In Welcome to Our Hillbrow, the author is highly critical of the treatment of foreigners/immigrants in post-apartheid South Africa. Right off the bat, readers are given a sense of how grave the hatred or bias against immigrants in Hillbrow is. I decided to do some research of my own and see how during COVID-19, the immigrants within Hillbrow were treated. I stumbled across an article published by news24 which details the tribulation they face from police, the state, and other residents.
The epigraph at the beginning of the book, a quote by Dubois saying “reader, be assured, this narrative is no fiction” could not have described Welcome to Our Hillbrow better. Officially and formally, the novel is fiction, however there exists way too many parallels and similarities to real life. To tie this augmenter’s post to both the above news article and Mpe’s novel, I focus on how the blame game manifests in both fictional and nonfictional Hillbrow. In both instances, blame of contagion and disease such as AIDS is automatically put on the immigrants of the town. The inability to critically think about whether this is plausible or not is ignored, rather in an effort to preserve the south-african image/reputation, blame is placed on the “outsiders”.
Thank you Meera for the post! I found the manipulation of the blame game highly similar to the trend of Asian hate we’ve witnessed in the COVID-19 epidemic. At NYUAD, extreme actions of racism, hate crime, seem to have disappeared. However, just like the quote Dubois, it is far from being a narrative that only exists in fiction. One striking example is the racist public remarks of the ex-president of the USA Donald Trump. His inability and inefficiency in managing the disease were messily covered up in the ridiculously stretched blame game. Indeed, it is important to trace it back to the origin of the virus, but for scientific reasons. By accentuating xenophobia, it was an easy way out for the administration to shift the focus and pent-up negativity of the American citizens to the immigrant community.
The same-old tactic of “if things are going well in here, instigate something out there”.