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. 🙂