By Faheema Sahib
Rassen – a German term quite unfamiliar to ninety percent of South Africa’s population, meaning ‘breed’, also a synonym for prejudice, discrimination, antagonism, chauvinism and ethnic profiling which is evident even twenty three years post apartheid whereby inequity, hostility and pandemonium remains; recurring intimidation against foreign nationals in Southern Africa leaving social media and news reporting platforms ablaze with atrocious coverings from current actions.
The pitiable belief that the human race is divided by distinctive characteristics determining their respective culture often implements the idea or theory that one race is deemed superior and reserves the right to control the next. This presumption has been in existence since the evolution of the human race and has further been defined as maximum hatred of one individual by another, for minimum reasons.
From biased attitudes, indiscriminate killings or massacres, to the establishment of social structures, the thesis or theory conflicted years back has evolved and now exists in three main types; individual, institutional and scientific racism. The most significant impact of this ideology made in history began approximately 500 – 1000 years ago when non-Westerners were subjected to the power and rule possessed by the West. ‘Powers’ hereby typically refer to the notorious enslavement of African natives who were not automatically treated as inferior but were rather enslaved upon the principle that they were less fully human than white Europeans, contrary to popular belief.
The issue of racial conflict has spread like a plague and has become nothing less than a global issue which can easily be identified in several countries. For one, immense issues have been raised between religious groups in Pakistan i.e Shia and Sunni which has been ongoing ever since, affecting social statuses while Japan faces similar issues. Much like the old South Africa, The Republic of India surreptitiously experiences racial plights whereby Africans are thought to be unworthy in a society where whites are the backbone. Yet another suitable exemplary matter would be the foreigners residing in Germany who are too often despised after being acknowledged as a threat towards the employment sector of the country, needless to mention the immoral, exploitative and wretched series of wrongdoings by Israel, leaving Palestine amidst smoke from atomic bombs. These are merely a few examples of the injustices rooted across our world.
Separated by social and political laws, the most recent and perhaps most relatable incident of racism would undoubtedly be the unscrupulous and prejudiced era of institutionalized racism under the rule of white South African citizens. Isolation incorporated that of educational and housing facilities, social events and employment opportunities. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, Immorality Act, Population Registration Act and Group Areas Act are merely a few legislations to name that were constitutional before the first multiracial elections held in 1994, three years after the abolishment of racial segregation in our war stricken land. To date, public holidays including Sharpeville Massacre, Youth Day, Heritage Day and Freedom Day amongst others are observed with the aim of honouring the lives of juvenile and innocent lost in the struggle for freedom as well as a remembrance of the bloodshed for our independence, however, even after movies like Hotel Rwanda racketing against the killing of over 500 000 people in Hutu and Tutsi violence, apartheid still hangs in the air like a poisonous cloud left in excess of chemical warfare.
“We are a rainbow nation” – this phrase candidly expressed is covertly contradicted with whispers uttered by none other than a handful of individuals from our beautiful multicultural society.
“I don’t see race – I just pretend everyone is white and it’s all good”
“Oh, you don’t act African”
“Is that your REAL hair?”
“Are you here legally?”
“You speak well for an Asian”
“Are you Chinese, Japanese or Korean?”
These are but a few instances related to the matter at hand – subtle racially prejudiced remarks. Annotations alike have never been easier to broaden than with the help of modern day’s technological advancements; social media platforms at the forefront.
A 26 year old graduate from Western Cape’s Stellenbosch University allegedly caused outrage on his Twitter handle, infuriating his followers sometime in May last year when he explicitly posted a racist remark regarding members of South African parliament. Screenshots made waves across social networks while the rest of civilization looked on, expecting a sincere apology. The second Twitter indignation was ignited with chauvinistic memes mocking former Springboks scrumhalf before the account of a Cape Town inhabitant was shut down after setting Facebook abuzz with a racist remark regarding white populace.
Learning environments have been beleaguered with absurd bigoted name calling and Lobby group AfriForum believes ‘South Africans have double standards when it comes to the way they react to racist and hateful comments on social media’, contributing negatively towards South African racism in 2017.
Earlier this year, controversy arose by an offensive advertisement which stated that “only whites may apply” while a heated court case involving two Zulu men in the region of KwaZulu Natal remains ongoing after incitation of what was believed to be ‘hate speech’ against Indians. And of course, institutionalized racism continues with the breach of ANC’s crimen injuria case against the DA MP for dubbing foreigners “amakwerekwere”.
Apart from the easily accessible modern day technology, fancy gadgets and wireless networks causing annoyance with exasperating notations and uproars amongst users, The South African Reconciliation Barometer has conducted its annual public survey whereby opinions from a mass of 2 219 respondents were obtained. According to research, a whopping 61.4% of respondents deem that race relations since 1994 have either stayed the same or deteriorated while interaction in private homes and social or communal gatherings and more intimate spaces, is limited.
Furthermore, South African’s double standard approach to racism is evident in terms of pronunciation. The difference between an African stumbling in pronunciation and an Afrikaner faltering is that the black man is deemed ‘unintelligent’ whilst the white man is commended for ‘attempting’. Whereas schools were intended to be a breeding ground for education, it has unfortunately become a ground of racism, resulting in inferiority amongst students, African learners in particular.
All the racial incitation, xenophobic attacks, chauvinistic memes, prejudiced remarks, unjust opinions and feelings of inferiority is enough to spark the question:
Are we truly living in an anti racial society whereby racism is pure history or are we slyly passing on the malady of racial double standards to our leaders of tomorrow?
We’ve certainly come a long way through the rainbow, but unquestionably have a lengthy path to thread.