Lately I can’t seem to ignore, the thick suffocating and uncomfortable feeling that’s in the air.It is the same sick uncomfortable feeling that I used to get while walking down the streets of Pretoria during the days of apartheid.
Some might argue with me and say that I’m being melodramatic, because things have really changed since then, there is just no way that South Africa can find itself back in the trenches of a life of racial segregation. This may be true, but let’s face it the current tensions between Black and White South Africans is at its all time high. The current racist incidents are showing us that apartheid’s ugly head is still very well and alive amongst us.We are a country that still has not healed and i cannot ignore the same feeling reminiscent of the times when as a country we were divided along color lines. It was a time when the air in this country was thick and suffocating, and as a black child i often felt sick in my stomach from being so scared of white people.
I remember some time back in the 1980’s, going shopping in the city centre of Pretoria with one of my elder brother’s who had just qualified as a medical doctor.We entered one of the shops there to buy some clothes and the white Afrikaner lady at the till, was telling my brother that there is no way that he could be a Doctor. The surname of the person on the card is that of a white person and because he’s black, he cannot be a doctor let alone the owner of the card that was given to her to pay for the clothes.
I remember telling my brother that maybe we should leave the clothes behind, this is after she had threatened my brother that she would call the police because we are nothing but thieves. Only when my brother dared her to call the police and then produced his identity document did the woman help us. However while speaking in Afrikaans she continued to tell her coworkers that, ‘n swart man kan mos nie n dokter wees nie’!
It seems to me that some white South Africans have this notion that black South Africans must just get over this apartheid thing, after all its been over 20 years now.How does an entire nation get over 100 years of racial oppression and humiliation in such a short space of time? Let me paint you a picture, just drive through Sandton City then over the N1 on Grayston Drive into Alexandra, and tell me if you still think we must get over ourselves.
As a country political emancipation has not done enough to make a valuable change. What we need is an education system that addresses skills shortages and more importantly access to the mainstream economy.It is the only thing that could provide real change. I deliberately included education as a priority because let’s face it if not properly addressed economic emancipation would end up being worthless.We will end up going backwards instead of forward. Short term solutions that only benefit a few politically connected is not a solution to the challenges of our country. What we need is a long term strategy that addresses the needs of our socio-economic challenges. If we want it to succeed, it should be coupled with zero tolerance to corruption.
To seriously deal with the scurge of racism, social inequalities in South Africa, we need robust leaders who can get the country working for everyone and not just for a few.To move things forward we need a government that is proactive in its services to its people and not reactive. An economy that invests in its people is essential. The current one however only benefits the elite whites or politically connected blacks.
In conclusion if our nation wants to heal the injustices of its past, we need both white and black people in this country to have a sense of ownership towards nation building and reconstruction. Whether we like it or not it is the responsibility of everyone. The current racial divide in our society needs to be properly dealt with. This must be done in a way that black and white people can accept one another in a progressive social cohesive programme based on mutual respect and tolerance. What bugs me the most is how we don’t seem to realise how much we need each other,if we are to succeed in building a country that has a just,equal and progressive society. If you are white and you are reading this, nor does it exclude you my black brothers and sisters, i urge you to extend an arm of humanity to each other. Let us all unite and work at healing the pain of the wounds caused by the atrocities of apartheid. We can be the agents of real change and with love and courage we shall overcome. All i know is that love is a much more natural and enjoyable feeling than the feeling of hate!
Let’s do it for our children and the future of our beloved country.