The past two weeks have seen South Africans mired in a racism quicksand that has seen many debates, opinion pieces and other public, and many private, discussions conducted in its “honor”. After my involvement in many of these efforts to try and dissect this cancerous tumor that, if not taken seriously, has the potential to eat away the country, I came to the realisation that many people, like in many other wrongs committed in the world, don’t seem to understand what constitutes racism or a racist act.
Questions have been risen regarding whether or not our constitutionally enshrined right to freedom of speech doesn’t allow people to freely express their thoughts – like calling Africans monkeys or commenting on the inability of an African minister to pronounce certain words – even if others don’t agree with them. Many people – of whom many, if not all, are of European descendancy – have argued that many of the culprits who said these comments (which I personally believe were racially influenced) said them in the privacy of their social media accounts and should not have received the type of punishments they did. And this is where many of us disagree, both as a nation and as individuals.
For a long time is South Africa – mainly during the times of the Apartheid regime – racism for the African people in the country had as many physical characteristics as it had mental ones. Aside from the superiority complex that the “White” people grew up being taught, and the subsequent inferiority one that Africans were taught, there were laws in place that made interactions between Africans and Whites illegal, there were taps, public toilets, buses, doors to public places, parks, benches and many other things that were meant for White people and others that were meant for “non-Whites”. And “White” people were made to seem the better race throughout all of this.
The abolishment of the Apartheid regime brought with it an end to all the physical aspects of racism, and people believed that in time, or with time, this will trickle down to the mental aspect of this cancer. Alas, over 21 years into our democracy, and instead of the mentality of racism decreasing, racism mentality has found a way to increase like a cancer hell bent on destroying the years of work that have been done in an effort to develop our country and its people. This has made many racism apologists hurl half hearted comments about racism in the country and the impact it has on its development.
Many of them say things such as not all White people are racists and recite reasons such as “I have Black friends” and “I like Black people” as reasons to substantiate their claims. Many don’t believe that the current economic system in the country is one that favors one race over the other and claim that BEE and Affirmative Action are more racist than the economic system. They blame the economic conditions of the African people in the country 21 years into our democracy on their laziness and claim that 21 years is enough time for them to have bettered their conditions.
To be honest, I personally am not an expert on this topic and will therefore not put forth my opinions on it as the zenith of reasoning regarding its discourse. But as a person who is well experienced in its content, I believe that my two cents will be enough to contribute towards the tithe to be put forth by African people in South Africa. Racism is a serious cancer in the country, which only the meticulous surgical procedure of proper discourse can destroy. The first step of which is to teach people what constitutes racism with the next being teaching them how to deal with it when it arises.
The truth is what we are seeing today is the result of a lack of putting into place processed that were going to eradicate the mental racism that laid dormant in the minds of many post 1994. Many are still raised to believe that they are better than others and others are still raised to believe they are inferior to others. Even with the racism beast that lay dormant for so many years starting to show its head, there are still no efforts to try and cut of its head before it completely raises and destroys our wonderful country.
The efforts to destroy this beast before it destroys us lie in not only the government doing it part, but it lies in each and everyone of us identifying our roles and doing our part to destroy it. If nothing is done to destroy the racism mentality in our country, we need to brace ourselves for much worse.