jades blog

A day in the life of a sales assistant

jade van blerk | 02 October, 2008 20:07

  I have always wanted to work; I guess I am one of those people who get a warm fuzzy feeling when I earn my own money. When I arrived in Cape Town this year I decided to enter the working world, I got my first job at a restaurant in second semester. I enjoyed the restaurant thing for a few weeks but I got an offer to work in a well known lingerie store and I could not resist. Looking hot while working with sexy undies, glamorous right? Wrong. I found myself working with a different type of Captonian.  I do not want to sound like a snobby UCT student but I have to say that my co-workers differed from the types of people that I usually come across on upper campus. I guess you could say that I have been socialized in a different way to them. I was raised to be proud of my heritage i.e. being of mixed descent (Black and white).I was not raised to be ashamed of or try to hide the fact that my father is black. It seemed however that the coloured ladies at my workplace were trying to dismiss the fact that they had a bit of blackness in themselves. When I told them that my father was black they seemed embarrassed and I remember the one girl saying “don’t be racist man” and the other woman replying defensively “what, I don’t have a problem just cos her daddy is black”. Why wasn’t the fact that my mother is white as much of an issue as the fact that my father is black?When this happened I didn’t feel upset when this happened I just realised that these people were just really backward. It seemed as though they still carried an apartheid mentality with them. As we all know that previously in the coloured community the lighter you were the more benefits you got in the under the apartheid regime .Obviously these people were taught to be ashamed of being of African descent. Another issue that cropped up at my workplace was that of my afro. I love my hair curly hair it is just so me, plus it is easier to manage. It is not a political statement because I really don’t have time for that. Therefore I was really disappointed that my manager told me that my hair was not acceptable in the workplace. I guess they wanted me to look like them with my curls restrained by copious amounts of gel or liquidised by some cheap relaxer. I complied for a while but soon I got over it. My hair is part of my identity and sadly in a way it defines me, shallow I know.  So I was already starting to formulate my resignation in my head when one of my colleagues made a comment that made me sure I wanted to leave. She asked me where I was born and I told her Zimbabwe, I am not Zimbabwean I was just born there and I spent my high school years in Mafikeng. First she asks if Mafikeng was in Zimbabwe, this was embarrassing enough as I hope that you all know that Mafikeng is in fact in South Africa in the North West province. Then she says: “I never knew there were light skinned people in Zimbabwe I thought there were only black people there”. I tried very hard not to burst out laughing. Are there seriously people who are still that ignorant today? Obviously I just met one of them. After my enlightening conversion with my co-worker I realised that I could not hang around the store anymore so I quit and it feels great.

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