Apartheid In The Novel, Kaffir Boy Essay, Research Paper
The horrors of Apartheid were not clearly explained or talked about openly by whites during 1960. No one but the black South Africans living in the hell could understand the pain and torture it brought. It was not as if the whites were trying to completely suffocate the results of their self- interest laws, yet they could not and would not fully uncover and tell the true ways of Apartheid. Apartheid was more than the laws that were passed. It was a way of life for every black South African that they constantly lived in fear of the next police raid. Trying desperately to survive with the meager rations of food they could scrounge at the local trash dump. The novel Kaffir Boy, written by Mark Mathabane, is a very controversial book looking at the realities of Apartheid?s effect on the average family in South Africa. He writes first hand accounts of the horrors and shows how he was affected both emotionally by the torture of all the laws created by the whites.
To escape the horrible realities of Apartheid was every black South African?s dream. To step aboard an airplane leaving their home country where they were belittled and suppressed everyday of their lives was the silent wish of every black South African. Apartheid was not the only apparatus that was making their lives hell, but also the belittlement and attitudes the whites held strongly against them. Living in South Africa at this time with even the slightest hint of black on your skin, you were treated as non-humans or even animals. There were many experiences in Mark Mathabane?s life that he can clearly remember were either he or his family were degraded to feel insufficient and in-human. The worst of all accounts for him had to be when he witnessed his father?s manhood stripped from him right before his very eyes. He recalls this police raid clearly, “He lowered his bony head and buried it in the palms of his gnarled hands; and at that moment he seemed to age a thousand years, a pitiful sight. The policeman playfully prodded my father?s penis with a truncheon” (Mathabane 21). All because his father did not have enough money to pay his poll tax, his punishment, so severe, as taking away the most important thing in life, his manhood. Not only was Mark?s father stripped of his manhood, but Mark and many other children during this time where deprived of a childhood. Mark and the other children were left in charge of caring for younger brothers and sisters while their parents ran from the police or tried desperately to find jobs. Mark also had to help his parents hide when the police came in search of passes. He had to take beating after beating trying to save his parents from jail. From the earliest of age, Mark began to resent and detest all whites and the black police officers from tribal home lands that took the sides of whites. He explains this hatred, “For the first time in my life I felt hate and anger rage with furious intensity inside me” (22). The hate and anger did not stop there for Mathabane, but continually grew inside him, quietly, for he had no power to fight back. The humiliation of Whites vs. Blacks continued everyday of Mark?s life.
Mortification did not stop at older whites belittling Mark, but he even encountered humiliation and degradation through whites that were his own age. His first glance at the white world is when Granny had taken him to the Smith?s house. Mrs. Smith had a younger son, Clyde, and Granny had reminded him only to speak when spoken to and call them all, including Clyde, baas. Mark was bewildered that a boy his own age could have so much when he and his family have so little. Mark?s conversation with Clyde reconfirmed his feeling of anger toward whites. Clyde explains his ideas about black people, “My teachers tell us that Kaffirs can?t read, speak or write English like white people because they have smaller brains, which are already full of tribal things. My teachers say you?re not people like us, because you belong to a jungle civilization. That?s why you can?t live or go to school with us, but can only be our servants” (192). Whites thought of blacks only as animals so they even gave them food fit for animals. One memory of Mark?s was told by an old women, “I worked for a madam a long time ago, when my papers were still in order, who had three refrigerators all stacked with food. And no children. And she would always throw away packages of meat because they were a day old. When I asked her to give them to me, she would reply, ?I buy you meat, girlie, is that not enough?? And the meat she was talking about was dog?s meat” (46). The rest of Mark?s life in South Africa was filled with the belittlement and humiliation given by white people and received by blacks. This life of humiliation was hard to overcome and move on to a life that was better. Most South African?s were stuck in this cage their whole lives and had no means of escaping. Mark, however, was a fortunate one that found he had a talent and used this talent as a means of escaping.
Even if black South African?s have a dream of escaping the tragedies of Apartheid and making a better life for their families, this dream is severely crushed by the many laws and regulations placed by the whites to confine the blacks to a life of treachery, poverty, and humiliation. Without the precious document, called a pass book, blacks were unable to move about the white world. They were confined to the filthy townships making it almost impossible to find a decent job and means to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of their families. Their lives were a vicious cycle of running from police raids checking the books and trying to get their passes in order. A pass was almost unattainable and never completely in order. Blacks had to produce the right documents to the right people, who were always white and could deny the pass for any simple reason. The law of passes which contained the identity of every black was another form of suppression created by the whites. Mark?s mother explains the importance of pass books, “It?s an important book that we black people must have in order always, and carry with us at all times” (36). When Mark saw a pass book for the first time his reaction was of astonishment, “I remembered seeing the book; in fact, I remembered seeing it many times; and yet, each time I saw it, it appeared dreadfully new. There was something about it which made me fearful, helpless. But I could not figure out what about it made me feel that way. It seemed a mere book. Yet it was, I was to later find out, the black man?s passport to existence” (36). He came to understand what the pass book represented to him, as he explains, “And it was the pass laws that, in those not so long days of my childhood and youth, first awakened me to the realities of life as a Kaffir boy in South Africa? (5). The complication of the pass book did not end at getting one. Blacks had to continually keep them in order and at any time they could be asked or forced to produce their books. If anything was out of place and usually the whites checking the book could find an error in the paper work, they were arrested and sent away to do hard labor. The pain flowed deeper than being arrested. Most of the men were working to support their families and when they were arrested not only were the men affected by not having a job and making money, but also their families, who had no means of making enough money to put food on the table. When Mark?s father was arrested for being unemployed because he could not maintain his passbook, their lives were sharply worsened from poverty to beggary. Mark recalls the suffering his family was subjected to, “To prevent us from starving and to maintain a roof over our heads, my mother began running around the townships soliciting money with which to pay the rent and to buy food, but very little came of it. A few people tried to help; but in the main, black people were burdened with their own survival. When it seemed that no help was forthcoming, we resigned ourselves to the inevitable: eviction and starvation” (43). The whites had already made life for the blacks miserable and almost intolerable, but they seem to find other ways to worsen their situation. Life with a low paying job was bad enough, but with no job, Mark?s family had to scrounge through white mans trash to find salvageable food to eat and repairable clothing. Apartheid and the pass laws not only hurt the families of the men arrested, but they also damaged the life of the men of the family. Mark recalls the day his father returns from the prison, “My father walked in one afternoon, like a spook out of one of my mother?s tales. After almost a year in prison, he was so changed that I hardly knew him. He had grown thinner, his body more bent, his skin blacker and coarse, his cheeks more hollow, his eyes so outward it seemed they were attempting to force their way out of the sockets: they seemed those of a man who had been through hell. And he was an embittered man. His attitude seemed that of a black man being changed into a brute” (49). Mark?s father changed so much on his year vacation to the prison that Mark could not recognize him and also he grew to fear him because his out look on life turned very bleak. The pass laws were passed by the whites as another form of suppression and another method of destroying their lives. It allowed the whites to hold the keys and to keep the blacks under control in their white world and only allow the blacks out of their cages when they want.
Similar in design to the pass law, under Apartheid, the whites created a law that could regulate and control who was able to live in each township. This law was created to keep out all undesirable people such as, ” Gangsters, prostitutes, black families living illegally in the townships, shebeen owners and those persons deemed undesirables” (16). This law could also control where blacks, Indians, and coloreds where able to live in the townships. The separation of races helped to keep all non-whites under control and not powerful enough to rise against the whites. This law also prevent black South African?s who lived on tribal lands to move into the townships, even though they were starving to death and had no means of making money. Families of men who lived in townships were usually not allowed to live as a family, but the wives and children had to remain on the tribal land and wait for money and clothing to arrive. For example, Mark had meet a man in this situation, “Phineas was one of thousands of black migrant workers in Alexandra forced to live hundreds of miles from their families because of Influx Control laws, which discouraged black family life in what the government called ?white South Africa?. In the townships, no other group lived as unnaturally as the migrant workers. Housed mostly in sterile single-sex barracks, they were prey to prostitution, alcoholism, robbery and senseless violence?” (181). The white people in South Africa had the control to keep families separated from each other and keep them living in filthy conditions fit for dogs. In addition to where a person could live, The Influx Control Law, also regulated were a black man or woman could find employment, which was already rare. It stated, “That blacks could not seek employment in cities other than those they lived in; if you lived in Johannesburg, you had to be employed in Johannesburg; to work in Pretoria you had to get a special permit which was rarely granted” (330). The whites had already made it almost impossible for the blacks to get jobs because of pass books, but they added this law to make it even harder and make it easier for the whites to keep total control of the black South Africans.
Tribalism is a major threat for the survival of the black South Africans. They have many traditions that may suit them on the tribal reserves but don?t work in the more modern, white world. For example, as mentioned earlier Mark?s fathers manhood was stripped from him because he would not run or hide from the police. Thribal men refused to run from other men as Mark explains, “Until one day I heard talk among the womenfolk that the real reason why their husbands refused to run away was that they considered it cowardly and unmanly to run away from other men” (29). Not only did the idea of manhood hinder black South African?s success in the white world, but also other tribalistic traditions. Mark?s father does not agree with schooling. He does not think an education is important for a young man. Mark?s mother persuades Mark to go to school by telling him the inadequacies of his father because he did not attend school, ” That?s why he?s doing some of the bad things he?s doing. Things like drinking, gambling and neglecting his family. He didn?t learn how to read and write; therefore, he can?t find a decent job. Lack of any education has narrowly focused his life. He still thinks in the old, tribal ways, and still believes that things should be as they were back in the old days”?(133). Without schooling, tribal beliefs would not have gotten Mark a decent job or a chance for freedom that he gained through school. Not only did the tribal and religious beliefs of backs hurt them, but also the white?s belief in Christianity. Christianity was an excuse to suppress the blacks and treat them in an inhumane way. They could kill as many blacks they wanted and be forgiven for their sins by their white God. The whites denounced the tribal religion and preached to the blacks that the Christian God was the only true God. They use their religion to suppress the blacks yet they wanted them to join it. Christianity is a terrible evil toward blacks. Even Mrs. Smith agrees that Christianity is evil toward blacks, ” Yes, I do believe in the Bible. That?s why I cannot accept the laws of this country. We white people are hypocrites. We call ourselves Christians, yet our deeds make the Devil look like a saint” (190). Mark cannot understand how he could join a religion where the God would not save the black race from the persecution of the whites. He voices his concerns about Christianity, ” Any God who?ll forgive white people?s sins is as mad as you are, mfundisi” (219). Whites use tribal religion and traditions along with their white Christianity as one of the many tools of suppression.
Starting in 1960 Apartheid became a horrid way of life for all black South Africans. The whites had hostility taken over the country and locked the blacks in filthy townships, as animals. The whites had entitled themselves to govern over and regulate all black movement. They had taken control of the blacks and did not want them to become united and take their country back. While the only wish of the blacks was to gain their freedom and live peacefully and equally among the white race. But, Apartheid and its laws hurt blacks both emotionally and physically. The blacks had a bad way of life at the beginning, but the whites never seemed to stop adding more regulations and degradation into their already appalling life.