If only we were shades of grey

2016-03-04 08:30

For centuries, black people have been told that they are less than systems across the world. For centuries, across the globe, black people have been told that they aren’t worthy of something as simple as life. This, because of the colour of their skin. To deny that, would be to deny black experience, and I’d like to hope that in this day and age, people understand the value of experience.

Apartheid may have ended in 1994, but it’s foolish to think that Apartheid’s legacy ended with it. It’s 2016, and we have to go out of our way to actively teach people why these movements are a necessary part of what will, in the end, define South Africa for decades to come.

I’ve seen tantamount activity and engagement with regard to issues happening around the country, especially with the student led movements and 21st century mentality exposés. I’ve witnessed white people claim that black kids are, “barbaric,” in their approach of handling current university issues. “Barbaric,” for being revolutionaries. I find it quite demeaning that one can call any student barbaric for wanting free education – which, mind you, will be beneficial to future generations of scholars, beneficial to the parents and beneficial in the development and success of South Africa. I find it fascinating, how ignorance prevails amongst some, and how understanding a costly, colonialism - based system is inconceivable. As a result, this unfortunately eliminates a large portion of our citizens from contributing to the country’s economy later.

Last year, the student - led #FeesMustFall movement saw support from many students across the globe. I need you to take a minute and understand the importance of that. This is the same generation of people who were told that they are entitled, that they can’t see past their own noses, that they don’t know any better or how being on their phones does nothing to benefit them. The same generation of people who were told that they are lazy and don’t know what it’s like to die for something you believe in so firmly. The same group of people who were told that they are self-absorbed and selfish, that they don’t care about the next person. The same group of people who stood hand - in - hand to remind you of the lessons that you taught them about growing up during apartheid. The same group who held their country’s past on a pedestal because they never wanted a repeat of what happened. These are the same people you call, “barbaric.”

I find it fascinating how quick we are to label students for the manner in which they’re handling things, and how people are so quick to remind these students that the country has never been this chaotic before, that their behaviour is unfounded and unnecessary, and yet, we seem to forget how black homes were ripped through during apartheid. We seem to forget how families were destroyed and how parents were shot just miles from their home. For what? For being nothing? No. For being nothing, but black.

When we speak about privilege, we are looking at it from all angles; how people’s parents were murdered, how families were ripped apart, how being black has put generations on generations of families back, how most of our people still can’t afford the basic necessities to survive in this country, let alone the world.

You cannot say that this isn’t about race, or that race shouldn’t play a role in it. One race was considered inferior for so long, and EVERYTHING that is happening right now is a reaction to what has happened because people STIll experience it on a daily basis. To say race doesn’t play a role would be to deny the past and pretend as though everything is fine and dandy, and returning home to empty fridges because our parents can’t afford to fill up the fridge.

To say that race shouldn’t feature is to say that the kids who have to wake up at 4am, just to make it to a school in the suburbs on time, are being stupid, even though their parents know being at certain schools will put their child an edge ahead of others.

South Africa’s past is a painful one because of the race reality. We can’t - we won’t conquer the racism and inequalities if we sit here like couch potatoes and pretend that these things have no relevance. Everything has a chain reaction. All that is happening across the country right now is a reaction to apartheid, and the reality that so many black students are dealing with daily. It is not unreasonable to not want to be reminded of a group of people known for inflicting pain on blacks for so long. It is not too much to ask for, that in the process of bettering the country, we rid it of all monuments that remind us of the bloodshed and pain that brought forth those inequalities. These students aren’t stupid, they are completely aware of everything that’s going on, and they are completely aware of what needs to happen for this country and it’s people to heal properly. Take some time out to sit and listen. Don’t hear. Listen to what they are trying to achieve and who they are doing it for. Take the time to listen to them and you may actually find yourself more understanding than before.

In a few years, when we’re old and grey as we think back on our youth, we’ll remember moments like these happening as part of South Africa’s history. Don’t be fooled, these student - led movements will one day be spoken of in our history books (documented, and shared by the very students who you said were lazy), and your children will learn about these people.

Some of us are more privileged than others, but that, however, doesn’t mean we must turn our backs on those that aren’t on the same level of privilege as we are. Stop choosing ignorance. Stop choosing to not have a say on what’s happening in the country you claim to love so much. You cannot be a great judge of things that other people do, and be a great lawyer for your own things. Get yourself in check too.

Maybe in a perfect world, we’d all be shades of grey, but we’re not, and we’re not going to allow ourselves to pretend as though we are. So remember, you don’t get to tell people how to deal with their hurt, or how to react to being hurt. Stop telling people to “get over” a pain that they see day in and day out.

You can follow me on twitter: @LeratoMannya

Co-written with: Zaahira Yelena - @ZaahiraYelena

Photography By: Kamo Mogashoa - www.kamogelomogashoa.co.za

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