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Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by Mark Mathabane

Race Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

…more than 90 percent of white South Africans go through a lifetime without seeing firsthand the inhuman conditions under which blacks have to survive.

Yet the white man of South Africa claims to the rest of the world that he knows what is good for black people and what it takes for a black child to grow up to adulthood. He vaunts aloud that "his blacks" in South Africa are well fed and materially better off under the chains of apartheid than their liberated brothers and sisters in the rest of Africa. But, in truth, these claims and boasts are hollow.

The white man of South Africa certainly does not know me. He certainly does not know the conditions under which I was born and had to live for eighteen years. (1.2-4).

Mark begins Kaffir Boy by commenting on how important race was in South Africa. Society was constructed around the rigid concept of race, and the practice of keeping races separate. Thus, white society claimed its blacks were "happy," and had no idea of the reality of black life under apartheid.

Quote #2

"What's a pass, Mama?" I knew vaguely what a pass was, but not its reality.

"It's an important book that we black people must have in order always, and carry with us at all times."…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. (6.17-18)

Without the pass, a black man or woman couldn't find a job, legally live anywhere in the black designated urban areas, or move from one place to another without fear of arrest.

Quote #3

Continuing, the old woman, in a hoary voice, said, "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 meat."

"They eat well, them white people," said an old man nearby. "Yes sir, they eat well."

"They have everything," a jet-black woman said in a shrill voice, "and we have nothing." (7.26-28).

There is a strong contrast between the lives that whites lead and the lives that blacks lead. This is a contrast of which blacks are fully aware, given their proximity to white lives through their jobs as servants and gardeners. The fact that blacks are aware of the difference is also a contrast to whites, who don't know how blacks live.

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