Fight against racism begins in schools

2016-02-24 06:00

LET us use our education system, particularly the compulsory teaching of progressive and inclusive history in schools, as a tool to fight against the demon of racism.

During a live television debate on racism, Dr Mathole Motshekga remarked that racism was based on the falsification and the misrepresentation of history. He made a compelling argument of how civilisation, religion and science had started in Africa and how Africans contributed to human development in general.

Racism as an ideology, belief and value system was developed by Europeans based on pseudoscience to justify and advance their slavery, colonial and imperial project to subjugate and oppress black people in Africa.

In South Africa, it was systematically developed into state policy and was brutally implemented, using among others the family, schooling system and church to promote white supremacy and domination.

White people were deliberately and systematically socialised to believe that they were superior to black people and blacks that they were inferior to whites. Racism was institutionalised.

This notion became so deeply entrenched in the psyche of whites and blacks to the extent that blacks were beginning to use certain lotions to change their skin colour to look more white and whites believed that they were naturally and genetically superior to blacks. Hence the emergence of the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s to promote black pride and confidence as a means to combat the scourge of racism.

In essence, racism became a process of social engineering, using the schooling system, in particular the distortion of history as a tool, to foster beliefs, values and norms that promote white superiority and black inferiority.

Blacks were presented as having no history, uncivilised barbarians who were saved from themselves with the arrival of white people in Africa. One prominent professor of the Oxford University in England even went to the extent to remark that “Africa has no history; the history of Africa is the history of white people in Africa”.

The essence of my argument is that this is where we need to begin to address the problem of racism as a belief and value system. We need to engage in a social re-engineering process using the schooling system, in particular the compulsory teaching of progressive and inclusive history in our schools as a tool to promote non-racialism and tolerance.

This could be consolidated by introducing a compulsory multi-disciplinary first-year course across all faculties in South African universities and colleges that promote values and beliefs of anti-racism and racial solidarity.

The academics in our universities who are molding our young brains must introduce and become actively involved in programmes that deliberately and systematically combat racial stereotypes and beliefs.

The ANC became very wise and visionary early in its history to recognise the devastating consequences of racism. It adopted non-racialism and racial solidarity as its key policy positions in all its key policy documents, programmes and activities.

The ANC has not only been fighting for a non-racial society in all its 104 years of existence, but has practically practised this key principle in all its political programmes.

When the ANC was formed on 8 January 1912 in Bloemfontein, Pixley Isaka ka Seme, addressing delegates at the founding conference, made the following powerful and compelling statement to support the formation of this giant movement: “The demon of racialism, the aberrations of the Xhosa-Fingo feud, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tongas, between the Basothos and every other Native, must be buried and forgotten; it has shed among us sufficient blood! We are one people.”

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a founding member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC, reiterated and echoed the same sentiment during the Rivonia Trial in 1964, where he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, when he said: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities.

“It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Utata Nelson Mandela, in his capacity as our first democratically-elected black president, confirmed his belief in a non-racial and democratic society when he said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

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