Master harold and the boys

Racist Attitudes and Their Influences in “Master Harold” … and the boys

We have all heard the saying that the rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer. This somewhat describes South Africa in the 1950s. During this time in Africa, the white people kept getting more powerful while the black population kept getting weaker. South Africa’s apartheid system gave powerful odds to the whites and created a racist society. In “Master Harold” … and the boys, a book set around the 1950s and during the apartheid system, the racist attitudes from the apartheid system and Hally’s parents affected how Hally treated Sam and Willie, who are black and work for Hally’s mother. These attitudes over-shadowed the good relationship Sam and Hally had built through most of Hally’s childhood.

“Apartheid was a system that deliberately set out to humiliate black people, even to the point of relegating them to separate benches, entails the danger of habitual indifference to the everyday detail that shape black and white relationship and finally, perverts them.” (Durbach 69). South Africa passed laws and acts making the black people’s lives degrading and ensured the white superiority. Four laws were passed in 1950 which included the Population Registration Act, Group Areas Act, the Amendment to the Immorality Act, and the suppression of the Communism Act. These laws did several things including classified people by color, governed areas for living according to race and controlled ownership of property, prohibited sexual contact across racial lines, and removed due process of laws for blacks. (Durbach 69).

Apartheid was used in South Africa because the whites, while a minority in the population, wanted to be in control of the government and society. The way anything that is smaller in size, and therefore weaker, is able to get power is through intimidation. The whites made themselves more powerful by making the blacks feel inferior. The blacks were told they were not good enough and therefore had to be separated from the whites. The whites belittled and separated themselves from the blacks so they wouldn’t feel guilty for what they were doing to them. If you make someone become something other than human and lower its level, you don’t think you are hurting another person. For instance owners of pets do not feel guilty when you tie up a dog, or let a pet sleep outside. Your pet is just an animal therefore they do not mind or expect much different.

Apartheid was more than racial prejudice legislated in South Africa. It became an everyday belief. Racism became part of everyday living it was part of schooling, home life, government, and even on public display such as park benches. It taught society that a seventeen-year old boy was master over two black men. In the book, Hally is quoted as saying to Sam, “Because that is exactly what Master Harold wants from now on. Think of it as a little lesson in respect, Sam, that’s long overdue.” (Fugard 55) As in the book, a white boy was respected and looked upon as being higher and better than the black men. In any other traditional society, a child is to show respect to any adult, no matter what their color or background. The apartheid system lowered the blacks to a level lower than children, which was very humiliating, especially for an adult man.

The most important influence on a child is its parents. The parents’ actions, behaviors, and beliefs are passed on to their children. So many white children from South Africa grew up with parents having racist beliefs and not knowing anything different. Hally’s parents both had racists beliefs which influenced his attitude towards Sam and Willie. Hally’s mother owned a café, which employed Sam and Willie, but she never saw them as anything other than servants. “My mother is right. She’s always warning me about allowing you to get too familiar.” (Fugard 53) She took for granted their loyalty and didn’t appreciate all they did for her business and her son. “All that concern you in here, Sam, is to try and do what you get paid for -- keep the place clean and serve the customers. In plain words, just get on with your job . . . You’re only