Durban – African reaction to xenophobia in South Africa has spread as far as Japan. Durbanite and Manchester United fan Jason Jetnarayan, who works as an IT recruitment consultant after starting as an English teacher in the Land of the Rising Sun, discovered this when he went to a pub in Shibuya to watch the recent match between his team and Leicester.
“The pub was busy and there weren’t any seats available, but I looked around and spotted a black gentleman in a Manchester United jersey with open seats at his table.
“I approached him to let him know my friend and I were Manchester supporters too and asked permission to join him.
“He gave us his approval in an African accent. As a proud African myself, I was excited about this because Africans are rare here. So I ask him where he was from. He said ‘Nigeria’ and reciprocated the question. I extended my hand and excitedly told him I was South African. He didn’t believe me until I proved it to him, showing him my ID as I beat my chest with pride.
“However, he didn’t seem to share the sentiment by the look of it.
“He was visibly upset, and made a statement about South Africans not being his brothers. I immediately realise he was referring to the xenophobic attacks that have unfortunately occurred in SA for the last decade, and only seem to be getting worse.”
Jetnarayan said he felt a sense of uneasiness, which he described as “a sinking feeling in my chest”.
“The pride I felt a moment before sharply deteriorated into one of shame.
“I, for one, have never taken issue with immigrants in my country or any other. I am in no manner responsible for the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, yet I apologised to the gentleman as he got up to leave the bar, having made the choice he would rather not be affiliated with a South African.
“We’re failing our brothers and sisters in Africa, we’re failing our women, we’re failing our children. We need to be better. We need to fight for our people and speak out against atrocities committed on our land, or else we too are part of the problem.
“Let’s be the resolution.”
In his fourth year in Japan, Jetnarayan spoke of his experiences as a foreigner there.
“Japanese people’s perceptions of SA are very uneducated and come across as ignorant.
“They find it hard to understand how an Indian or white can come from Africa. And racism isn’t a prominent topic for them.
“They often don’t know they’re being racist. But I don’t blame them, they live in a very isolated society and are mostly exposed to domestic media only, whereas foreigner perceptions of SA are influenced by movies like District 9, sports, celebrities like Trevor Noah, or apartheid or Mandela.” – IOL