Is apartheid over? I hadn’t noticed

2014-08-26 06:45

Reading through the papers, listening to radio talk shows and trawling the social media, as frequently as I do, I find myself compelled to comment.

Firstly, as a black man and, secondly, as a black man. I am afraid I cannot separate my humanity from my colour.

I was born and bred in this country. I am a beneficiary of Bantu education. I am not politically connected and I am not a member of the governing party.

And no, my kids are not receiving grants and I don’t live in an RDP house. I state this to pre-empt anyone whose first line of attack would be along these lines.

But I am a proud member of a homogenous group commonly referred to as “you people”. Any self-respecting black person has been lumped into this group at some point in their life.

If you live in this country, you will also know who does the name-calling. It is “my people” who are running the country down.

I have often wondered if white people in this country really know what it feels like to be black. To be a member of a large group of people who are miseducated, unemployed and landless?

Sure, most of them have black people as “friends”. Somehow this feat of humanity sets them apart from the rest. The frothing-at-the-mouth type.

For any white person, having a black friend exonerates them from colonialism, slavery, apartheid and, fashionably, racism. You cannot be that bad, or can you?

Twenty years down the line, it’s a shame that very few white people have made any concerted effort to know what it really means to be black.

But the majority of them feel confident to write about me and “my people”.

Many of them were also born in this country, but they can hardly say a word in any of the indigenous languages. That alone should indicate the level of social cohesion and all that jazz.

But then again, the coloniser does not need to learn the language of his subjugated subjects, does he? He is the master, after all.

It’s a pity my people thought that because they have political power, they have everything. How wrong they were!

So then, is apartheid dead?

Anyone who follows the news in this country will observe the discourse that is fuelled by vitriol, most of it unwarranted.

The death of Stellenbosch vice-chancellor Russel Botman exposed raw wounds of a country struggling to heal. Professor Jonathan Jansen, of the University of the Free State, dared to air his views on the matter and the responses his column elicited are telling.

The University of Pretoria students’ night of “harmless fun” is another event that captured the pulse of our nation.

The fun part included ridiculing the black woman. Again, the majority of reactions pointed towards a nation that is “separate but equal”.

And then, the shocking statistics of black professors in “white” universities, as exposed recently by City Press.

Lastly, let me bore you by mentioning Steve Hofmeyr’s moment when he burst into Die Stem at an Afrikaans cultural festival in Nelspruit recently. Most white people will publicly denounce his antics but privately worship him.

These are but some of the exciting snippets of our republic, a nation that is nothing short of a “miracle”.

Has anyone seen or met a white person who has benefited from apartheid? Or better yet, a white person who is proudly racist? I bet not, so blacks must just get on with the programme already.

Apartheid is long dead and buried, or is it, really?

So then, my people and I will have to continue to manage our interactions with our white counterparts. We are going to bend over backwards to speak their language, and we are going to speak it well.

We are also going to live next to them, in their suburbs, even if they look at us with suspicion. We are going to cruise around in those expensive German sedans and go on holidays like them.

Just a word of caution: do not call them “racist”, and if you’re fortunate enough to have a white “friend” and you get the rare opportunity to be invited to dinner, steer the conversation away from apartheid or affirmative action.

I hear the playing fields have been “levelled”. So this preferential treatment is actually hurting me, I must be accorded any status on “merit”.

Apartheid is dead, yes?

Petlele is a Cape Town-based public servant

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