There’s no instruction book for people offering unsolicited advice to racial minorities like Windhoek’s whites on how and where to seek entertainment.
But it turns out whites are extreme creatures of habit when it comes to finding that oasis of tranquillity.
In the absence of such a manual, New Era Weekend can reveal that young and middle-aged professional whites have adopted their very own and unique brand of entertainment strategies.
The music they listen to isn’t one that the majority of Namibians listen to. They also don’t attend entertainment events in their droves.
The reason for this is neither superficial nor racial angst; it actually goes much deeper than that. As we followed them around for a night out, several realities became evident.
They consider discipline, freedom and ease when choosing a spot to hang out at. Top of this list is Joe’s Beerhouse, Andy’s, Club London, Dylans, Bush Bar, Vintage and Die Bendehuis, to name a few.
While many of the revellers love the blues, Barak Obama and Oprah Winfrey, they do not get along with things like hip-hop, which is widely celebrated in Namibia.
As one professional white Windhoek resident, Bradley, puts it: “It’s not about segregation; it’s not about us developing ourselves in isolation on small white islands. Windhoek’s everyday life scene is refreshingly integrated, non-racial and open-minded. I spend a lot of time socialising with black and brown colleagues and friends but I guess it’s a question of ‘birds of a feather flock together’ when it comes to those special and intimate gatherings of people with the same interests, hobbies and outlook on life.”
A successful white businessman and sports fanatic, Rick, says an independent Namibia has given him invaluable glimpses into the private lives of black people.
He shared rooms, meals, bus rides and long conversations off the court with his black teammates. “The best thing about Windhoek’s night life is the many options for all races, creeds and colours. You can go anywhere without ever feeling like an outsider: it’s all up to you and your social and integrational skills,” he comments.
He says you have to understand distrust and suspicion; the meaning of certain looks and certain codes.
White women tend to agree. Sylvia says they are a group of professional girls who love to go out, feel safe and have a great time. “We don’t avoid contact or interaction with black people. But we also know how to steer clear of trouble spots and danger. Women are just so much more vulnerable,” she notes.
The so-called enlightened whites say they have no problem hearing another racial perspective. They claim whites are not clueless about racial sensitivities. But they agree that they don’t think they can understand what it means to be black. It’s much more than being a minority. It’s a whole history.
Some of the whites New Era spoke to at clubs recommended that white people get into racially mixed situations to change who they are and clean up their thinking in mixed settings. But others say they watch with bemusement as nervous whites enter some of the popular nightspots in town.
“The reality is that race affects people’s lives, and if you can’t see race, you can’t see the life they’ve lived,” Mark observes.
Leigh-Ann, an accountant, says there are even the odd white person who considers himself an honorary black person because he has a black girlfriend and likes hip-hop music.
In her seminal study of Patterns of Culture, Ruth Benedict argued that each culture exhibits a pattern by which its various customs, beliefs, and attitudes are integrated. Cultures are not miscellaneous grab-bags of traits, they are patterned wholes. European and African-Americans do have cultural differences like in music.
European styles, symphony orchestra, concert band, brass band, and African-derived styles, jazz, rhythm and blues, world beat are very different musical worlds and these worlds are demonstrated by the night life venues of Windhoek.
African-American has included sexuality directly in the codes of its music while Europe (and European America) has done so only indirectly, unless, of course, following the example and tutelage of African-America.
Conclusion? Whites in Windhoek in general don’t experience the anxiety of political correctness when going out for a night on the town or when they gather around the big screen to watch a sporting event.
Cornelus – who is married to a black woman – perhaps sums it up best: “We must consider cultural differences to be intrinsic, not extrinsic. One does not ‘wear’ a culture as easily and superficially as one wears a suit of clothes nor can one move from one culture to another as easily as one moves from business to casual attire.”