Barotela bo Darkie: The Culture of Peeing on Blacks in White Universities

The Stellenbosch moment provides an image of a gun loaded with pee. A long liquid-like bullet fired on the laptop and study materials of a fellow student. A smelly flood sabotaging the future of a Black student, accurately dramatizing the racist and exclusionary nature of institutions like Stellenbosch. Seeing the white student urinating on 20 year-old Babalo’s student materials felt like a bucket of shit thrown in all Black faces, and all because the young man apparently was not upholding Verwoerdian ‘good-neighbourliness’ by dancing with a female white student. Not long ago, in the #Luister documentary on the exclusionary language policies and practices and the whole anti-black racist shenanigans of Stellenbosch University, dreadlocks were an issue…

The history of this stinky shower, this pee, is older than the one that Black mothers, working as janitors at the University of Free State, were made to drink; to chase down food mixed with faeces. Many South Africans have probably forgotten about that horrible incident; the same goes for the minstrel act of the white students from the University of Pretoria. Theuns du Toit, a young white man whose racist act summoned the country’s attention towards himself, is not different from every racist white person in this country. His actions debunk the myth that whites born post-apartheid are not racist because they know nothing about the time, the period, the era, of apartheid.

Theuns’ act of peeing on the Black student’s laptop and books is an undisguised concretisation for urinating on their sense of being, their sheer (and because they are Black, mere) existence. And his is not an ideologically silent act. In fact, it is an affront deeply rooted in white supremacy. Babalo Ndwayana, the Black student who experiences this insult and degradation, is one of the too many cases of anti-black racism. But many of these cannot be reported for fear of losing a job, a business, a scholarship, a place on the rugby or cricket team, a seat at the table, and so on.

It is significant that most white commentators on social media reduce this 'pee act' to bad behaviour. That’s a cop-out and a distortion, because university racism is a microcosm of the larger socio-economic context. The only consequence, so far, for this hateful, racist outrage is suspension from the university, which is itself the very foundation of such anti-Black practice. That’s precisely what happens when one deals with the symptoms of something systematic like racism. Suspending this racist student won’t mean that Stellenbosch, and other so-called former white institutions, will have uprooted racism. Replacing the damaged study material and the laptop and sending the victim to therapy – because that’s what these institutions mean by giving the victim the necessary support – will not restore his dignity and violated sense of self.

Not long ago I was witness to this white pee, this irresistible urge on the part of the racist to give expression to their prejudice. When I was in Modimolle, in Limpopo, to give a lecture on South African History through Culture to American students – a white male student assistant from Stellenbosch University showed signs of wanting to ‘pee’. I could see that he was pressed, skepsel. He was a typically ‘klein baas’ and a very conservative Christian who frightened the liberal American students with his homophobic sentiments.

One of the evenings at the Wildlife Resort in Limpopo, just after supper, I went to the room I was allocated. I heard his voice coming from the other side of the passage. He offered me a spare bed in his room, knowing very well that I had the privilege of having a single bedroom, with my lecturer status, at the lodge (it was another way of expressing how uncomfortable he was in the presence of Black power, because I was his superior in the program). I nonetheless took his offer out of politeness. In the morning he says his wallet is missing and that there will be trouble! I could feel his urine pouring like rain on my dignity. My sense of self.

Later, over the weekend, he reflected on one of the discussions we’d had about student protests, and said #Luister is a misrepresentation of Maties and that those Black students were lying. Peeing on Blacks is a culture at Stellies.

Marechera was right, in The House of Hunger, to say that “the underwear of our souls [are] full of holes and the crotch [they hide] infested with lice” because “we are whores; eaten to the core by the syphilis of the white man's coming." Perhaps, he would have said something more on these neo-colonial experiences of blackness, because our wretchedness is not only left with diseased semen from the white phallic arrogance, but is constantly urinated upon.

As soon as the urine is released, there is relief. Satisfaction, perhaps, akin to sexual bliss? An act which reveals sexual/rapey fantasies; a desire to fuck a darkie, to molest him on the plantation, or rape her when madam is not around? Indeed, the relief the white boy from Stellies had, after peeing on Black dignity, communicates a deep sense of feeling uncomfortable with the presence of Blacks in the same res, the same institution. A refusal to co-exist with Black people in Afrika. It is not just ‘bad behaviour’… It is a gesture to re-emphasize, to re-inaugurate, once again, the dehumanization of Black folk.

*Sankara Bizela is a writer and activist living in Johannesburg.

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