On the Brink of Armageddon


To the Editors of The Crimson:

Unless surprise negotiations begin before the fall rainy season, Rhodesia appears doomed for a racial armageddon. Unlike other Brithish colonies, Rhodesia refuses to allow a peaceful transfer of power to the black majority. Why?

"You've never been in Africa before, have you?" Before I could answer that I had, the Rohdesian would continue. "I know the Kaffir (black man) better than most do and, let me tell you, this beautiful country wouldn't last for two seconds under his control."

The setting might be a farm or private house, a tourist hotel or a bar in Salisbury, the speaker might be male or female; the accent anything from upper class British to cockney to Greek. Various illustrations were used, though the Kaffir who, with a modern kitchen, nevertheless made a cooking fire on the floor recurred frequently. But the import was always the same, and the speaker white.

Many whites have jobs which blacks could perform just as well, and both blacks and whites realize it. White shopkeepers, barbers, meter maids, and salesmen view the blacks as an economic threat. They support legislation which bars Africans from "modern" occupations and forces them to struggle along with traditional practices and European hand-me-downs or rejected tools.

Without reflecting why the blacks are using such outdated or primitive methods, the white man looking at them has his conviction of African inferiority reinforced and indoctrinates his children in turn.

Part of growing up white in Rhodesia includes learning that the black is inferior. The child sees his father talking down to his workers, his mother to the household servants--and even whites on welfare may have a servant. The white child soon notices that the African performs only menial, manual tasks while the white man works with his mind.

Occasionally the need to emphasize white superiority entails minor sacrifices. A friend told me that, "When we first came here from England I used to drive the family car to work. My wife had to get to the nearby supermarket and so she bought a bicycle.

"The first time she arrived there a European woman walked up to her, pointed to the bicycle and asked if it was hers."

"My wife said it was. 'Well, don't ride it. I don't like to see a European woman riding a bicycle.' Then the woman turned abruptly and walked off."

For its white citizens Rhodesia offers the highest standard of living in the western world. This inducement to stay and resist black political demands has not yet been seriously affected by increased guerilla incursions from Zambia and Mozambique.

A friendly young blond in Salisbury asserted, "My father came here thirty years ago, and my mother twenty five. We made this country, it's ours and I'll fight for it. If I had my way I'd machine-gun all of the kaffirs--you know, like the South Africans did."

Rather than seriously consider black requests, the white government had increased racial polarization with segregation methods similar to those of South Africa. The white government believes that stubborness is the best policy and the white citizens agree.

An article in the Rodesia Herald proclaimed that "The Front Line Is In The Back Garden." The reporter noted that white social life has changed drastically. Dinner parties have been replaced by Sunday lunches, whereas the wives no longer gather at tea parties but attend Red Cross demonstrations and shooting practice instead.

"We have learned to live with a gun by our beds and ammunition close by," a farmer's wife told the newspaper.

Before I left Rhodesia a farmer, who was obviously terrified of guerillas, told me "Give them an inch and they'll bloody well take a mile." Housewives sitting over the tea table echoed the cliche as they looked at their black servants.

The white Rhodesians seem determined never to yield that inch. Herbert Howe

Howe is a Ph.D candidate in Government at Harvard who lived two years in Africa.