Sunday, January 10, 2016


Today I read Bessie Head's short 1971 novel Maru dealing with racism in Botswana by blacks against what are referred to in the book as Masarwa.  I think most English speakers are more familiar with the term Khoisan which refers to the the larger language group to which their indigenous tongue belongs. Even more common is the term "bushman" which is evidently considered highly derogatory. At any rate it was quite interesting. The final paragraph to the book is quoted below.

People like the Batswana, who did not know that the wind of freedom had also reached people of the Masarwa tribe, were in for an unpleasant surprise because it would be no longer possible to treat Masarwa people in an inhuman way without getting killed yourself.
Perhaps what is most interesting is that no white liberal or leftists in 1971 or even today for that matter can recognize even the possibility of black racism anywhere. But, Bessie Head, a South African born of a white mother and a black father and exiled to Botswana instantly saw the similarities between the Batswana treatment of the Masarwa and the situation in the country of her birth. To her it was obvious.

1 comment:

Leo Tolstoy said...

Kurt Vonnegut makes a reference to African racism in "Breakfast of Champions":

The intern did not know her. He had been in Midland City for only a week. He wasn't
even a fellow-American, although he had taken his medical degree at Harvard. He was
an Indaro. He was a Nigerian. His name was Cyprian Ukwende. He felt no kinship with
Mary or with any American blacks. He felt kinship only with Indaros.