In 2064, if I get to live that long, I'd be in my mid-90s. Will South Africa be different then? Looking at the interaction of various groups through the tainted lens of cultural and ethnic differences, will we have moved on, or stagnated? Will our intolerance of one another leave us worse than we are now? Probably, my grandchildren and great grandchildren will never identify with the stories of the old South Africa that I'd be boring them with. Much like the present day hip-hop generation in America, who are so far removed from the Jim Crow laws late writer Maya Angelou lived through. But does race matter?
In 1993, I was the first African, and certainly the first woman to rent a flat in my hometown of Mokopane. Known as Potgietersrus then, the town was deeply racially polarised. It had Kommandos patrolling the streets in army trucks. These were civilian white people - not army reserves - who donned army uniform and kept blacks out of town, in their quest to keep it lily white. I know this because one of these Kommandos was a lady I worked with in a private laboratory. Does race matter?
When the first black kids attempted to enrol at local whites-only schools, white parents yanked them out. Helpless children, innocent children, had to be subjected to their parents' fear of race and imminent black presence in their midst. White parents in Mokopane were at the forefront of resisting change. It was like trying to stall the inevitable. When the education authorities visited Waterberg High School in 1994 to calm the situation down, white parents retaliated by building their own Christelike Volkseie Onderwys, or CVO Skool, some ten kilometers out of town. Does race matter?
Are blacks more afraid of white ethnicity, or are whites more afraid of black ethnicity? Does fear of intermingling and interacting with an ethnicity different from yours impact negatively on us all? This is of course based on the unfounded superiority and inferiority notions. After all notions, ideas, prejudices and hate had been peeled off and dumped, together with skin colour, underneath all humans are the same. Why does this anatomical cover continue to polarise us so? Does race matter?
If the race question still evokes emotive feelings, will it matter 50 years from now? Why do whites still feel alienated in the country of their birth? Granted, feeling alienated is largely of their own doing because to a large extent, they have failed to embrace the difference in the old and the new. They feel alienated because the decision to open up and consider themselves equals to the shack squatters at the periphery of their multi-million rand houses is bitter to fathom. Those less fortunate feel alienated because the shame of having come off materialistically short-changed by circumstances is too bitter to admit to their long-suffering black compatriots. Collectively, they feel alienated because the erstwhile dream of white privilege and power is shared by the majority. Does race matter?
Bar Orania and Kleinfontein, Mookgopong (Naboomspruit) and Mokopane (Potgietersrus) are unofficial enclaves of white minority ideals where unattainable dreams of self-determination are still simmering in the minds of a few. I'm talking about real enclaves where young kids are still trained in make-shift camps in preparation for regaining, the Boer Republic - Die Vaderland. Publicly living and interacting with the black majority, privately conspiring to assert white superiority. In 50 years, these kids would've retired, in a country they failed to build. Does race matter?
My high school-going children attend a mixed, previously whites only institution. It's 950m away from home. They have friends across all ethnicities. They speak Afrikaans in an accent that could give the 1976 generation bouts of seizures. It's the world they are set to inherit. They are kids. Race is immaterial to them. And it is how it should be. But will they keep and honour such ideals after school, and carry them into their working lives? Or will the reality of two nations - one black and poor, and the other white and privileged - put paid to any notion of 'sameness'? Will their children and grandchildren 50 years later carry on the legacy of seeing a human being in place where we currently see the colour of the skin? Can we put our hopes on these kids to confine race to the dustbin of history?
Does race matter? Will it matter 50 years from now?