“Immigration, Immigration” Part 1 | Audacity.

Writing and feature visual by Khensani de Klerk

 Today’s article is derived from an experience that the author encountered.

Prelude.

On lived experience as a criterion of meaning…

“For most African-(American) women those individuals who have lived through the experiences about which they claim to be experts are more believable and credible than those who have merely read or thought about such experience. Thus lived experiences as a criterio for credibility frequently is invoked by U.S. Black women when making knowledge claims” (Collins, 2000)

„Entschuldigung, mein Herr, kann ich Ihnen helfen?“

(German for: sorry sir, can I help you)

…I remember asking the frail old white man on the path on my back route back home.

 

In Zurich many people, regardless of their age, do their groceries by foot. The public transport system serves its purpose and is incredibly convenient. And so, I wasn’t the least shocked to see this old aged magogo walking off the bus with his hands full of groceries, gripping with struggle. I could clearly see this in his tensed arms and wrists. More so, the pace of his walk was extremely slow, and so as a result of me being directly behind him, so was mine. The back route home is a single path, and so I treaded patiently behind him with no rush. I figured that when he would pause for a moment, I would offer some help. We live in adjacent buildings, so I suppose we are neighbours of a sort.

Most people in Zurich, from my experience, are citizenly- not friendly- but general opening-the-door for one another, helping the granny onto the bus, giving way for the lady with the pram- type of citizenly.

As I expected, the man reduced his speed to an eventual halt on the path, moving aside in order for me to pass. How citizenly I thought. I stopped next to him and with good spirits and asked,

 

„Entschuldigung, mein Herr, kann ich Ihnen helfen?“

(German for: sorry sir, can I help you)

 

His first response was a mumble- a very frail one- that I couldn’t quite understand and so decided to switch to English in attempts to continue my quest for helping this man with his pile of groceries.

Sorry, my German isn’t that great – ich spreche ein bis gin (I only speak a little) – could I help you with your groceries? We are heading in the same direction.

Then things twisted. I notice a harsh shift in the mood of our interaction. The man is not as frail and incident as I first perceive him to be.

How do we measure our perception?

He stares at me, looking extremely serious and disappointed.

“Do you have a passport” – he asks sternly.

Surely not.

Surely this is not a logical, appropriate or respectful response?

I stand, staring back in shock – already subconsciously suspecting that I have invested too much energy yet again into fighting, defending or acknowledging discriminatory treatment. I respond by saying,

“Excuse me?” as if I hadn’t heard the correct thing? Which was a response reflexed from my shock.

He continues to look at me with his blatantly uninviting stare.

“If you have a valid passport, you may pass by”, he says very calmly and assertively.

I stand in complete disbelief. My muscles, mind and soul have already exerted too much energy into this response – coiled in my muscles, I can feel it.

“Wow. I was simply trying to help you” I say with confined rage, “OF COURSE I have a passport”

I walk away shaking my head, afraid to give him the middle finger with extreme thoughts of being reported and thinking of who the authorities would side with. I arrive home, feeling alienated, disheartened and angry. Anger is exhausting, and I immediately feel disappointment for losing this energy, which could have been invested in something productive.

I have a little cathartic cry. Call my mum who echoes a phrase she did to me from the age of about 4: “you are black and you are proud. Don’t forget that”

I remember- and I restore myself back to feeling home. We find belonging in each other, not in space.

And then I think,

Swallowing a gulp of grim,

Thinking about driving down Jeppe Street in Jozi, recalling the constant bold type face posters plastered on poles.

Revealing the holes

In our so called continental Ubuntu

Xenophobia runs rife in the city of Gold

I gulp and think of what it feels like to make someone feel this way

Cold.

But we are guilty of this behaviour as South Africans. Coupled with our imposed framework of thinking of separation as our premise of living – I am not truly surprised by this.

Apartheid works on various scales, and wears different clothes across the globe.

Switzerland, oh sweet Switzerland, you’ve been tainted – I think naively to myself.

Neutral? – Were you ever.

Perceived neutrality

I certainly have a passport

I have the right to move.

We all do.

 

I think back to the response I wish I had said.

The response that, poised with rage, would have evoked some sort of productive thought – I would hope.

 

What is the time?

Check your Swiss watch.

Examine the face- gold.

Look carefully.

That gold that once sat with the highest reserve in the 1970s – giving Johanesburg its name…

Egoli – The City of Gold.

Look into the clock face.

Did you have a passport?

To retrieve your perceived worth?

«The Swiss Psychotropic Gold Refining»

Switzerland currently ranks first for country with the highest gold reserves per capita.

Look into the face.

Look back at my face.

Do you have the audacity to ask me if I have a passport?

 

Tick tock.

How do we measure our perception?

We cannot, and it is for this very reason that neutrality doesn’t exist in the dimension of political identity.

Tick tock.

 

Bibliography

  1. Collins, P. H. (2000). Black Feminist Thought. New York: Routledge.
  2. Holmes, F. (2016, May 26). Top 10 Countries With The Largest Gold Reserves. Retrieved April 7, 2018, from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2016/05/26/top-10-countries-with-the-largest-gold-reserves/#2c28f460730a

 

 

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