Land Claims on Steroids

 

Scott Balson

Original Khoi hut. Photo: Scott Balson

Hut

Hut at The Galley

On August 8th 2018, The Echo published a story about the opening of a “Khoisan” hut at the beach restaurant, The Galley, in Fish Hoek. They said they were celebrating local history and planning to educate tourists. I was alarmed at what they might teach our poor visitors, because the man who opened the hut was King Cornelius III who, according to his American lawyer, has already seceded from South Africa and claims the whole of the Western and the Northern Cape as his Sovereign State of Good Hope…

This is really important in this time of flux, expropriation without compensation and ongoing land claims.

I wrote to the Echo, saying in my covering letter that the restaurant might have to rethink some of its material, but the Echo never published my article. The People’s Post was spunkier, and this is what they published a week later.

The “Khoisan” hut that has been opened at the Galley restaurant on Fish Hoek’s beachfront is commendable. It’s good to see that efforts are being made to celebrate the original people of the Cape and offer information to tourists. Of course, one has to be very careful that the information is accurate, and in the case of Khoi ancestry this involves one in walking a minefield. I do not know King Koebaha Calvin Cornelius III and my comments are not directed at him personally. The problem is that some claims to royal titles that have been made are very dubious. Many people even claim to be !Xam or Khoena today, when they have no such ancestry at all.

I use the terms !Xam and Khoena because Khoisan is itself a dubious label. It was invented in 1928 by the German professor Leonard Schultze and today it is considered reductive and pejorative by academics who study our history. Khoisan throws together not only the Bushmen (which is not an insulting label, by the way!) or !Xam, but also all the Khoena tribal formations from the Peninsula up to the northern parts of what is our country today. They were prosperous sheep and cattle farmers – Hessequa, Attaqua, Chainouqua, Cochouqua, Goringhaiqua, Gorachouqua, Chariguriqua and other smaller offshoots of these.  All of these groups were attacked, dismantled, and pacified through 15 wars of ethnic cleansing, fiercely resisted by free Khoena, over the 176 years between 1652 and 1828.

I trust that the Galley has done its “homework” responsibly, because the task is hazardous and difficult. Today there is a vocal, but unfortunately highly splintered Cape Khoena Revivalist movement of descendants who are attempting to resurrect the old tribes. They are exercising their right to self-determination and to self-identify. Their core focus is to revive and respect the memory of those decimated and removed through ethnic cleansing or ethnocide. There are a number of formations that respectfully remain true to this cause. Among them however are lots of little formations of chancers who use a discourse of pseudo history that is easily disproven as their claims are fraudulent. It is important to distinguish between those seeking attention with gimmickry, and those who really care about their communities and their hidden and marginalised heritage.

Trying to actually recreate the tribes of 400 years ago, now in the 21st century, is probably neither wise nor viable. The model being followed by those less informed is unfortunately of the tribes and kingdoms that were given patronage by the Apartheid Regime and then later by the ANC government following in their footsteps. Authenticity is something that aligns a broader public behind the cause, while the lack thereof ultimately invites ridicule.

We cannot ignore some very worrying tendencies. Some of these include claims to be the actual old tribes, a number of which disappeared long before the colonial onslaught. At least nine Khoena tribes exist within the Xhosa and retain their clan names within the Iziduko system. However, once the floodgates are opened anyone can literally invent a tribe and a title and make a dubious material claim.

There are, interestingly, also false claims being made of “Coloured” people being the only true descendants of the !Xam and Khoena, and claims of being “First People” or “First Nations”. Our South African bloodlines are, in fact, so intertwined that this is a ridiculous exercise. There is denialism around the dreadful past assault on the San by the pacified Khoena as well as denial of collaboration by pacified Khoena against the San, Free Khoena and Xhosa and right up to the Apartheid era as the Cape Corps and security police operatives. Our history is fraught and complex – a minefield indeed. We have to be so careful to channel our respect and remembrance correctly.

[An excellent reference is Richard Elphick’s book, Khoikhoi and the Founding of White South Africa (Raven Press, Johannesburg. 1985) Readers can also consult the blog https://camissapeople.wordpress.com/ by Tariq Mellet, to whom I am greatly indebted for information for this article.]

 

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Two Battles Lost but the War Goes on

Going Home

I have been battling on two fronts recently, both WhatsApp groups. The first is an extended family group – dozens of cousins – and the second is the security group for our set of townhouses.

When family members disagree on racism, the situation is difficult and tricky. I once left our family WhatsApp group because its posts offended me, but my brother asked me very nicely please to come back, and I relented. Then one of my dozens of cousins posted a most extraordinary article about how there was going to be a civil war in SA within a year because of the secret cooperation of powers like China and the USA (they have proof). These powers want SA reduced to rubble so that they can come in and take the pickings. There was a video of the tanks that are allegedly taking up their positions.

I was still thinking about exactly what I would say when I saw a welcome post from an older cousin. I confess I was glad that it was from a senior male member of the family, and a dominee at that, because it would carry more weight. He wrote in a gentle and loving tone that politics would only serve to divide the family and said that we all had our own views and should rather post only about family matters on the group. I expressed my agreement.

Not long after we were treated to another swart gevaar piece. I decided that if a cousin could break the rule, so could I, and I replied.  It took about a week for my brother to send me a private text saying he wanted to phone me and berate me for being so insensitive. I asked him not to phone about that and said that I would never, as our elder cousin had requested, post anything “political” but that I was entitled to reply if someone else did. He said he took my point.

A few weeks later it was my brother himself who posted about the plight of farmers in thinly disguised racial terms. There was the challenge again. However, he had a covering note that appealed to us not to see this as a political post but merely a request for prayers. You can call me a coward if you like, but I decided to leave it at that, for now.

 

 

The opprobrium of my neighbours is not new to me, because my attitude to homeless people differs from theirs.

Erik is tall and humble, with remnants of respectability still clinging to him, or rather, he is clinging to them, because he has fairly clean clothes that are not torn, and decent shoes. He washes my car once a month, a rule which he respects in spite of his desperation. My neighbours are nice people but they don’t have as much self-discipline as he has. One day he waited for me at my door for half an hour or so. They started exchanging messages about how scary he was, waiting there in the shade. I replied that I would be home soon and that they should feel free to go and chat to him; his name was Erik and he would appreciate an apple. Sullen silence.

My gardener has not had a better reception. He has been in and out of shelters, but is usually on the street. He is eloquent and active and maintains himself pretty well. Not only does he really know gardening, but he is a handyman too. A neighbour approached me, oozing male authority, to tell me that he didn’t like Michael because he saw him one evening and he was drunk. I replied that he is drunk every evening; that is his tragedy. However, he is never drunk in the morning. I said there is a category of alcoholics who are like that – they remain sober and work well, but when the clock hits the happy hour, they have to have a drink. Neighbour snorted in disbelief, not at what I said, but at me.

All this was par for the course, but then some homeless people set up camp in the bushes across the road. It was in the middle of the drought. I met one of them walking down the road wearing his peaked cap and saw immediately that he had the soul and mind of a child. He told me that he had come from “die plaas” where there was always plenty of water, and that he would go back if he could, but he had no idea how to get there. I gave him R10 and his eyes sparkled. “This morning I had nothing,” he said, “and just see what I have now!”

We are not a gated community and we have no body corporate. The paranoia erupted. We were going to have a Crossroads of criminals on our doorstep. Anger that the police told them to call Law Enforcement – weren’t they the same thing? Anger that they couldn’t be locked up, spirited away. Someone else definitely had to get them into a shelter. The vitriol about the tall man in the cap was mind-blowing.

I dared to post that we should not lose our humanity through all of this. I was told to pay for them to go back to the Eastern Cape “if you want to be perceived as being liberal.” Because I had taken them two black bags to help them dispose of their litter, I was told I was starting a squatter camp.

Then one of the neighbours organised a speaker and invited us to attend a meeting at her house. The man had some position in a neighbourhood watch. Now my son had been asking me not to antagonise the neighbours. My friends agreed it was a battle I could not win, so I told my son that I probably would fight with them and that he should please be my delegate. I was proved oh-so-right, because he reported to me after the meeting that the speaker had started with these words, “We have problems with baboons in these mountains, and some of them wear clothes.”

It’s not that I don’t see the potential difficulties, but as long as the City fails to provide social housing and many more shelters I don’t see that we can prevent informal settlements from springing up, and there must be better ways of dealing with the people in them, who after all are also our neighbours. The situation is unresolved. They are still there, maybe five people who hang their blankets out on bushes to dry in the morning. This is in spite of the three occasions when Law Enforcement arrived and told them to move.  They arrived in about 6 vehicles with flashing blue lights and they arranged for the site to be cleared. My neighbours are disgusted that Law Enforcement has to try to get their families to take them back and consult with social workers about their fate. They watch me like hawks and strictly forbade the one woman of colour who lives there to give them any food. I now give donations and food to the shelters.

Sometimes in the evening I see the tall man in the cap walking into the bushes to sleep. In fact, my neighbour took this photo of one of them in order to prove that they were still there. He was protesting, but I just thought, “Look at him. How can you be so callous?”

My White Fragility

bobmarley_exclusive_49

 

 

This is based on a Facebook piece by my hero and mentor, Patric Tariq Mellet. I adapted it because it really spoke to my heart and mind. May it do the same for yours.

 

No black person should be trying to nurse my white fragility, or be responsible for weaning me of racism or helping me to get over it.

Racism is a nasty, entrenched system that no white individual can change. Black people do not need white people to take up their cause. So, with that sobering knowledge, why bother to fight? The answer is that we need to tackle racism because it offends us. Racism offends me, yet it is enormously difficult to face up to the full depth of racism, from aberration and insult right through the entire construct up to and including the subliminal. This is where my fragility resides, because I cannot always muster brutal honesty about myself, my privilege and my society. I have met hostility and rejection from other whites when I just begin to scratch the surface. I have also sensed rejection from some black people who feel no need for my affinity.

At the heart of white fragility there are feelings of guilt and revulsion at being associated with the ugly creature that racism is, yet there are also feelings of wanting to belong but not easily fitting in, especially among loved ones. In my community I have some status, but when I reject whiteness, I am no longer able to offer myself in any leadership role, and I realize that near the front is where I am used to being.  Even going through all these difficulties, I do not know what it’s like to be a black person. I must listen instead of speaking, and be humble. This is a new role.

I begin to have an understanding of how courageous Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Denis Goldberg and the many other whites who thoroughly rejected whiteness had to be. Real anti-racism within the white arena is not for sissies. Most of us end up tinkering around the edges, in turn accepting and rejecting racism and whiteness. Challenges inevitably come from defensive or unapologetic racists or from impatient blacks. Then our response is to display huge anguish, or to take deep offence. Our white fragility demands that black people should love and accept us, and go easy on us, but the truth is it is not the job of black people to offer us a middle road – or a cushion.

Our white fragility desperately wants recognition for our efforts, but we have to grow up. We should all be anti-racist from within ourselves, for ourselves, and for the world we live in. It’s not something good that I am doing for another person who is black – that is just superiority kicking in. The mistaken desire for approval is the source of the false idea of reverse racism. It blinds us to where we are going wrong, and our bewilderment is an illustration of white fragility.

Tariq knows a young white man who is married to a black woman and who is a proud dad. When he gets upset hearing white people being criticised, Tariq asks him why he feels the need to defend them. He once answered that he looked like them, he was white. “Hans,” Tariq replied, “just think about it. You have started down a different road. Do you really define yourself as “white” and do you have to defend “whiteness”? You can’t do anything about your European cultural heritage, but that is not the same as an affinity with the so-called white race and its superiority. Go and think about it and be proud in yourself that you are trying to walk down a difficult road. Nobody is going to help you or cheer you on. You are doing this for yourself and for your family – and you are going to be challenged all round. Do this for yourself, because it’s right, and don’t expect a medal. Give yourself the right to challenge whiteness, and when you get shit back then you will find that you too will speak the language of anti-whiteness. Ditch the fragility, mate.”

So there we have it. That’s what I have to do with my fragility, just ditch it. I do not belong to the white “race” which is in any case a doubtful construct. I can liberate my mind. What Bob Marley sang is true for us as well, “None but ourselves can free our minds.”  I belong only to the human race.

To my braaiing Bro

On Freedom Day

Braai.jpg

So, I spent Freedom Day 2018 writing this. After all, I wasn’t invited to a braai and I wasn’t giving one, although I do love a braai as much as the next woman. I also love my friends and family, which is what makes it hard to write what I have to say, although some of them will, thank God, agree with me.

A public holiday – that’s great. It’s called Freedom Day. Yawn. Didn’t it use to be called something else? Let’s braai!

This is an example of white ignorance, because most people of colour know more about the day than whites do. If you feel indignant at my allegation of ignorance, I’m glad, because it means you know very well that it commemorates the day in 1994 when South Africa had its first democratic elections. That’s twenty-four years ago. It’s no big deal, because not much changed for us whites.  People who say that we are now discriminated against in some kind of reverse racism are simply wrong. They believe this sincerely, but it is actually a reaction to their loss of absolute power and privilege. Yet the privilege persists in a hundred ways.

For example, the “annual household income for blacks stood at an average of R92,893 compared with R444,446 for whites, according to Statistics South Africa’s Living Conditions Survey, conducted once every five years.”

https://www.enca.com/south-africa/whites-still-earn-more-than-blacks-stats-sa

It is still easier for a white man to find a job than for a black man – much easier, according to research.

“While many whites decry BEE as enemy number one when it comes to blocking career progression, the EEC’s data shows this to be false.”

Graph

https://businesstech.co.za/news/business/121632/these-4-graphs-will-change-your-thinking-on-employment-in-sa/

Take a look at that and then remind yourself that we are 8% of the population and black people are 80%.

Yep because we have always been free, and taken it for granted as our right, we often perceive efforts to extend these rights to others as threatening and unfair, and we encourage one another to buy into this with complaints about imagined losses. I find I need to be brave to think about this. It’s tough to admit and tougher to correct, but we need to change our discourse, and those jokes we tell at braais.

What about those who have not always been free? Well, I guess they have grown accustomed to the rights of movement – without passes, of association with friends of their own choice, and of voting. But look around. Have they become used to driving better cars – yes, a handful… Have they become used to filling up a trolley with groceries? Observe who does that next time you are out buying your boerewors and lamb chops. Are you used to being treated fairly and respectfully? Do you think people of colour are? Just read the news…Did you see the one about the white guys assaulting a homeless man who was showering in Sea Point? They mockingly took selfies with him.

And talking about Cape Town, I wonder whether they will continue to uproot old inhabitants from Sea Point, Woodstock, Wynberg, Salt River and have them, to all intents and purposes, banished from their city? Look at the size of the “townships” and look at their populations, and then hang your head. For example, Masiphumelele covers 0.45 km ²/110 acres and houses about half of the population of the far south. The other half lives from Muizenberg down to Cape Point.

Well, they live there because they’re poor, and they’re poor because they are lazier and stupider than we are. Let’s be honest – that is the spoken or unspoken sub-text for white people. Now the interesting thing about poverty is that it makes you look lazy and stupid. I taught English in South Korea for ten years. It’s a flourishing country, the eleventh largest economy in the world. Yet, after the devastation of the Korean War, a State Department report warned that the South Koreans would always be dependent on the US because they were incapable of becoming truly independent!

Yet we often insist that we worked hard for what we have. And we often did. I did. But if hard work were the one requirement for success, black women would probably be the richest people in our country, and not the poorest. Think about how many of them get up at four and five o’clock to take public transport to their jobs, and return home late to start cooking, cleaning and caring there…

We have had generations of exposure to invisible education. You rode in a car with your grandparents, learning about driving just from observing and listening, usually effortlessly. The same goes for dinner talk; we absorbed facts about our world from geography to economics because our parents had a good education. And our visible education was disproportionately and shamelessly subsidised. On the other hand, many people of colour have suffered generations of deprivation of stimulation, not to mention poor nourishment and poor education.

And we did that. We passed laws, long before apartheid, but especially during apartheid, specifically discriminating against people of colour. These laws were brutally enforced, and dictated where they were allowed to live (usually far from the national and the city hubs), where they were allowed to look for work, which jobs would be blocked to them and reserved for whites, which (vastly inferior) schools they were allowed to attend. Yes, we did that, and more. Not you and I personally, but whites, and you and I personally benefitted from it.

So, what now? The first challenge we face is to make our privilege visible to ourselves. And by the way, whites all over the world need to do this, not just South Africans. It is a fact that the white club is international, but it will not last forever; these clubs never do. A big part of this is to realize that whites are not superior. The one race, the human race, produces outstanding individuals in any and every group, and if the whites seem to predominate it is because they have been advantaged for so long. Remember when people said that people of colour were incapable of playing rugby? Of playing golf or tennis? The academic achievements of people of colour against the odds are impressive indeed. Start observing them. We have so much to learn, and as we learn, we will find we modify our behaviour, our everyday responses, and start to work for a more just society.

But what’s in it for us? This is the best part – we have far more to gain than to lose. When access to decent living is granted to everyone, when resources are fairly distributed, we will live in an open, happier society where we need not fear one another. We have a long way to go, but it can be achieved, and South Africa can still become a rainbow nation for the world to be proud of.

Living Artistically

Daily Diversity Story 6

Living Artistically

Everyone in the Far South loves Michael’s story. How his artworks in sand were admired, and how angry people were when the police hounded him off the beach because he had a hat on the sand, hoping for donations. They said he needed a permit to do that.

There was an outcry on social media, and good people were galvanised into action. They got him a permit. Now he has his station in front of the Galley restaurant, and creates something different almost every day. He is self-taught, and has been doing this all this life, starting in the Eastern Cape. What talent he has, portraying wildlife of every kind, portraits, emblems to celebrate Fish Hoek’s centenary, even political satire.

When I was there the other morning, I asked if I could come into his enclosure for a photo with him. His friend took my phone and started snapping pictures while Michael helped me down the slope. There, he gave me a spade so that I could pretend I was also building artworks – such fun! An experience well worth the R100 tip, and I have the photos forever.

He’s up against the perennial problem of the artist – how to make a living. His art enriches our lives, and insofar as the passing public rewards him, we are also creating art, making living an art.

Below is something the humble Mr. Myekwa said (from The People’s Post this week).

Ps' Post

Really, Theresa and Trump?

Photos for my articleSo the talk about land expropriation without compensation in South Africa has prompted responses from Western countries. Their indignation is really interesting, even amusing. They quote international law and are outraged at the immorality of the idea. Because at this stage, that’s all it is – an idea, a principle that has been agreed upon. There are no detailed policy statements yet, except that President Cyril Ramaphosa did assure the nation that it would not involve “smash and grab tactics.” Yet many a white homeowner has responded by apparently believing that his house will be taken away. What paranoia!  Does it perhaps originate in that often subconscious phenomenon of white guilt?

The President also stated that it would be implemented in ways that would not damage the economy. Random expropriation would damage it enormously – imagine the capital flight alone. He also said that it would increase agricultural production. Smaller producers are likely to provide more organic foods, as well as competition for conglomerates. Farms will not collapse. President Ramaphosa also assured us that it would improve food security. You can’t do that without keeping all your farmers happy. Let’s give him a chance, because it is clearly quite wrong that private black individuals own only about 7% of land in South Africa. Already, the joint Constitutional Review Committee has said it will embark on an extensive public participation process in planning expropriation.

I suppose it is the “without compensation” phrase that disturbs people most. It does sound radical and scary, but it is only one of the methods for redistributing land, not the only one! Given the assurances, I don’t believe for a minute that land is to be taken on any significant scale. Surely, it will be in extreme cases where all negotiations break down through lack of good faith, or the impossibility of tracking down the owner, for instance.

However, the real cause of my amazement is that this is an old Western and South African habit. Why this new reaction? It was used from the first year when Van Riebeeck started elbowing Autshumao out of //Hui !Gaeb, where Cape Town now stands. Autshumao, nicknamed Harry, had established a business providing food and water to passing ships for decades. Autshumao was not a nomad, nor some pathetic Strandloper, but a cultivated leader who spoke fluent English – having been abducted to England in 1630 – as well as Dutch. His attempts to hold onto a share of the enterprise he began were politically astute, but no match for the ruthless Dutch with their guns. It is his statue that should be standing on the foreshore.

In the nineteenth century, settlers claimed that blacks were overcrowding their land and did not farm productively. They wanted the land taken away and given to them, and increasingly, this is what happened. 1n 1894, with Cecil John Rhodes as the chief draftsman, the Glen Grey Act was passed. It annexed the whole Transkei and Pondoland and declared how much land each African was entitled to, creating the first townships. The happy conclusion, said the law-makers, was that many black people would be forced into labour.

In that case, Britain supplied the leadership, not the indignation.

The trend continued, and in 1907 a group of Basotho chiefs went to London to ask for assistance, and before the notorious 1913 Land Act was passed, a deputation of five men went again, to beg for intervention. Their pleas were ignored. One of them was the quiet, kind, cultivated Sol T. Plaatje, who was fluent in eight languages. In 1919 the supplicants were back, at the Versailles Peace Conference, yet the expropriation without compensation was permitted to continue on a ferocious scale. So I’m afraid Europe’s current outcry also looks hypocritical.

Yet more legislation followed. In 1932, the Native Service Contracts Act reduced many share croppers to tenant labourers. There were separate laws aimed specifically at forbidding Indian people from owning or occupying land in “white areas.” Altogether, there were nine separate laws* before apartheid that dispossessed black people without compensation.

There was no perceptible outcry among Western nations.

Then Apartheid brought the preposterous idea of Bantustans and forced removals, among other horrors…

Everyone knows that the nice family in their house in a white area did not directly take a home from the man sleeping under the bridge near the beach. They paid for their house and are budgeting to pay off their mortgage. Yet we are all complicit. That’s why it’s complicated and why we need to wait to see what provisions are going to be made. So Theresa and Trump, don’t worry, this time the expropriation will be mild and limited compared to what you condoned in the past, tacitly or overtly.

The truth is, that homeless man doesn’t even want to dispossess anyone. He wants a roof over his head. In Cape Town, there is plenty of dispossession still going on, and no expropriation of white property. Quite the opposite, when one considers the evictees from all over the inner city living in the desolate Blikkiesdorp and Wolwerivier.  The tide hasn’t even turned yet; it’s just slowed down.

Agricultural land is is a complex issue. Many enlightened farmers have already started sharing their land and offering support to their new neighbours with equipment and experience. A new black farmer, whose family has been landless for generations, will naturally need training and support, or he will just be obliged to sell his land back to a white farmer in the end. That fact must be accommodated in the plans to be made.

In the question of urban land, of course Cape Town must become an integrated city, with fixed rental properties for people who have been impoverished. I for one want to have Cape people in Cape Town. I don’t want my city to become an exclusive playground for the wealthy and for foreigners – they can join us and appreciate the wonderful diversity of our population. Townships have been neglected for an indefensible time, and need to be upgraded to proper suburbs in their own right.

Autshumao arranged a place in Van Riebeeck’s fort for his niece, Krotoa, hoping to get inside information from her as he negotiated the future of the Goringhaicona. No doubt she supplied him with some intelligence, bright linguist that she was. But her life was unhappy, and ended when she was just 32. She had married a Danish surgeon, and left altogether eight children by white men. Her descendants number thousands of South Africans, including Paul Kruger, Jan Smuts and FW de Klerk.

Attempted land invasions in Zwelihle, Hermanus, and elswhere are not, as right-wingers are saying, proof that the barbarians are coming, but proof that our fellow citizens’ patience has been tried to breaking point. It is past time that we, along with Theresa and Trump, come down on the right side of history.

*- The Glen Grey act of 1894
– The Native Land Act 27 – 1913
– The Rural Dealers Licensing Act of 1922.
– The Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure of 1930.
– The Riotous Assemblies Act 19 – 1930.
– The Asiatic Immigration Amendment Act of 1931.
– The Native Service Contracts Act of 1932.
– The Slums Act of 1934.
– The Development Trust and Land Act of 1936 (Act 18)

So, one fight more…                              Diversity Story 5

Stones

I did it again today. Oh no, don’t congratulate me. It was so easy.

There was a very thin, very dark man outside my bank in Fish Hoek. He had his goods displayed on a low wall at the entrance: stones, seeds and a small framed picture. There were about fifty ordinary little stones, selected for their pretty shape. The seeds were from the coral tree: plump and red with a black heart just peeping out. The faded picture was of a pretty garden path.

Why does no one stop? This man is as invisible to them as their own privilege. I think this blindness is a protection, because to look at his pathetic goods is to have your heart broken. Then he says, “I’m doing my best, Mama.” So like a Mama I ask him where he picked up the seeds, and say how beautiful they are. I tell him that I don’t want to buy anything today, but I want to give him a donation for good luck. His face melts with gratitude and lights up as he takes R20 from me. R20 – not enough for one of the cappuccinos I love. I used to think, along with thousands of others, that I couldn’t afford such a “big” tip, but I have repeatedly proved to myself that I can. R20 makes no difference to my well-being today, but it helps him, makes a big difference to him.

When I come out of the bank a while later, he places his hands in the traditional thank you position and bows slightly. Sweet Lord, forgive me. R20. I have to face it: this is cowardice. This is a feel-good escape. It’s not that I will stop doing it; it’s that it’s not nearly enough, and I don’t mean just the amount of money.

The battle is against systemic racism, and I have not engaged it head-on. Yes, my friends tell me that my actions, my example make a difference, but that too is a cop-out. I have to take my fight to where it won’t feel nearly so good. To the man in the hotel lounge, spouting a racist joke; to my own neighbourhood watch WhatsApp group; to facebook comments and bank queues…

“I was ever a fighter, so—one fight more, The best and the last!”
[from Prospice, Robert Browning]