This is one of the first articles I will be writing on race relations in South Africa, with the view to contribute towards how we can build a United South Africa flourishing in the richness of our diversity. Contribution and comments are welcome.
There are always reasoned excuses that disqualify us from speaking out on certain issues, whether it be our history or lack off, experience or lack thereof or FEAR. None of these excuses supersede the need to preserve and see to the progress of our humanity.
Speaking out against wrong is not a particular people groups’ exclusive right but a moral obligation for us all.
In South Africa, we have a long way to go with race issues. I am almost feeling a bit desperate, but cannot afford to. I just want to say, acknowledging the impact of apartheid on non-whites especially black people does not make you guilty as a white person or a sell-out. Why should you feel attacked whenever apartheid or colonialism is brought up? When I used to work as a Client Service manager, one of the continuous statement made was that, recovery from bad service cost up to 7 times more than giving a good service. Why the example? Well, apartheid was in place from 1948-1994, racial segregation was in place since late 1800 or longer.
Yet we somehow we think miraculously 21 years is more than adequate to correct the ills of racial segregation. How do we move forward if we don’t engage how we got here? How do we develop mutual goals if we don’t make an effort to get to a common place? Why is it so hard to appreciate that during apartheid black people worked just hard if not harder but for a lesser return? Hard work depending on which side of the fence could have either meant progress for you or for the other regress into desperation because of which side of the spectrum you were on? No one is denying or saying whites didn’t work hard for what they have, absolutely not. But it is also true that many non-whites especially blacks worked just as hard but not rewarded for it in the same way, it was so then and it is still now in many sectors. Cronyism, nepotism, corruption, BBBEE, with the current dispensations does not take away from the fact that the injustices and inequalities exist mainly because of the apartheid system. The fact that the ANC is not addressing these ills as well as it could does not mean those who voted for the ANC deserve poverty and continued marginalization. They still remain victims of the same systems, be it apartheid or democracy, for generations. As much as it is true that whites did not choose to be born under apartheid, it is also true that non-whites especially blacks did not choose to be born black and under apartheid either. The argument is valid on both sides.
At what point do we give ourselves time to reflect on our biases and make space for transformed thinking? Is it possible for a white or black persons in this country to talk about moving forward without being labelled racist or a puppet or a sell out by either side? A case to point out, I am not a DA man by a long stretch but Mmusi is called a puppet by many blacks, now he is said to have a victim mentality because he is now talking to uncomfortable race issues that sadly a lot of whites and some blacks in SA don’t want to talk about. Why do so many whites feel attacked when apartheid is brought up? Why do so many blacks feel betrayed when we talk about moving forward as a united country? Why does it have to be either or, when either or is what got here in the first place. Interesting how a unity of races is always reasoned against when history tells us no one has tried, at least not since more 6000 years ago according to Genesis 11.
So many of “us” so called “clever blacks” who have grown disgruntled with the current SA leadership, we get Facebook likes and vivas from mainly white sector and quite a bit flack from a non-white sector, specifically black, being called sell outs and delusional hopefuls. But as soon as we talk about apartheid, we hear comments like “we thought he was progressive and different, I suppose he’s just another black crying victim”. It is true that there is poverty that is not adequately addressed in SA right now, in some sectors, maybe, for the purpose of entertaining the notion, worse than during apartheid. But it is very true, that inequality and poverty experienced by non-whites was formalized by apartheid and worsened during apartheid. That is where it was declared that blacks deserved a lesser quality of life because they were lesser beings. It is true that many of us were not alive or old enough then but it happened, and the end result is that privilege went from white, to Indian, to coloured then lastly black. This does not mean feel guilty for it, or that you’re responsible for putting you in a better position, and certainly does not mean play down the disadvantage of black people. I as a black person who is currently advantaged, am not disqualified to talk about it just because I no longer experience it as direct as a person living in a shack. Just because there are angry black people who cry white privilege at everything white people have, doesn’t mean I should be quiet at the fear of being labelled an angry black person who wants what white people have.
My call to all of us is to honestly assess our emotions invoked when these issues are raised. I get my back up too when I hear certain things from non-blacks, but I need to take time to reflect of why am getting emotionally worked up. I need to humble myself and realise that I too have unhealthy biases formed by the environment I live in and not be so quick declare my views righteous. It should be about the content of what someone is saying not who is saying it? Can we debate content of the discussion and not the person, in spite of the argument seemingly being for or against us. Else we find our humanity paralysed by reasoned excuses which have no power to disqualify us but rather they should enlighten and motivate us to do right by our fellow man.
PS: I am writing this post as a black South Africa whose perspective has been significantly influenced by an environment that has been more hostile to my skin colour for a long time. I therefore declare that it is not lost on me that my view may be biased still, even though I have made every to be objective. I believe my objectivity is strongly influenced by my current privileged position in terms of my interaction with South African and international people for over 15 years. I have no reason to believe that a united country is NOT possible, no one has tried so far. My desire is for all South Africans to experience the richness of living in and embracing a diverse society, in spite debilitating history.
South Africa, let us arise out of our bias.
Jabulani Zwane is a Pastor at Greater Grace Ministry South Africa, where he ministers in both Pretoria Arcadia and in Nellmapius township as well as assisting in Mozambique. The ministry is affiliated with Greater Grace World Outreach. Having been a pastor since 2008, he also teaches Theology at Greater Grace Bible College in association with Maryland Bible College and Seminary in the USA.
Like his Facebook Page – South Africa Arise: https://www.facebook.com/SouthAfricaArise/?fref=nf
Also listen to Jabulani being interviewed here by Brendi Richards:
He holds a Bible College degree in Theology and a Business Qualification from GIBS. Currently residing in Pretoria with his wife and three children, he is originally from the Free State town, Lindley. As a pastor he is involved in community leadership and training community leaders in Nellmapius. As a Bible teacher, he specialises in Biblical Leadership and Apologetics. He also teaches in other African countries namely, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda and Malawi.