My father only had a Grade 4 education but was able to build an empire.
He co-founded the KZN taxi association.
He instituted discipline and a system of divvying up routes. He ensured that widows of taxi owners and their children would be taken care of.
He built cottages for teachers at schools around our homes so that children could have teachers from Umlazi come and teach in his home village just outside Nkandla.
He sat with kings and with ordinary people of all races and though he was never naive to the fact that racism existed, he was at pains to make sure my brother and I knew that we too were important in this world and that we were not to act less than how we were – at playgrounds or anywhere else.
He did so despite the history of this country, and it tears me apart every time I remember him lamenting how much more he could have done with his life if he had the opportunities that were denied him.
He was brilliant. He was altruistic to entire communities. He was a man of his time but he raised me to be his “right-hand man” because he believed in women and wanted me to be a strong one.
So when we speak about the past and how it robbed people, we need to realise that every person has personal stories attached to what that means to them.
For some people it brings up broken dreams, broken hearts and broken lives.
The Spur incident reminded me of two incidents from my childhood.
The first was a man who, gobsmacked that my father was driving his brand new Lexus, attempted to smear a sticky, polish-like substance on the car.
My brother, his friend and I witnessed the scene of this man, who kept shouting racial slurs at my father in public.
My father stopped the car, which blocked traffic, and confronted the man head-on. He asked him why he couldn’t believe it and why the man felt he could say such things in front of his children.
Shocked at the confrontation the man tried to hit my father, which turned out to be a big mistake for him.
My father hated us witnessing violence but by the time the police had arrived to investigate what was happening that man was ready to ask them to take him into custody.
He wasn’t beaten badly but I suspect the shock to his ego of having somebody stand up to him had bruised him most.
The second incident occurred a few months after my dad died. My mother, trying to cheer my brother and I up, took us for horse rides and then swimming at Blue Lagoon in Durban.
A little boy kept waiting for my brother to appear at the end of the slides and then attempted to drown him. This happened numerous times and I saw it all, as did my mom.
After a few times my brother went to the boy’s mom and complained. She did nothing.
The next time the boy did it my brother fought back and punched him – at which point his mother came flying towards my brother to manhandle him.
That was obviously something my mother wasn’t going to take and she, too, went to the scene with me following behind her ready to tell the entire version of the incident.
Not only was the other mother not interested in hearing about what had actually happened, but she began trying to solicit support against the k*ffirs who were harming her child.
My mother stood her ground and a big shouting match occurred until the other mother backed off and left.
In both of these incidents my parents went to great lengths to explain to my brother and I that violence was not an acceptable way to resolve conflict, but that we had to draw quick and clear lines about what we would accept as other people’s behaviour towards us, or we would be taken advantage of and bullied.
It strikes me that today in South Africa many black parents probably give their kids similar lessons.
Often quick and deliberate condemnation of a racist act is not because of some universal black inferiority complex; instead it’s about quickly and clearly saying what is and is not acceptable to say because if you have experienced racism you know that trying to appease it or ignore it has often resulted in more of it because people think you are weak.
It’s possible to say something that is construed as racist by mistake – the point is not to try be perfect but to be open to the option that you may be wrong and possibly opening a wound that was there long before you picked at the scab.
What is not helpful is to simply dismiss people because you believe them to be hysterical or have low self esteem.
I can assure you that people who grow up knowing that the odds are stacked against them are often more resilient and self aware than anybody else – not for any reason other than that they have to be in order to survive.
It’s that simple. There’s no race conspiracy – sometimes the shit people say just hurts.
• Ntuli is the DA Youth leader and a member of the provincial legislature in KwaZulu-Natal.