Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by

Mark Mathabane

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Kaffir Boy: Chapter 49 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mathabane is desperate to reach America. In 1973, Helmut advises him to enter the South African Breweries (SAB) Open, one of the biggest international tournaments in the world. He implies that he has a way to get Mathabane into the qualifier. However, the black tennis leagues forbid any black players from participating in tournaments until national tennis officials, under international pressure, completely eliminate any ban on mixed-race competitions. Helmut admits that, although it’s a “political” move, it’s also an excellent opportunity for Mathabane—he might have the chance to play American tennis legend Stan Smith. Mathabane agrees.
Mathabane’s decision to play in the SAB Open defies the black tennis community’s wishes, suggesting that it is a move that benefits himself more than his community. Although it certainly pays off for Mathabane in the long run and creates an integrated tournament, it is impossible to say whether this was the right decision. By heeding Helmut’s wish over the black tennis community’s, Mathabane unintentionally places a white person’s desires in front of his own community’s, which echoes the structure of apartheid.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
With only two weeks until the tournament, Mathabane undertakes an aggressive training regimen. The black tennis leagues order that he withdraw from the SAB Open or “be banned for life from black tennis.” He receives threatening anonymous letters telling him to quit. Scaramouche and Wilfred advise Mathabane to play the tournament, while Mathabane’s mother advises him to quit. One week out, Mathabane calls Owen Williams, an organizer, and tells him he wants to quit. Williams says the death threats are “a bluff” and promises that if Mathabane gets banned from black tennis, he’ll get him into a white tennis club instead so he can show the white people how a black South African can play. Mathabane says he’ll think about it, but already knows he’ll play in the SAB Open.
Although Mathabane defies the black tennis community, he does give South Africans the chance to see a black tennis player compete in one of their major tournaments. For the sake of integrating and exposing prejudiced people to people from other groups, Mathabane’s decision to play in the SAB Open ultimately appears justified, especially since the same people demanding he not have white friends seem to be the ones demanding he not play white tennis.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon