The Power of One - Response 4 - Chap 13-15 - Racism
When Peekay witnesses the behavior of whites while the second photograph is taken on page 265, he first understands “with conviction that racism is a primary force of evil designed to destroy good men.” This is the point in his life where he is mature enough to understand the way racism permeated South African society during the 1940s. He suddenly realizes the evils of racism when he posed for a photograph next to Geel Piet. No one except Doc, Gert, Lieutenant Smit, and Peekay wanted to be seen in the same photograph with a black man. No matter how good a boxing coach Geel Piet was, he was black, and therefore inferior in the eyes of most of the boxing squad. Although Peekay always observed racism, he never really realized the depth and damage of it, until most of the boxing squad squirmed out of the second photograph. He realizes that racism played a big part in South Africa during his time.
All throughout the book, and in real-life South Africa, whites felt as if they were far superior to blacks. For example, on page 236, Sergeant Borman feels as if he has the right to make Geel Piet lick the floor to remove the dirt because he believes that blacks eat other’s “shit.” This is totally baseless. He would have never treated a white man in the same way. In addition, later on in the book, Borman kills Geel Piet and claims that it was no big deal because he was only a kaffir. Borman even calls geel Piet a “bastard” and a “yellow nigger.” Furthermore, he is very much angered by the fact that he was hit by Klipkop for the death of a black man. He even goes as far as calling Captian Smit and Klipkop a “nigger lover” on page 303.
Clearly, one of the primary themes of The Power of One is racism. It comes up time after time in the book. The author is clearly focusing on it. By including the character of Borman, who brutalizes blacks, he wants readers to realize just how terrible racism was. He shows the readers, through Geel Piet, the ingenuity and cleverness of blacks, as well as their ability to adapt to their surroundings. In addition, the pointlessness of racism is also show when Peekay wonders why Indians were treated badly.
Time after time in the book, Peekay is constantly discovering how different races are being treated differently. This moment, when he is taking the boxing photograph, is a culmination of Peekay’s past experiences with racism and his maturity level. Peekay has been building up to this realization with years of observations. In that moment when the photograph was taken, something clicked in his mind, to make him realize all of those past inequalities and remember them as the photograph was taken. However not just in this moment is racism dealt with in The Power of One; The Power of One is constantly showing the horrors of racism in the apartheid era of South Africa.