Conversations: Gypsy Bar

One evening, I had drinks with a black friend at a gypsy pub at the foot of the mountain.

I say black because it would matter, when he said, unprovoked, “What some people don’t understand is that the whites came and built everything. Some black people just want to take it all without working. They should be thankful for the civilization we have.”

He couldn’t believe that. It was as if he knew how self-conscious I’d become, and was trying to offer me something.  Some part of him must have believed it.

I glanced around to see if anyone had heard, but no one was looking at us. What were my options? To agree? No. Refute him? A risky path that could end in mutual debasement.

“Mmm,” I said.

We faltered, took a drink, looked around the room. There was a life-size bedazzled tiger, covered in red and black plastic jewels. He crouched above us on a brass bed hanging from the ceiling, his LED eyes blinking red. We were both amused.

One of the fiercest long-standing debates between Madiba and his ANC comrades at Robben Island was whether or not tigers had ever really been native to Africa.

There was something in that, we thought, but we were groping.

2 Comments

  • April H. says:

    Maybe this is a conversation best left for months/years from now, when time and closer bonds have assured your steadfast care and consideration for one another.
    But the question of the value and importance of nativity is something Time will/can never ease.

  • luxpat says:

    I think you’re right. I find that in my experience in the U.S., I’ve avoided controversial topics in polite conversation. We are anxious to avoid offense, except in the company of old friends, in the anonymity of the internet and its distancing effect, or in settings where we feel our opinions are of the majority, like liberals in Seattle or feminists in college. Here, it feels a bit ridiculous to avoid discussing nativity, and people I meet are straightforward and open-minded, so the art of frank discussion is something I’ll have to practice.

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