This is a phrase often expressed by some of my fellow white South Africans when the topics of poverty and Apartheid are bought up. Then, when challenged, said white individuals will resort to the most ignorant come backs, such as: 'WE built them schools, they burned everything down' and 'before WE arrived there was nothing here'...So, let me start with the 'I worked hard for my money' narrative. Absolutely nothing wrong with hard work, there's nothing wrong with what you're saying, but it's what you're not saying. Has it occured to you that such a loaded statement potentially implies laziness among the less fortunate? Are those people having to support unskilled grandparents, parents and siblings (as a result of the past) on a hunger wage truely lazy? Why are there only a few individuals benefiting from their hard work? Do you honestly believe that hard labour is not work, and that a fair wage for last mentioned is not justified? You'll notice that I'm not singeling out any racial group here, because poverty affects all groups, and hurtful, ignorant statements aimed at the poor are universal. Now, a note on schools. 'WE built them schools'.
Who are WE? Have you honestly physically built schools and implemented education in the bantustans? Are you even old enough to know what a bantustan is? Do you actually want to be associated with this specific 'WE'? Because I sure as hell don't. Did you know that bantu education called for the dumbing down of education in schools for non-white people which were originally built by missionaries? Like H.F. Verwoerd said: '"There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour ... What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?" Read this quote again, have you noticed that he refers to black people as 'it'? Also, regarding Indians and coloureds, do you have any idea how much money was spent during Apartheid on court cases to give these people less presentation in parliament, and as a result less control over and funding for their own education? I repeat, are you sure you are or want to be part of 'WE'? As for the 'before WE arrived' theory: what the hell were you doing in history class? Did you pay close attention? Do you honestly consider the first inhabitants of South Africa's cattle farming tradition to be 'nothing'? Not to mention the kingdom of Mapunguwe.
Then, regarding the slaves: don't you recognise the contribution of the stone masons from Asia in our architecture (especially the castle in Cape Town)? You may argue that there's nothing wow about farming and that monarchies are primitive, but please give me the name of the settler that arrived here with an Apple Mac. And please explain to me where you find 'civilisation' in a people that go to a new place, trying to enslave the locals, and then, writing them off as barbarians and ethnically cleanse them when they refuse. Also, as if that is not enough, to import other people, taking children away from their parents and turning them all into slaves.
How civilised is it not to clean up after yourself? Am I saying that white people should forever feel guilty about their turbulant past? Absolutely not. Neither am I saying that white people are the only villians in history nor am I an apologist for the ANC's corruption. All that I'm saying is to get off your moral high horse, educate yourself, and realise that you are not God's gift. Instead of finding fault with the previously disadvantaged and dreaming up reasons as to why so many are still povety stricken 20 years into democracy, acknowledge the imbalance created by our ancestors and show some empathy.
Realise that you have a duty to contribute to change (it's not solely the responsibility of the government) through taking small steps. I'm not saying donating millions to charity (unless you can afford it) and drowning in your own guilt - all i'm saying is, reflect, watch your own mouth and don't shut up when someone come up with ignorant statements such as mentioned here. And be open to criticism, even if it comes from non-white people! Every mention of Apartheid is not a direct attack on your humanity. Of course 10% of references to Apartheid are politicised, but the other 90% are justified, and denying it's existence, is denying the hardships of others. Be mindful of that, and the rest will slowly fall into place...
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