I recall a musician brother telling a story about traveling downtown Johannesburg for a performance during the years of Apartheid in South Africa. If you understand what Apartheid racism was all about; that is, besides separating people according to skin color, you would also know with some good measure that their form of institutional racism was about excluding people from certain regions of the city or country, either permanently or during certain hours. They employed a system we collectively called “pass laws”; they imposed Gestapo style curfews and you needed a damn good reason to be downtown Johannesburg when night fell. One such reason could be that you were a musician. And that alone was a mighty tough sell! You could easily sink deep into doo-doo if one dumb white racist police officer bumped into you.
So, he recounted a time when they were walking home after a musical performance. Fair enough, they bumped into some terribly dumb white cops. The police fellas naturally inquired what their purpose was in the inner city during those hours. They responded accordingly… They explained that they had just completed a set at some local joint. The officers decided to poke fun at the black musicians — which was routine — and so they asked them to put on an impromptu performance. This form of intimidation was a daily arrangement. The musicians then assembled themselves, went through their choreography and belted out a tune. The song was called “It’s Time”, which lead to the next thing… After their little ‘money’s worth’, the cops proceeded with more thrill-seeking. They asked the black fellas why the song was called “it’s time” and “time to do what” after all? The poor brother said they honestly could not put together a quick answer right at that moment, so they stood there looking silly. True enough, and quite characteristic of that time, black musicians performed abstract songs that were laced with code messages designed to insight insurrection against white oppression. No doubt, this may have been one such a song. And before they could blink, he recounted, one of the police officers happened to have his hand some black paint… Yep, the same black paint you would use to paint the walls of your home. The cops splashed the paint cold over each one of the musicians. …Shocking, right! Yes, indeed! So, why such dehumanizing humiliation? Well, the white police poured the black musicians with black paint just so they could look more black than they already were! And so the poor musicians walked home covered in black paint during the wee hours, just as the morning African sun was cracking. It has got to be the funniest sad story ever told.
You see, white people of South Africa viewed black people no different from creatures in the wild. Many still harbor such contempt toward black people and many still stay true to such dreadful bigotry.