Laura Shortridge

Apartheid is not something you just get over

2016-02-24 13:27

Laura Shortridge

I saw a fake EFF poster on Twitter last night. It depicted a little white girl with bruises on her face. The caption read, “The sooner she learns the apartheid was all her fault, the better”.

Apartheid is a favourite talking point in South Africa. It’s so popular, even the view “oh not apartheid, I’m sick of hearing about apartheid!” is a common one that you’re almost guaranteed to see, or hear (or express) whenever the topic comes up.

“Why can’t”, many South Africans want to know, “they just get over apartheid already?”

As the fake EFF poster reveals, there’s a concern that white South Africans will never really be able to live apartheid down.

Now, I get it. It’s not nice to be blamed for something you don’t feel personally responsible for. But while individual white people in South Africa, the “born frees”, and those who were always actively and vocally against the apartheid, might not be specifically to blame for the fact that apartheid happened, there’s an ugly reality that we can’t just sweep under the rug: apartheid benefitted white South Africans at the cost of all others.

South Africa as a nation didn’t just spring out of the ground, already formed. The fact that there’s a huge inequality problem in this country, with entire groups of people still restricted by poverty and lack of opportunities, isn’t something that just came out of nowhere. Apartheid may be over, but its legacy lives on.

Today, white South Africans, even “born frees”, benefit from privileges that the apartheid helped to secure for us. Today, South Africans of other races, particularly black South Africans, even “born frees”, still feel the negative effects the apartheid had on their communities and lives. This fact is unavoidable, and no amount of “we’re a rainbow nation now” and claims that “I don’t see race” is going to fix it.

The British still crack jokes about how, if someone’s German, “DON’T MENTION THE WAR”. They even still laugh about hating the French because of wars that happened literally centuries ago. Afrikaaners are still upset about war crimes that were committed during the Anglo-Boer war. But we want black South Africans to just “get over” something that still negatively affects them to this day? It’s a little ridiculous.

Things have been getting pretty bad lately. We’re seeing violence, destruction of property, destruction of art. I will never condone these things, but when you constantly refuse to listen to people whenever they try to bring up topics that still negatively affect them because you don’t want to think about or address these issues, then sometimes you give them little choice.

So what can we do? Apartheid is over. How do we move past it?

Well, for starters, we white South Africans can stop demanding people forgive and forget purely because that would make us feel more comfortable. We can stop expecting people to stop talking about apartheid, just because we’re bored of hearing about it.

We can stop shouting at understandably angry people to sit down, shut up and be good. We can start to listen instead.

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