Racism is pretty crappy.

Disclaimer: I know that whatever I write about this issue, someone somewhere is going to disagree with me. So whoever you are, don’t hate me . Just give me a chance to have a say.

South Africa is a complex country. We have had a past of one specific group of people invading another, violating their rights, enslaving them to an inferior state of mind, and over the years this has formed the norm, until relatively recently, when there was enough civil unrest to tip the scales, so to speak, and finally we could have laws that WEREN’T discriminatory; we set the foundation for equality.

Looking back on the past, it’s very straight-forward: colonialists were the bad-guys. They did horrible things. They stole the African identity, westernised it.

And it’s for that very reason that I find movements like the Black Consciousness Movement so important – everyone should be able to reclaim their identity; to not be defined by what someone else thinks you are! Amandla! The 1970s was just the beginning for South Africans to take back their identity, and here in 2015 this goal is still far from being achieved: western culture has dictated our measures of “good development practice,” our understanding of popular culture, religion… The list goes on.. I can’t even imagine how it must feel to try to find a place among all the chaos of the different views on identity, self-empowerment, and the tradition vs modernization debate.

And then, there’s me. I’m white. There are many struggles I have not had to deal with: I have been ’empowered’ by birth. I know that I have benefited from white privilege.

As far as my culture goes, I get slightly more confused because I don’t really want to respect my British ancestors, and they were probably pretty cruel, although I suppose it is quite interesting to hear about their endeavors in the war and things like that.

A big part of my identity is also South African. I am a fourth generation South African, and I really consider myself African before anything else. I love this continent: the vibrancy, the beauty, and all it has to offer (even though it has its problems).

So, in all of this #RhodesMustFall pandemonium, this background has informed a few thoughts.

First of all, I believe that Rhodes must fall. As  I mentioned earlier, I despise what colonialists have done to other humans, and I don’t think someone like Cecil John Rhodes, who symbolises this, should be the face of our University. I also feel like it is up to our generation to make noise about issues like this, so that we can truly transform our country.

 

BUT (There’s a big BUT): I feel like there’s a certain way to go about it. UCT, during transformation month, gave students many ways to make their voices heard. My opinion is that throwing human excrement on UCT property, no matter what the cause, creates an unpleasant environment to students, and disrespects those who had to clean it up. I feel like we shouldn’t just set the precedent that just because someone’s cause is justified, their actions should be allowed. This would create mayhem on campus.

 

Secondly, I don’t like how people are using this opportunity to be racist, on both sides. Racism is bad. That is what the movement is trying to stop. Just stop. This includes people who have been posting things like “White people must just go back to Europe,” and the fact that we don’t care enough. I take personal offense: I fully support the cause. Moreover, I think it is unfair to judge someone’s involvement in a campaign based on something as arbitrary as race. We do not choose our race; we didn’t choose to benefit from colonialism, and so it kind of sucks that I feel guilty for something I didn’t actually do. But I do feel guilty.

 

So I gets the moral of the story is, don’t be racist. Don’t be ignorant. Be open-minded. And actually THINK about why things are the way they ARE. And be nice to people.

That’s what I’m trying to do, at least. 🙂

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#BringBackOurGirls

Gender equality has been a consistent struggle for women globally, right from the Suffragette movement, through first wave feminist to Malala Yousafsai of today. The thing is, it’s getting tricker. The movement is no longer about white, middle-class housewives trying to be free from oppression from their husband. With women empowerment n the 21st century, questions of cultural relevance and religion are always in constant debate.

 

This is one of the main reasons that extremist organisations make me so angry: they misrepresent what religions truly stand for. For example, and what this post is specifically about, Islam: it is a religion based on love which pursuit of knowledge, yet organisations like the Boko Haraam stop girls from going to school “in the name of Islam” – it’s so twisted.

 

When I first heard that the girls had been abducted, the first thing I thought is that it could have happened to me. We do not choose our circumstances. I am lucky enough to go to an all girls’ school safely, but I could have just as easily been born into a country threatened by a terrorist organisation.

 

Education is a right to all – regardless of race, religion or social status. We can’t just let these girls be oppressed for trying to fulfill a basic right. In January I read ‘I Am Malala’ and it was really shocking how the Taliban had very similar ideologies to the Boko Haraam. It’s the 21st century and people still believe that women do not deserve equal rights – this is saddening.

 

Subsequently, I’ve watched a snippet of that video that the Boko Haraam leader put out, and I think that the girls are being used as political weapons as well as symbols of backward beliefs. The group has given Goodluck Jonathan an offer of releasing the girls on the condition that currently imprisoned Boko Haraam members are released. Since when is it okay to let almost 200 young humans act as bargaining agents?

I feel like global diplomatic action needs to be escalated.

 

What has been inspiring, however, is the social action taken by civilians, specifically in my direct community. I’ve seen my own school explode with passion regarding the issue – tweeting #BringBackOurGirls intensively, as well as making posters. We’ve also attracted a lot of media attention!

As well as this, the G(irls) 20 Summit delegation that I’m a part of has taken social awareness action on Facebook. Angie Motshekga, South Africa’s minister of Basic Education, has also be quite action (as she told us when she visited our school on Friday) as she has created a petition… Sign it! http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ancwl-bringbackourgirls-safely-now

 

So, I hope these girls are okay. I hope they get rescued soon. As for the rest of us: why not take a few moments to be grateful that we live in a free society, and let’s use that to help those not as lucky.