Truth Commission led by #BlackTwitter

2016-01-24 06:55

2016 has barely begun and already we have good reason to expect that  'race' will dominate the  political discourse this year.  Terms  such as black consciousness,  #blacklivesmatter #whiteprivilege and #whitesupremacy will be in frequent use.  Indeed the prophets of doom has awakened and stated that these are signs of the weakening of democracy, the end of the 'Rainbow Nation' and at worse  the beginning of a civil war. While others who cannot the comprehend the legacy of Apartheid are calling for South Africans to move on from the constant referral of Apartheid.

2016 may seem in contrast to  the government of national unity  between 1994-1999.South Africa had two deputy presidents, representing both ANC and National Party, a new constitution was adopted,  Arch Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu coined the term 'Rainbow Nation' and he led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Critics of the TRC argue that their strategy was misguided as it  only focused on the direct victims and perpetrators of the Apartheid regime and not on the ‘ordinary’ people. Many Black South Africans in 1994 were expected to forgive and move on. However, a space was never created for the 'ordinary' Black citizens of Apartheid to voice their opinions on the psychological trauma that it had caused on a people group. Instead, everyone was to join hands in the romanticized ‘Rainbow Nation’ and bury their anger.

Has #BlackTwitter and other social media networks not provided a platform for Black South Africans to share their opinions about the past and every day experiences which resemble the past system? It has definitely received apologies from people who have uttered racist statements and not understood the present day in context vis-à-vis the past system.  Could this ‘modern-day-TRC’ bring healing and reconciliation, or is it a case of further divide?

In 2015 we experienced the #RhodesMustFall #FeesMustFall, #EndOutsourcing, #BlackLivesMatter movements with three overarching objectives. They are: the end of White supremacy and addressing ‘whiteness’, the worth of Black South Africans vis-à-vis exposing many of their dehumanizing conditions and ending Black poverty.

On January 2nd, #BlackTwitter made the hashtag #ThisYearWePronounceBack trend. The notion stems from the reality that most White South Africans and other people of Colour have the inability to pronounce the names of their Black compatriots and as a result of this, resort to giving them nicknames or requesting their ‘Christian Names.’ #BlackTwitter decided to use the same tactic in 2016. Although it was a humorous affair, this also signalled a clear message, ‘we are proud of our heritage which includes our names and you need to understand how your ‘white privilege’ makes us feel by being at the receiving end’.

On January 4TH, Penny Sparrow et al. decided to share their racist sentiments on Facebook and Twitter. It did not end too favourably for them as they were either fired or suspended from work. South Africans of all creeds, led by #BlackTwitter did not take too kindly to the statements and refused to be referred to as monkeys or other derogatory terms which were considered the norm during the Apartheid regime. It took a racist to unite South Africans but also in some cases further the divide the nation.

I must note on the outset that I am a proponent of non-racialism but I must concede that the current form is failing to rid the country of the shadow of racialism. Of course non-racialism rests on the notion that race should not play a factor in society. In a country such as South Africa, which has a history of racial discrimination, the first ‘logical’ approach to dealing with the past is by diminishing its importance. After all, our forefathers did fight for a non-racial and non-sexist society. In an ideal world, post- Apartheid South Africa should be ‘colour blind’. The pure non-racialists may agree with me on this point, but how can we be a ‘colour blind’ society when the past still haunts us in the everyday lives of South Africa albeit there has been progress. Regardless which political party governs, it is virtually impossible to reverse three hundred years of racial oppression in twenty years.

Expressed anger or disapproval is a much needed aspect for bringing about the eventual healing of South Africa . Talking about the past and the current realities should be encouraged as I believe it will give racial groupings a more realistic grasp on the everyday realities. I believe that the current political situation is not necessarily the regression of the non-racial nation but a step in the right direction as White South Africans begin to understand the plight of ordinary Black South Africans both past and present as a result of ‘whiteness.’ On the other hand it may further entrench division, but only time will tell.

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