By definition, the act of tolerating something means: to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice thereof, without interference. By tolerating racism, one allows for hate to occupy space. Not only occupy, but pollute and suffocate. There is an air of casual concession to the asphyxiation of harmony, so fervently promised. Blamelessly, consenting to the slurs that claw at the flesh of generations; burdened with the inescapable weight of: suspicion, hatred, and denigration. Completely, undeserved. This kind of unquestioned hate that occupies space transpires with relative, ease.

Why is it so easy? Tolerance appears to be the more palatable elephant in the room, as opposed to the grit that accompanies the bravery, required to speak up against it. It’s easier to allow for the “little things” to slip through the cracks, pinning it down to ‘frivolity’ rather than the essence of your own cowardice. Your sheepish resignation to the ideals of those around you, in a bid to ‘keep the peace’, fragments the very nature of ‘peace’. By laughing at the jokes and shrugging at the snide remarks, you subsequently dilute the validity of the violence embedded in racism.

“I don’t see colour.” By saying that you don’t see colour (in a bid to appease the gnawing sense of guilt) you vilify movements emphasizing the need to see colour in all its hues, and the pride that unapologetic ownership of colour gives credence to. What’s more is: it shows that race has not been a barrier for you, when the reality is that colour is inescapable and many do not have the privilege of not “seeing” it. The freedom associated with choosing whether or not you “see” colour, gives rise to the tolerance of racism because if you do not acknowledge the role race plays in lived experiences, you inadvertently negate the subsequent impact that racism has in relation to it.

Social capital, (the sheer force with which respect and recognition is bestowed on you, stemming from some fairer pigmentation) and associated allowances, grants a particular kind of immunity from the weight and pain of racism. Privilege that colludes with the oppressor, covertly, rather than explicitly, out of fear of being called ‘a racist’, rather than the fear of the damage racism causes.

Racism is a funny thing, it preys on the weak willed and easily fooled. It remains in the arsenal of the individual benefiting from the legacy of segregation and violence. One who, is conveniently, distanced from the repercussions of brutal legislature and the cruel implementation thereof. The reality of racism does not touch you if your family has remained intact. Where the fabric of your history has not been bludgeoned and buried. A space free from: unmarked graves and prison cells, chains and captivity of personhood and mentality.

The essence of Audre Lorde’s revolutionary statement correlating self-care to an act of political warfare, may for some, reek of over-sensitivity or grandiose overkill. This kind of malicious ignorance lies in the distance from marginalization that privilege so readily provides, both geographically and socially.

“Racism is a thing of the past”. What a mindless utterance. So long as beauty remains synonymous with porcelain skin, and respect denied to the thick accent and fractured sentence, racism infiltrates. It stains. It discards the essence of a soul. It continues to stain when conveniently overlooked.

Racism has shapeshifted; it has found its home amidst in-group conflict and strife. The baton has been passed, but still features in the race nonetheless. For the most part, a coloured identity incorporate copious elements of both white and black heritage and it’s this amalgamation that makes the identity what is it. You may not be the explicit perpetrator but you might as well be driving the van while someone else does the shooting, you are providing the vehicle for its existence. By using the ‘K’ word, liberally, or euphemisms thereof, you essentially chip away at your own heritage, the heritage that is already marred by hurt and devastation. The treachery of “them” and “those people” spat with vehement disgust, is a direct attack on your own personhood, which is avoided and overlooked. Anti-blackness in the coloured community preserves the social framework of one of the most atrocious degradations of a people. Hostility and strife, misplaced rage.

Sanitation of this violence has birthed its own mechanism of betrayal. The kind that lingers in institution and state, paradoxically designed to inflict pain while denying the existence of the weapon. Tolerating racism feeds into the social construction of dangerous “other”. Gives it the freedom to annihilate and destroy. “They” are the problem…

“Swart gevaar.”

Fear and prejudice find kinship in maintaining that what is different must be inherently dangerous. Fuelling transference of hate and mistrust, blaming the marginalised for the place you’re in rather than the true culprit that tore you apart.

Unfortunately, the aspiration for whiteness remains weaved into the tapestry of society; the closer you are to attaining it, the more satisfied you are with what life has handed you. Seeking the approval from, and attaching to the acknowledgement that will never be yours. Tolerating is inadvertently, synonymous with; coddling and protecting. You are begging for the affirmation that the ‘gevaar’ is real, when it never was, and never will be.

At its core, racism endeavours to inflict pain. The political warfare of self-care attempts to recalibrate the societal core, it fights for the recognition that the blood that was shed some 30 odd years ago, was not in vain, it pleads for validation of the hurt. However, the work cannot be the responsibility of the oppressed. It’s asking the wounded to patch-up and show up all at once, while the weapon that caused the hurt remains in the hands of the oppressor.

The victim cannot be working in isolation. It is time that an unbridled act of defiance emerges within the hearts of citizens, where racist occurrences are met with contempt and that justifications are deliberately dismantled, in order to highlight the violence inherent in racism, regardless of how subtle. Tolerating racism is racism, and silence regarding the matter, does nothing for the oppressed, but provides the ammunition for the oppressor. You may not think it is necessary and legislation has changed and the constitution is rewritten but generational transference of hate permeates spaces and does the work that legislation used to do. Dismissal and denial takes the place of massacre and bloodshed. By saying nothing you say everything.

 

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ABOUT FOUNDATION

In pursuing its core objective of deepening non-racialism, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation will:

Promote the values, rights and principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa;

Collect, record, promote and display, through historical artefacts and contemporary material.