Deep and soft hues of green, colour the fertile grounds of this exotic forest.
Tall and handsome trees delicately sway their soft, golden leaves. The sky is a wondrous scene of beauty itself. It looks like a dazzling sapphire dance floor; with the sun an orange disco ball and the white doves swooping elegantly like ballerinas. Blue and pink butterflies flutter joyously around the sweet air. Behind the yellow bushes, brown rabbits hop excitedly on the ground; eagerly searching for anything merry to play with. I stand silently in the midst of this celestial beauty, gazing at how these earthly colours combine in perfect harmony, creating scenes of utmost beauty! If only the different coloured humans created the same picture of tranquillity…
When I was little my mom would read me many exciting and warming animal folk tales. I would sit happily on my bed, excitement and giddiness flowing wildly all over my body, as I listened to her. I thought her voice was magical, as it made it seem as if the forests in the books truly existed. As if the mystical creatures and the magical plants were really alive! The most exciting part though, was when she would show me the colourful pictures of creatures and plants in the story books. Then, these stories were just entertainment but years later they became more than that and inspired many principles I have learnt in life.
Although I was born after the apartheid era I was always exposed to racism in and I still am today. Primary school was the first time I became aware of racism. Children would say racist things to each other and at break times, specific races only sat with each other and did not mingle with the other races. Deep, down inside I always knew that this segregation was wrong, but being a child myself, I let things be and I only sat with a group of black people. When I was alone I would think about racism and most of my thoughts (as weird as it may sound) were inspired by the folk tales I was told in my early childhood. They made me question the logic behind racism and later made me realise that racism was stupid and pointless. For example, I would wonder why people were racist if animals of different colours lived peacefully with each other. Surely, if creatures and flowers of different colours created beautiful forests, humans should have thought that interacting with different races would also create something beautiful. I would loudly express these thoughts, by asking my mom questions like, “Mama, why can a black rabbit play with a white rabbit? Did Tata Mandela free all the rabbits from racism too?’
The day that I realised that the beauty in nature is manifested from organisms of different colours; was the day I believed that the beauty in mankind will only be evident if humans of different races live in harmony. From that point onwards I started hanging out with White, Coloured and Indian people and believe me it was the best decision I have ever made! Besides the lovely diverse food I get to eat, I am grateful for having multi-racial friends, because we learn to respect each other’s beliefs, backgrounds and cultures.
That is the story of how I became against racism, but it does not help if I am one of the few people who are against racism in this country. So the most significant question is: How can we make other people against racism? Before we can answer this question we need to look at why people are still racist in the new South Africa? We are almost twenty three years into a democracy but racism is still an issue that segregates us as a nation. The place where racism is most evident is social media and it is usually fuelled by political issues. We have all heard about Penny Sparrow calling black people monkeys and we are all used to Malema’s hectic hatred speeches towards white people.
Why cannot people be over racism? We can answer this question simply: The government failed to lay the foundations of democracy and the principles of a rainbow nation. The rainbow nation narrative was not introduced properly to the people during the end of apartheid instead it was introduced as a political strategy to quickly overcome this oppressive system. Parties such as the ANC believed that the new South Africa would only become an efficient democracy if all races worked together, meaning that avenging White people was not an option; thus they decided to introduce the rainbow nation narrative. Most people of colour violently rejected this narrative as they believed in justice rather than forgiveness and this slowed down the apartheid negotiations. Things were getting out of hand; political parties wanted to move quickly into a democracy and so a political strategy was the only solution left. Anti-apartheid politicians told the people that the only way that they gain their liberty and basic rights was if they worked together with white people. So, people of colour reluctantly accepted the rainbow nation narrative with the hope of being able to successfully advance in the new South Africa. The people who were oppressed never understood the concept of a rainbow nation and never valued its principles. To them this narrative was a key to prosperity. A key to houses, food and shelter. A key to their liberty; the right that some of their loved ones shed blood for. They never viewed the narrative as a way to live peacefully as people of different races.
The misunderstanding of the rainbow nation narrative was the beginning of an inefficient democratic system. It set a very shaky foundation for the new South Africa; leading to the born frees being subjected to the rotten fruits of democracy inflicted by the poison of apartheid. The saddening truth is that many people of colour entered democracy with bitter hatred in their hearts for the white people but they hid it, because their Tata Mandela told them that hating is wrong. Nonetheless while the sad truth was hidden in people’s hearts, we became a global sensation and the story of how we overcame the struggle became the top story of every nation’s newspaper. The fruits of democracy were generously given to people and the sun once again shone for South Africa. Everyone was allowed to vote. Houses and schools were built for people of colour. Resources of the economy were evenly distributed to everyone. Things looked promising and for once the hatred that people of colour had carried in their hearts, subsided. The rainbow nation narrative really gave them basic rights, so they thought to themselves. Everyone was rejoicing under the glories of democratic benefits until calamity struck. Again. The new government that everyone believed in became corrupt started to dismally fail its mandate. The sickening part is that some people continued to live (and still do even today) in the same desperate circumstances that they lived in during apartheid. So it slowly started to seem like we were rather living in a better version of apartheid. At this point, people became angry and voiced their opinions about the political system. It came to a point where people of colour even today still question why they are poorer than white people after almost 23 years of democracy. Some people do not understand why others become racist because of poverty and ignorantly say that it is stupid. The thing is, if you are told that being against racism will earn you basic rights and then your basic rights do not get delivered. What would you do? Government officials who are supposed to take care of their citizens, especially those who were victims of the injustices of the past, disgustingly neglect us so that they can live in R200 million houses. Thus the people cry in poverty and they loudly say that the rainbow nation narrative has failed them and they watch as the legacy of apartheid coldly seizes their children. They watch their children grow without education become maids and bricklayers. They watch as white people successfully advance in all aspects of society whilst they are left to live on small social grants.
In conclusion we see that, because of the way that the rainbow nation narrative was introduced to the people, it never eradicated racism. This has led to the very racist nation that we are. The only way that the government can try to eradicate racism is to stop using the rainbow nation narrative as a carpet to blanket all the issues we face. Tell the people that they need to believe in the rainbow nation narrative because we are all brothers and sisters from the same God, thus we should all love each other as one. Do not tell a black man to tolerate another race because he will easily gain prosperity, in the hope of making him not racist. For what happens when the black man does not gain anything? If our own leaders can learn to properly instil the principles of a rainbow nation in us, then maybe we can become nation that is truly against racism.
In school teach do not only teach me that I should be against racism because not everyone in a specific race is the same. What if most of the time they are the same because of how they were forced to only live together during apartheid? If a child had to say that he looks down on Indian people because all of them are poor; do not only tell him that he is wrong because he is generalising. You have to understand that he probably said that because he sees that most of the people who are poor in this country are people of colour. Tell the child that he is wrong because not all Indian people are poor. Then tell him that even if he was right about all Indian people being poor he still should not judge them, because everyone deserves respect no matter what their circumstances are. The point is, it is very difficult not to have stereotypes about different races when the apartheid system forced specific races to interact only with each other, resulting to these races having a lot in common with each other. It thus becomes very difficult not to make generalisations about different races. We as young children should be taught to be against racism in a different way. Tell us that even if racial stereotypes were true, we should not judge other races for we should only look for the good in people. So that when we see that some racial stereotypes are true, we would not dwell on them and only seek for the good in people. In that way the young generation can be nurtured to be anti-racist and create a fresh legacy of true democracy.
I am a born free, by name and not by truth. Let me breathe in a nation of unity, before you say you have freed me….
STIRLING HIGH SCHOOL; EASTERN CAPE
15 YEARS OLD