South Africa has had a tortured but fascinating history. In The Jack Bank I describe how I was raised to support apartheid and fight a war for the survival of the white race. I also talk about how much part of me wanted to be a part of this system and thereby gain the respect of my fellow white South Africans. If you want to learn more about this history, the following web site provides a wonderful overview: http://www.sahistory.org.za/
I also strongly recommend the following textbook about South African history: Leonard S. Thompson’s A History of South Africa, 3rd edition. Leonard Thompson is truly an historian in the spirit of the new, progressive South African constitution—for which I helped fight and lobby! He is sensitive to all kinds of oppressions and inequalities—race, class, culture etc. Head and shoulders above the history books I was once given in my whites-only schools.
A great blog dealing with politics, law, and culture in postapartheid South Africa is Pierre de Vos’s “Constitutionally Speaking”: http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za/ Pierre is actually an old friend of mine from the activist days I talk about in the memoir.
Finally, if you’re interested in my ideas about one form of contemporary apartheid in the United States, click here to read an editorial I recently published in the Pittsburg Courier-Journal.
South African Memoirs, Novels and Movies:
I wouldn’t have been able to write The Jack Bank without all the South African writers who went before me and told the stories of South Africans of all different backgrounds. To review my recommended list of memoirs, novels, and movies follow this link.
If you read The Jack Bank, you’ll understand why I don’t like hazing traditions that involve humiliation, nudity, or any kind of abuse or violence. Some people see these activities as harmless fun or as a form of peer bonding in the face of adversity. I disagree—I think they promote a destructive cycle of cruelty. It works something like this: today, you haze me. Tomorrow, when you are the senior fraternity brother/military officer/gang member, I get my revenge by being violent and abusive towards the “juniors.” On any future battlefield or stressful situation, I will reach for my instincts honed in boarding school or boot camp or wherever, and I will be as abusive and violent towards my perceived “enemy” as you once were to me. That is the stuff that helps cause Abu Ghraib torture scandals, battlefield rapes, and massacres.
I find it striking that totalitarian countries often have the worst hazing traditions. I wrote about apartheid South Africa, but see this article about an old, awful habit that has persisted from the Soviet Union: http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1055451.html
One organization I like that works to prevent hazing in schools and on campuses is http://www.hazingprevention.org/. Another great organization is www.stophazing.org. It has a great list of research and resources.
I’d love to hear your stories of surviving abusive hazing, if you’d like to share them with me. Also if you’re the parent, sibling, or friend of someone who’s been hazed, I would like to hear your stories as well. We draw strength from each other’s narratives, don’t we?
In The Jack Bank I write about how, in my early twenties, I romanticized black men, hoping to find them kinder and less racist than the white boys who had abused me in boarding school. But interracial relationships can have their special challenges. As I show in my final chapter, “Equals,” it is no use pretending there is no cultural difference or political inequality. The reality of racism has to be addressed, honestly, between the two people who love each other.
A useful clearinghouse for information on interracial couples and relationships—not just black and white, but all different kinds of cross-cultural love affairs, gay and straight—can be found here: http://www.pollywannacracka.com/
A specific organization for black and white gay men, which I briefly joined when I arrived in NYC in 1994, is Black and White Men Together: http://www.nabwmt.org/ It focuses on helping its members build progressive, healthy, mutually empowering intimate relationships.
For black African gay men and lesbians running into the argument that homosexuality is “unAfrican,” a great resource is Murray and Roscoe’s book Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities.
If you have any experiences of interracial relationships and dating that echo mine, please feel free to write about them on my Facebook wall or send me an email.