i stopped to fill up my car with petrol today and got really mad and jumped on to my phone and wrote this as my Facebook status:
Disclaimer: this post will not have the amount of swearing i feel it deserves.
Caltex, Main Road, Diep River, know that i am gunning for you. How DARE you have petrol attendants working for you who have to change their isiXhosa names for English names because their names are “to hard to pronounce” – i don’t want to get the guy i spoke to in trouble but his isiXhosa name was ridiculously simple. That is an outrage – Caltex South Africa, you are going to be held accountable for this one.
Best line of attack, anyone?
i will start with a letter – feel free to flood their call center:
Then i followed it up with this one, which i removed from Facebook because i feel it needs to get in front of many more eyes [so tag, share away]:
White people wanting to know what we can do in South Africa? WhenEVER you step into an environment where black people have been forced/encouraged/advised to use an anglicised name in place of their birth name, please step in.
# At the very least, question it. Try to get the facts. Recognise and celebrate their birth name.
#Take action. Speak to a manager/owner/representative of the company and let them know THAT IS NOT OKAY – this can be done humbly/graciously/calmly but if you have ascertained that what you suspected is in fact the situation then please take it further.
[You can use the Jesus method of approach the person responsible for the decision directly one-on-one behind the scenes and challenge them on it. If they don’t change then go to the company or organization and if they still refuse to budge then take it to Social Media and the newspapers and go public on it. That’s the calm method – or you can go straight to Social Media and get some quick attention.]
It happens in restaurants and garages and I’m sure a whole bunch of other places, but this really feels like one of the easiest things for us to take on en masse until it is not a thing in South Africa any more.
Feel free to share your stories of doing this with me cos I believe they give us group strength and courage to help us tackle the next one. #NotOnOurWatch
This is one of the things that makes me the maddest in life. It is linked to identity and dignity and how dare we so casually strip that away from another human being.
A comment by my friend Kelly Jane Hartmann on my first post which expresses the back story perfectly on this:
‘I think it’s important to note that while some people say they “choose” to use a version of their name that is “easier to pronounce”, how many years of oppression have resulted in this decision? Would someone really CHOOSE to be called by something that isn’t their name so that it is convenient for the stranger they serve?’
i would love to hear and feature stories of encounters you have with this kind of thing from the moment of discovering it to the moment the culture is changed for life. So please keep your eyes and ears peeled and tuned in for this kind of thing.
This is one relatively easy way that we as white people [who typically hold the power in those kinds of situations] can use our influence and dare i say it, privilege [have you ever heard of a white person who had to change their name to make it easier for a black person? Cos i don’t think i have] to start stepping towards and working at healing some deep-seated wounds [read Kelly’s comment again]
Let’s do this!
[26 Jan – Update: i received this from Caltex Facebook Group and have written to them how the story transpired and am now awaiting a response:
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We as Caltex expect and promote equal and dignified treatment for all employees including those employed by Caltex retailers and we will investigate the matter and feedback to you as soon as possible. Please could you inbox us details on how this situation unfolded to aid us with the investigation into the matter.]