Study Guide

Kaffir Boy Hate

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The other policeman meantime was still at the doorjamb, reveling at the sight of my father being humiliated. The emotional and physical nakedness of my father somehow made me see him in a different light – he seemed a stranger, a total alien. Watching him made tears surge to my eyes, but I fought desperately to keep them from flowing. I cannot cry, I told myself, I would not cry, I should not cry in front of these black beasts. For the first time in my life I felt hate and anger rage with furious intensity inside me. What I felt was no ordinary hate or anger; it was something much deeper, much darker, frightening, something even I couldn't understand. As I stood there watching, I could feel that hate and anger being branded into my five-year-old mind, branded to remain until I die. (3.82)

Mark's first brush with the police teaches him what it means to be hated and to hate. It will affect him the rest of his life.

He tore me away from my mother and lashed me. She tried to intervene, but my father shoved her aside and promised her the same. I never finished my meal; sobbing, I slunk off to bed, my limbs afire with pain where the rawhide had raised welts. The next day, as I nursed my wounds, while my father was at work, I told my mother that I hated him and promised her I would kill him when I grew up. (5.13)

Trying to teach Mark to abide by Venda traditions and rules, Papa only succeeds in teaching Mark to hate and fear him.

But things didn't get better. If they did, I didn't notice it. Gradually, I came to accept hunger as a constant companion. But this new hunger was different. It filled me with hatred, confusion, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, loneliness, selfishness and a cynical attitude toward people. It seemed to lurk everywhere about and inside me: in the things I touched, in the people I talked to, in the empty pots, in the black children I played with, in the nightmares I dreamt. It even pervaded the air I breathed. At times it was the silent destroyer, creeping in unseen, unrecognized, except when, like a powerful time bomb, it would explode inside my guts. At other times it took the form of a dark, fanged beast, and hovered constantly over my dizzy head, as if about to pounce on me and gouge my guts out with its monstrous talons. (10.58)

Hunger produces hate and anger. The physical has severe ramifications on the emotional.

The ordeal lasted the entire day, at the end of which I seethed with hatred and anger; I wanted to kill somebody. I can't take this degradation anymore, I told myself as I headed for the black bus stop, new passbook in hand: it contained my picture, fingerprints, address, employers address, age, colour of hair and eyes, height, tribal affiliation – it contained every detail of my life necessary for the police to know my life history upon demand, and I was supposed to carry the damn thing with me every hour of the day and night.

But how could we blacks allow whites to do this to us--to degrade us, to trample on our dignity – without fighting back? The fact that for the rest of my life I was doomed to carry the odious thing – a reminder of my inferior station in South African life – filled me with outrage and revived my determination to get to America. (53.98-99)

While trying to get his pass, Mark realizes that every official part of the apartheid system is intended to degrade and oppress blacks. Not surprisingly, he reacts with anger and hatred.

"Those aren't men, boy, that's vermin," the scarfaced man retorted. There was fire in his big bloodshot eyes as he spoke. "That vermin is being brought here to get gold for the white man, boy," he went on, "to make the white bastards fat and rich and powerful and deadly." He paused and took three deep draws from tobacco wrapped in brown paper. "If all these years that vermin hadn't been licking the white man's ass, boy," he went on, making another obscene gesture with several stub fingers in his left hand, at another passing truck, "we would have long had political rights in this country. And I wouldn't be standing here freezing my ass off waiting for the bloody offices to open so that I could have my pass stamped so that I could hunt for a job so that I could feed myself, my wife and my brood so they wouldn't die." His run-on sentences throbbed with anger and hatred. It seemed as if somehow my questions, naïve and unpremeditated though they were, had, nonetheless, provided him with some long-awaited opportunity to vent his pent-up frustrations and bitterness. The way he denounced the blanketed people, and the way the rest of the men around the fire supported what he was saying, made it seem that, somehow, their inability to find work, to earn a living, to have self-respect and dignity, to be real men in the eyes of their wives; in short, the disintegration of their lives, was blameable on the convoys coming into the township. Somehow, in their anger and hatred, I could see traces of my father's anger and hatred. What created men like these? I didn't know. (20.27)

Though Mark doesn't yet know the psychological damage that apartheid does to black men – that it turns them into violent, angry, hateful men – he'll learn soon enough.

I couldn't quite understand why white people would suddenly give a black child things. Out of the goodness of their hearts? No, white people had no hearts – that I had been learning every day of my life. They were to be feared and hated. (29.7)

When Granny's new employers send books back with her to give to her grandson, Mark wonders what ulterior motive they have.

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 township, no other group lived as unnaturally as the migrant workers. Housed mostly in sterile single-sex barracks, they were prey to prostitution, Matanyula [sex with young boys, paid for in food], alcoholism, robbery and senseless violence; they existed under such stress and absorbed so much emotional pain that tears, grief, fear, hope and sadness had become alien to most of them.

Stripped of their manhood, they hated the white man with every fibre of their being. Anger would leap into their eyes each time the words white man were uttered. Rage would heave their chest each time something or someone reminded them that it was the white man who kept their families away from them. Each time I saw that anger and hate, I knew that they felt a pain so deep it could not be expressed; that though they laughed and chaffed with one another, as they tried in vain to drown their sorrows in gourds of liquor, something inside them was slowly dying.

There is a death far worse than physical death, and that is the death of the mind and soul, when, despite toiling night and day, under sweltering heat, torrential rain, blistering winds, you still cannot make enough to clothe, shelter and feed your loved ones, suffering miles away, forcibly separated from you. (29.103-105)

When men cannot provide adequately for their families, it creates anger and rage. In South Africa under apartheid, the fact that so many men couldn't provide for their families provoked justifiable hatred for whites – those who perpetrated the system.

A million times I wondered why the sparse library at my tribal school did not carry books like Treasure Island, why most of the books we read had tribal points of view. I would ask teachers and would be told that under the Bantu Education law black children were supposed to acquire a solid foundation in tribal life, which would prepare them for a productive future in their respective homelands. In this way the dream of Dr. Verwoerd, prime minister of South Africa and the architect of Bantu Education, would be realized, for he insisted that "the native child must be taught subjects which will enable him to work with and among his own people; therefore there is no use misleading him by showing him the green pastures of European society, in which he is not allowed to graze. Bantu education should not be used to create imitation whites."

How I cursed Dr. Verwoerd and his law for prescribing how I should feel and think. (31.3-4).

Mark is angered by the system's broad scope. It has even created a system of education intended to produce inferior blacks, whose only purpose in life is to provide labor for the people in power.

Thus my consciousness was awakened to the pervasiveness of "petty apartheid," and everywhere I went in the white world, I was met by visible and invisible guards of racial segregation. Overtly, the guards---larger-than-life signs that read, European Only, Non-European Only, Whites Only, Non-Whites Only, Slegs Blankes, Slegs Nie-Blankes – greeted me, and led me as a blind man would be led to the door I should enter through, the elevator I should ride in, the water fountain I should drink from, the park bench I should sit on, the bus I should ride in, the lavatory I should piss in.

The invisible guards, however, did not greet me as conspicuously to orient me about my place in life. Instead, remarks such as "You're in the wrong place, Kaffir," "We don't serve your colour here, Kaffir," "Who do you think you are, Kaffir?" "Are you mad, Kaffir" told me it was still the guards of Jim Crow talking. (32.40-41)

The laws of apartheid aren't nearly as problematic as the hate that inspired the system in the first place.

I just didn't want to see the man [Bob Foster, the black American light heavyweight champion of the world.] Why? I had begun to hate him. Since his arrival in the country, he had made various statements that infuriated many black people. Statements like: he was in South Africa only to fight, and not to engage in politics; therefore the press should stop hounding him for comments on apartheid. That he felt South Africa was not such a bad place after all, and he was thinking of someday building a vacation home here. (38.27)

Mark sees Bob Foster's decision to be apolitical as betraying blacks everywhere. Ironically, he later justifies his own decision to spurn the black boycott of white tennis during the South African Breweries' Open because it benefited him. Do you think Mark is doing the very thing he accused Foster of doing?

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