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Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy Essay

Racial Discrimination, has already been a long term phenomenon, in existent in almost all societies in different eras and civilization. The idea of discrimination is inevitable. Considering that such discrimination creates social structure as regards what is expected of everybody in a society and what is due to them. However, sometimes this social structure is abused, beyond its limit. People who belong to a higher status quo would definitely do whatever it takes to keep it.

To illustrate, colonizers who had way better technology, combat powers and knowledge as compared to areas being colonized, would come to these new conquests are superiors. They would then take the locals as slaves and ravish on the wealth that they have to offer. In their own place, these locals become discriminated and unwanted. In return, locals would do whatever it takes to associate themselves with the colonizers, by looking like them, being friends with them, working for them, or marrying people of their kind.

And it always seems that it is the right thing to do. When the British came to South Africa, this is exactly what happened. Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy, tells a real story of a man who chose to fight a different battle to combat discrimination and inequality. While most of his relatives act as freedom fighters, he came to America to educate himself and to excel in a sport he loves. His success has given so much inspiration. His story as depicted in his book will take us with him as he reveals the horrors of his past.

Mark Mathabane lived in a country, wherein racial divide, for most of its early years seemed to be the only thing that defines them. South Africa, a country nestled in the continent of Africa, was once invaded by white colonizers too. And they have proven that they came there to stay. In a country such as South Africa, a nation so unique as compared to other nations in the African continent. South Africa can be considered as diverse in a special way, because it is the only African country that has Caucasians as locals.

Originally dominated by black Americans, South Africa is now a melting pot of two cultures. Analysis It had never occurred to me that though the two were different as night and day, as separate as east and -west, they had everything to do with each other; that one could not be without the other (94) This statement from Johannes best explains the struggles of Mathabane. In summary it explains how the two dominant races in South Africa has tried to isolate each group against each other, by means of creating physical division such as creating boundaries and naming certain places as black or white territory.

Whites are in a way regarded more superior because they are more literate as well. The government also used formal means to strengthen the divide by creating laws such as prohibiting mix marriages, and creating policies in the education system that seems to favor a specific race. Overall, it was almost the generally accepted norm, to- categorize, discriminate. Kaffir Boy, is a tale about Mark Mathabane’s life growing up in South Africa, just outside of Johannesburg. Mark Mathabane lives in the town of Alexandra during industrial colonialism period with his parents, five sisters and a brother.

He talks about how he experienced brutality and starvation from the Peri Urban, an Apartheid police group in South Africa. Growing up very poor, he dreamt of having a better life for him and his family. He often questioned the prejudices happening around him and has decided to take the course of his destiny in his own hands. As a young boy, he struggled with his identity. He wonders which religion he should practice, which country or class he should belong. There is so much craving for autonomy that at a young age he began resenting his parents’ religious and tribal heritage and eventually decided to leave Africa.

Believing that religion, specifically Christianity was used wrongfully by different groups and races, he eventually rejected it. He believes that government used it to claim that God had given whites the divine right to rule over blacks; the black churches misused it by demanding money from Africans who were already destitute; and black churches further misused it by resigning themselves to the idea that this was their “lot” in life, God’s will for black men and women (36). Mathabane also recalled how apartheid made use of tribalism as form of torture against Africans.

He believes that his father, allowed himself to be controlled by superstitions, Relatively mature for his age, he reiterates his independence by doing what he pleases with his life. For Mathabane, the Christian God is bias in favor of the whites and is oblivious to the African’s pain. Although he recognizes its legitimacy as sign of respect for her mother’s faith, he still rejects it the way he rejects tribalism and African superstition. For him, submitting to any specific belief or religion is synonymous with compromising his free will. In page 208 of the book he further on states African “superstition” and tribal culture were not for him.

His scorn for his father lay in the fact that his father clung to values which had “outlived” their “usefulness,” values which discriminated against him while he attempted to function within the white man’s world (208). “What Mathabane did accept, though it took some trial and error, was his mother’s understanding that education would lead him to a better life. Learning English, he decided, was the “crucial key” to unlocking the doors of the white world (193). The books that white people read led to the “power” they had over black people (254). Mathabane eventually decided that literacy was a necessary element in the liberation struggle.

How can the illiterate function, he wondered, in a world ruled by signs (201) Books had taught him about places where he could be “free to think and feel the way I want, instead of the way apartheid wants” (254). He then realizes that he needs to make important decisions in order to make his dreams come true. Thinking that South Africa has nothing much to offer, at least for a poor black African boy like him, he decided to try his luck with American Universities. As he begins to plot his future, his tennis abilities begin to progress faster and better.

Being an avid fan of Arthur Ashe, he takes his wins and losses as if his own. The achievements of his “idol” encourages him to do better every single day. From black state competitions, he started joining the more prestigious white state competitions. His participation in white state competitions led to his banning from joining black state competitions. At this point, he feels as if his progress in his craft takes him away from the things he loved the most. Luckily, Mark later on leaves for the United States as a university scholar, through the help of a famous American tennis player and other white donors.

Conclusion “Deep within me,I knew that I could never really leave South Africa or Alexandra. I was Alexandra, I was South Africa… ” (348). This goes to show that despite of all the successes, the author looks back in his roots. At first, his move out of Africa was just his way of “escaping” the endless circle of failed dreams and lack of opportunities. But his absence in his country makes him reaffirm his identity, and gives him the opportunity, to finally appreciate what his past has to offer for his present and for his future.

This book tells a very dark story filled with pain, sadness and loneliness on most of its chapters, but it also provides a strong foundation for the readers to further understand the plight of the narrator. The journey he took was not only of hope, but rather, a journey of rediscovery. How can the illiterate function, he wondered, in a world ruled by signs (201)? The books had taught him and transported him to places where he could be “free to think and feel the way I want, instead of the way apartheid wants” (254). Why burn the only thing that taught one to believe in the future, to fight for one’s right to live in freedom and dignity?

” (285). Here reaffirms his conclusion as we experiences Soweto riots, which was triggered by resentment over the government’s ruling that African education system be taught it Afrikaans instead of English. Upon witnessing the library burn down he inquired for enlightenment from one of his peers, who mentioned that the burning is for the destruction of all the traces of white oppression in the Bantu Education system. The struggles in his youth, leads him to think that literacy is the key to success. by learning English, he will be given better opportunities, the same as the whites.

According to the author, literacy has given the whites so much edge and power over the black Africans. Having an education will somehow even out the playing field. Literacy for Mathabane is so important, that for him this will eventually lead them to be liberated from all their struggles. In the end, we really have no control over our government, over the people around us, and over norms and traditions we grew up with. But we do have full control over our perspective, our feelings and destiny. And this is precisely what Mathabane did. He took charge of his own future.

This book inspires me to examine the choices I have made as a young person, at the same time, it makes me wonder whether the previous steps I have taken in life will take me closer to my aspirations or take me farther. But then, it makes me think deeper not just about my ambitions, but what I really want to contribute to my society in the end. This book serves as a wake up call. In a society wherein we are given so much opportunity, it seems as if we are left with no excuses not to excel. Reference: Mark Mathabane, 1998, Kaffir Boy, Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group


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