agree with her, and made it clear that I didn't plan to return.

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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 03:04 PM
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kerikeri: I wouldn't be too hard on yourself. Thankfully these are awkward moments because we are no subjected to them on a regular basis and each situation is different based on people, place, activity, etc.

I encounter much less racism and much more homosexuality bigotry in common situations now. Both bother me as I am close to people of other races and those who are homosexual and I have been raised to believe in equality for all. My responses have ranged across the gamut from getting up and leaving, to 'educational conversations', to ignoring the situation and remaining quiet, to blood on my hands (I think I have outgrown this response). Probably the only response I have not given is approval -- even in silence your body language and how you treat this person later will indicate that you do not approve.

To answer your question there are more bad apples in South Africa than were in your vehicle but there are also so many wonderful people -- it is a land of change where ignorance is being washed away at a strong pace but there will always be some that never find the knowledge or courage to embrace those they do not know, just like everywhere else unfortunately.

When I showed up for my first day of orientation for college in North Carolina I received my key as did the guy behind me who would be my roomate for a week -- the first thing he said to me was "I'm sure glad I ain't rooming with no nigger, aren't you?" I was lucky to have grown up in the Washington, D.C. area in a fairly diverse and integrated population and never knew such ignorance. I said I wish some of my black friends were here but it looks like I'm stuck with you. The rest of the week I found somewhere else to stay. I almost left before I even started at this University of many thousands just because of one idiot. By the end of the week I quickly learned this guy was an outlier and not indicative of the experience I would have. Bigotry exists virtually everywhere but hopefully a little less with each generation if we refuse to endorse it.

On safari in Botswana I was with two black Botswanan guides who subjected us to a long rant about how they were so much more talented than the white South African managers and there was clearly much resentment and prejudice on their part. The guide later told me that he would not be there to take me to the airstrip and when I let him know I needed to leave his tip -- he begged me not to give it to the manager's as he thought they would keep it. Staff was distant at this camp and I have no doubt that the manager's treated them as underlings. Ironically these were the worst guides and managers that I have ever had and that was the most racial tension that I have endured on safari. My solution on this one was to be distant and then inform greater management of what I encountered.
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 04:03 PM
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It took us 100 hundred years plus to get over racism in the USA(look who is calling the kettle black), and it still exists. SA has their problems and are doing mostly a brilliant job of wading through the Afrikkaner racism thing. The one thing you apparently have not been subject to is reverse racism. Blacks are major offenders too in SA.

I don't condon the behavior, but understand there will always be some holdouts and potential problems. Look at their overall progress in a relative short time. Don't look for fault, unless you feel the USA will survive the same scrutiny.

And I have alot to say about the 'bad' SA overlander crowds I have come across on my safaris. But there are more of the new SA which few seem to give credit for here.
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 04:05 PM
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This message is for Sandi who professes to be so knowledgeable about all matters African. Well Sandi you are in the the same league as the racists you abhor. Ignorence is the root of rasciscm and you have fallen into its trap - you are the "heathen" to use the words you condemn innocents to. The person who used the word Suzie which you in your ignorence declare to be a racist term as "an oft referred name for a maid" was actually the word Sisi and not Suzie and he/she was using a very respectful isiXhosa noun for a female of about the same age as himself/herself which translated is the equivelant of sister. It is only disrespectful if the word is used when addressing someone older than yourself.
Now Sandi you are a highly respected contributor to Fodors but if you in ignorence embaress my people again by your lack of knowledge I will be waiting to correct you. By the way why do you describe a young lady as a "gal" OK you are American and we forgive you.
Hamba Kakuhle
tatamkhulu is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 06:34 PM
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I think most people have given a proper assessment of the roots of racism....Pred and rizzuto's comments stand out.

Thankfully, i have never encountered any such situation in my Africa travels. I have met some abnoxious co-travellers at times, but, nothing to bother/hinder my trip.

The most racist experiences i have had is at security at US airports, particularly smaller airports. But, i just go about my business thinking that they are just trying to do their job and to impress co-travellers that they are doing a good job. Thankfully, all the new finger
printing systems and the iris scan etc etc., is very helpful to me as they have all visitors on record and can easily distinguish genuine visitors from the actual trouble makers.

Old Sep 13th, 2006, 09:33 PM
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A good point very subtly put, Hari.

Personally I think you have to give racists from places like South Africa, Queensland, Georgia and Leeds a bit of leeway (but certainly not so much that you have trouble keeping your breakfast down). Someone is not responsible for what has been drummed into them from nearly every direction since birth and there do seem to be actual issues (usually of empowerment of some kind) of which I am totally ignorant. Keeping quiet is certainly not going to get you to heaven quicker but gentle engagement and tolerance are always more effective than being politically correct - EXTERMINATE THE RACISTS is not where you want to go is it?

kerikeri.. take comfort from the fact that you may have been observing the last spitting, snarling stand of a cornered animal who's so afraid of what the future may bring he probably has to wear adult diapers. My understanding was that black people as a race are no longer defenseless in South Africa. They apparently run the place now.

Oh, and I'm not so sure about Queensland or Leeds - that's based on eye-opening experience some years ago. Georgia was chosen with thanks to PredatorB.

Thoughts for the day:
If a racist is good and gentle and kind in every other way do you love him as a damaged angel or despise him as a wolf in sheep's clothing?
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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 09:35 PM
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That was St. Paul's Epistle to the Fodorites.....

.... I'll deflate myself now..

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