A lot of South Africans still have hope for our country. Unfortunately most people are looking for a messiah. Haibo, we need a wake up call. There is no Azor Ahai to save us and lead us through the long night(GoT reference). We need to realise that the power for real change lies in our hands and not the government’s. Placing a new president is not going to bring about the change we need. No policy is going to change our attitudes. We, the people, have to take matters into our own hands. I have said this time and time again, voting once every couple of years does not make you an active citizen. I mean, don’t get me wrong, voter turnout is crucial for the running of a successful democracy but it is not the only thing we can do to bring about change.
What is an active citizen? Someone with a positive attitude, hope and the willingness to change their way of thinking first before taking it to the streets. I would say that everything begins at home and in our small communities. We need to start having real conversations with our kids, siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, etc. Facebook should not be the be all and end all of your activism when you can’t even talk to your siblings about patriarchy. We need to somehow get out of this Rainbow Nation hangover we are currently in. It’s not enough to call ourselves a Rainbow Nation if we are only willing to tolerate the other colours on a superficial basis.
We need to talk with purpose and listen with understanding. We need to be able to empathise with other people’s feelings. We need to understand why the past is so important and why people keep referring back to colonialism and apartheid as the root of our current problems.
Black people feel cheated in this democracy– and it should be evident why this is the case. Since apartheid ended, how did black people’s lives change? Is the vote enough to call yourself free? I think not. Black people still live in terrible conditions. Townships can be likened to concentration camps, minus the gas chambers.
Yes, we can blame the ANC for the conditions getting worse instead of improving but prior to 1994, conditions weren’t ideal either. So we ought to examine the inception of all these current problems we face. Black people don’t own their ancestral lands. We can blame the government for why the land was never redistributed but as to the start of the issue ie land dispossession, we can look to the Glen Gray Act (1894), Natives Land Act (1913), Population Registration Act (1950), Group Areas Act (1950), and the Natives Resettlement Act (1954).
It is important to understand why black people are, in general, in a worse off position than…let’s say white people. Why? Why should we keep bringing up the past? The answer is simple really…
If we do not consider the context then imagine how this might appear to children? The world around us confirms white supremacy. People with decent jobs, big houses and cars are white. The people who clean up after the rich are black. To a child or someone else who does not know the history, white people simply work harder than the rest. Black people simply belong in those positions or they are too lazy to study and work to get themselves out of their situations. We hopefully know this is not the truth and that black people have been (historically and continue to be) prevented from doing better.
White people in South African live in fear. They used to live very safe and comfortable lives in a police state that protected them politically, economically and socially. Now things are starting to change. (Some) white people feel that black people are targeting them. This is not a completely unreasonable thought because usually when you wrong someone they seek revenge. Fortunately most black people are oblivious to this so called white genocide (because it’s not a thing). White people also feel threatened in the work place because of affirmative action and quotas– even though statistics still show that white people earn more than black people on average and also unemployment rates for white people are super low.
We can’t dismiss people’s anger or people’s fears. All we can do is try to get to the root of it all so we can attempt to understand it and be able to empathise with people, no matter how irrational their fears are. Being a better citizen starts with being better to those around you. Your colleagues, employees, employers, etc. Take 67 minutes to chat to them, ask them questions. Ask them about their hopes and dreams. Ask them about their fears and concerns. I think you will find that most of us just want to be able to provide for our families and live in a better country.