Inconvenient truth for the rainbow nation

Gugulethu Mhlungu
Gugulethu Mhlungu

Why are we so committed to misunderstanding the genuine concerns raised by the marginalised in this country?

What is it about our discourse that is unable to deal with nuance?

Especially since South Africa is full of it – this is not a country of simple problems.

By not considering the nuance in issues, we have allowed discrimination to continue unchallenged.

For years, many codes of conduct have simply been normalised forms of direct or indirect discrimination, because many of us don’t know our rights, and also because so much discriminatory and racist behaviour is really the status quo (and thus masquerades as “normal” behaviour).

Many of us, black people included, have even internalised the idea that discrimination and attacks on our dignity are the “price” we must pay for integration, when this is simply not true and shifts the blame on to the very victims of racist discrimination.

And when the status quo is challenged, as we’ve seen young people try to do this week, we see massive backlash and attempts to diminish or confuse the issues.

Perhaps making complex issues seem “simple” is the point of dominant discourse.

Whatever the reason, it is deeply exasperating.

It was exasperating seeing the numerous issues of access, institutionalised racism, transphobia and sexism at the core of #FeesMustFall and #RhodesMustFall movements become simply a matter of free education (and even then still be misunderstood).

And even if it were simply “just about hair”, it is also true that words such as ‘neat’ and ‘tidy’ – that cannot accommodate the most common hair type in this country – are inextricably linked to a long and still present history of anti-blackness, which also manifests in others ways, such as banning mother tongue in schools and workplaces, and even making speaking one’s mother tongue a punishable offence, like policing the movement and gathering of black bodies, including black children.

Attempting to “simplify” the complicated, violent and hurtful experiences of being black, because it is inconvenient for the kumbaya rainbow nation, is itself an act of violence towards so many South Africans who still cannot fully enjoy the rights that are theirs.

Follow me on Twitter @GugsM

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