How long will it actually take us before we put these racial issues to rest?

2013-03-25 12:48

I write this article still disheartened and appalled at Kashiem Ajam’s article in the Saturday Star newspaper dated March 23, 2013 whereby a young black female Dr. Phyllis Phukubje was shunned by white paramedics and bystanders as she attempted to “ do her job” to help a victim at a roadway accident.

I insist on using ‘black and white’ adjectives as they serve as the determinant factors which led to my writing of this article.

Kashiem reports, “on her way home from Helen Joseph Hospital in Auckland park, the 27year old Dr. Phyllis Phukubje stopped on the side of Douglas Road, Joburg, to assist a motorcycle accident victim. He was badly hurt and surrounded by many by-standers – “mostly white people”. The ambulance hadn’t arrived yet when I got there, I introduced myself to the victim and the people standing around the victim. I then proceeded to assist him.

The poor Dr. Phyllis was stunned by the racist remarks made by bystanders and the treatment she was given by the paramedics on their arrival to the scene. At some point she was even told by one of the by-standers “a white lady” who just assumed she was a nurse that her son’s friend is a doctor and was on his way to the scene. Not to mention the paramedic who came up to the patient with a cigarette on his mouth.

That’s it. I am gob-smacked!

This incident can only mean one thing and one thing only. As much as some of us would hate to say it, this literally meant you are black and you cannot be a doctor, as actually felt by Dr. Phyllis herself.

I struggle to understand why we continue judging others on the basis of the colour of their skin. I seriously struggle to understand why we look down on others because they do not belong to a group of a certain skin colour. Almost twenty years into our democracy one cannot believe this is still the case. Will we ever manage to create a shared national identity where we will get to appreciate one another as people of South Africa before anything else?

For once if this is going to be a debate let us try not to make it about the divisions along political, cultural, linguistic as well as ethnic lines for that matter, but about people who live and have got no choice but to live and behave “normally” as human on planet earth.

What happened to the legacies of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, who attempted to harness symbols of patriotism around which the whole nation could rally? By the way loving and being passionate about your country also speaks to loving and being passionate about the people of your country, regardless of what colour they are. As a black young man I want to live in a South Africa where everybody has got an opportunity to make life for themselves, to choose and achieve whatever kind of profession they like, to make a living for their families and be able to take this country to greater heights, enjoy and celebrate its success with everybody else. Patriotism also means supporting one another in endeavoring to make this country a better one where we all live in peace. One can never ever live in peace when there are some narrow minded people out there whose sole purpose is to dampen other people’s spirits, like in the case of Dr. Phyllis. I cannot even begin to imagine what the poor doctor must have been going through as this atrocious incident took place.

We need to start living together at-least as people. Neither of our lives is a fluke of nature. Every single detail of our body has been prescribed by Him who made us. He deliberately chose our different races, the colour of our skin and every other feature. Why then do other races have to suffer because of the colour of their skin? It does not make sense at all.

Let us learn to live together in harmony, love and respect one another. There is no way one would wake up one day and decide to be a mechanic, install a mechanic board on the side of the road in a bid to woo clients knowing very well they will worsen the problem if they tried to fix the car. There was therefore no way this young black lady was going to risk the patient’s life knowing very well she knew nothing about doctoring.

Was she even going to be compensated for her services on this patient afterwards? No. But she knew she had to help because there was no other doctor at the scene, but mere by-standers, well probably some with professions, but for sure not in doctoring. And as a doctor she had to honour her doctor’s oath, to help anyone who needs her, and there laid a victim who was in serious need of medical attention.

I am however relieved to hear that the strong Dr. Phyllis won’t be deterred by this incident. It is through committed doctors like you Dr. Phyllis that as citizens of this country we know we are assured of the safety we need on our country’s dangerous public roads and we will continue saluting you for going out of your way to assure our safety.

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