The meeting is in the library. We arrive late. Everyone stares at us when we walk in and look for seats. My quiet, domestic worker mother, tells a taxi owner to move his feet so we can get past him.
We sit down. The pastor starts speaking. “Brothers and Sisters. When we marched for better housing we did not think that people would die. But they did.”
I turn to my mother. Her bruises have faded, but her arm is still in a sling. It will be until her collarbone heals. She stares at the pastor.
“The only people who died were amakwerekwere,” someone shouts.
“Is this right? Are they not people too?”
A man stands up. “Pastor, of course amakwerekwere are people too. But they come here with all their money and pay people and get houses. While us, I have been waiting five years. Baba, where is my house? My mother will die and she has never had a house to live in.”
People agree. People get angry and some people start shouting. I begin to get scared. My mother still stares at the pastor, saying nothing. S’bu enters with his mother. He stares at me and I turn away.
“We want no amakwerekwere here.”
My mother stands up. The library falls silent. “Me, I am a bona fide resident. How many of you know this? How many?”
Some people mumble.
“So I had a German boyfriend, in nineteen ninety-six. Hey, I was celebrating democracy.”
I close my eyes, it’s an old joke. “So the German boyfriend goes back to Germany. Now I have a daughter, stand up.”
“Now! Get up.”
I stand up. My mother pokes me in the face.
“Cappuccino, coffee brown, coloured, mixed race. Call her what you like. She’s the new generation.”
“Now she’s just red,” someone shouts. My mother ignores the laughter.
“Must my child go back to Germany because she’s half Zulu, half German? Why must the Setswana stay here then? They must go back to Botswana? Why must the Northern Sotho stay here? They too must go home.”
People are beginning to get angry. The pastor smiles at my mother. “Mbali, my sister. You have gone through a lot of pain…”
“I almost died. Beaten and left for dead by my own people because my daughter is only half Zulu. I have a right to live here, so does Dudu. She can go to school where she likes and I will grow red, pink and orange lettuce if I want to.”
People begin to laugh. My ears burn.
Mrs Malinga stands up. “That red lettuce attracts the rats.”
My mother laughs. No one else does. Mrs Malinga stands there looking like she’s going to burst. My mother laughs very loudly until the pastor tells my mother she needs to calm down.
My mother turns to Mrs. Malinga. “Rats can’t see red.” She’s right. How did she know that? Maybe she learnt a thing or two about surfing the net on her phone after all. Mrs Malinga sits down.
S’bu’s mother stands up. “Let’s apologise to Mbali and Dudu. They did not deserve this. Come on.”
My mother drags me up to stand next to her, as people mumble that they’re sorry. The meeting continues. I don’t hear a thing. I never thought I’d feel this much pride in my mother.
S’bu sends me a text.
Eclipse 2nit. Shld I cum rnd?
I ignore him. I look across the room and I see Beno, who’s slipped into the back of the library, staring at me.
Tell us what you think: Have you ever experienced discrimination?