Racism is the belief in the superiority of one race to another, which results in discrimination towards people based on their race or ethnicity. The only way to try and eliminate racism is to speak out.  If you refuse to speak out and tolerate racism then where exactly do you stand as a person?

South Africa is striving towards becoming a rainbow nation that stands together and in respect of our different socio economic, racial, or sexual identity, that is why the South African constitution was formulated, so that we could get to know and understand what our rights are. For this reason when someone violates those rights you are able to speak out and address the issues as your action will results in the violation not to happen again. Therefore “Tolerating racism is racism”.

Toleration means willingness to accept behaviors and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them.  When tolerating racism against you or somebody else you actually saying the people must continue with their actions, as it does not bother you enough to speak out, you are willingly allowing the situation to happen. Which makes you one of them.

Someone may not know that their actions or words are discriminating towards you, so when you decide to tolerate the act and not say anything, how will the person know and fix themselves? When nothing is being said the person will continue with that kind of act and cause more harm to other people. In other words you encouraged the racist to continue because you said nothing about it.

Some people tolerate racism because they are scared to speak out, they think that they are protecting themselves by keeping quiet, not being aware of the damages caused, let us not forget that this is the new south Africa that is culturally diverse, rich in culture and heritage, you don’t need to be scared to voice out your pain, we have for example MS Momberg who became the first south African woman imprisoned for racist speech.  Many may ask why it took so long for the law to act, but the answer to this thought is many people are victims of tolerating racism, therefore nothing is being done.

Our South African heroes, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, nelson Mandela and many more, fought for the freedom we have today, if they tolerated those apartheid forces against them, where do you think we would be today?, they endured so much pain along the way, but because they wanted to see change, they never stopped fighting. Be the change that you want to see, if you want to see racism continue in our country then tolerate it, if you want to see change then stand up and be the voice that saves our country.

I once experienced a situation where I had to go to high school, only to find out that the school had an initiation program where they called it treating the new learners (grade 8’s), they would make us sing songs that made us feel less of ourselves. This one time the prefects of the school called and told us to pull rocks to school and tie it with a rope like it is our puppy and the other race had to do two pony tails every day to school, complaints were only made between us students. But that couldn’t help us because we never raised out our voice but tolerated the situation, which made me realize that we are putting this to ourselves, because it means we like it. But then our parents were also immune because all they could tell us was “it is just an initiation just hold on it will pass”.  If certain schools have initiation then it is fine because we don’t have to argue with the way they operate, but why must others have less of the initiation than others, they should all get the same treatment. This whole situation made me realize that I was also a racist because I never said anything, and I had to watch this kind of behavior to continue to other new children joining the school.

We must realize that South Africa has the potential to be a great nation and the only way to fulfill that potential is by standing together as a nation be one community, reconciliation, freedom, forgiveness. Your voice can bring a big impact to the nation, speaking out will fix, mend and bring the change that South Africa is trying to achieve.

If you thought that you are protecting yourself by tolerating racist situations then you need to rethink your actions and look around you. You are what you make in the world. Speaking out will help change situations around you, and tolerating will only make things worse as racist behavior will just escalate and cause more damages. We don’t have to be scared anymore to voice out our pain, support is given to people who are discriminated against. Law is enforced to such behaviors as well.

Everyone comes from a different background with unique history and life experiences.  We need to grow and become more accepting of each other, racism still exists today and should not be tolerated in any form.

Racism comes in many different forms, sometimes it is violent, sometimes it is subtle and sometimes it is tolerating it, but it is definitely here. And it is up to us to prepare the future generation not to tolerate it and know how to handle it. Because with more knowledge to racism change can be done. Let us not teach each other to live in fear and tolerance, but to voice it out.

In conclusion let us remember Nelson Mandela’s defense statement during the Rivonia Trial 1964 which said- “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is and ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realize. But my lord if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

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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.