Uit: The Grass is Singing
„Long before the murder marked them out, people spoke of the Turners in the hard, careless voices reserved for misfits, outlaws, and the self-exiled. The Turners were disliked, though few of their neighbours had ever met them, or even seen them in the distance. Yet what was there to dislike? They simply ‘kept themselves to themselves’; that was all. They were never seen at district dances, or fêtes, or gymkhanas. They must have had something to be ashamed of; that was the feeling. It was not right to seclude themselves like that; it was a slap in the face of everyone else; what had they got to be so stuck-up about? What, indeed! Living the way they did! That little box of a house – it was forgivable as a temporary dwelling, but not to live in permanently. Why, some natives (though not many, thank heavens) had houses as good; and it would give them a bad impression to see white people living in such a way.
And then it was that someone used the phrase ‘poor whites’. It caused disquiet. There was no great money-cleavage in those days (that was before the era of the tobacco barons), but there was certainly a race division. The small community of Afrikaners had their own lives, and the Britishers ignored them. ‘Poor whites’ were Afrikaners, never British. But the person who said the Turners were poor whites stuck to it defiantly. What was the difference? What was a poor white? It was the way one lived, a question of standards. All the Turners needed were a drove of children to make them poor whites.
Though the arguments were unanswerable, people would still not think of them as poor whites. To do that would be letting the side down. The Turners were British, after all.
Thus the district handled the Turners, in accordance with that esprit de corps which is the first rule of South African society, but which the Turners themselves ignored. They apparently did not recognize the need for esprit de corps; that, really, was why they were hated.“
Doris Lessing (Kermanshah, 22 oktober 1919)