Our nation is an angry teenager

CT_oped racism0 DAVID RITCHIE

Caitlin Spring

A few nights ago I was alarmed to find this as I scrolled down my Facebook newsfeed:

John: “F**k the ANC, their BEE policies, their nepotism, their greed, their corruption, f**k their president and f**k every uneducated, prejudiced black who says their ANC should be in power. You can go die and let the country flourish without you. I’m sick of racial sensitivity and prejudice! Why punish the young generation of whites who had nothing to do with apartheid’s injustice? Are their big heads stuck so far up their asses that all they see for the future of this country is s**t and AIDS? We either need a hit man to take out JZ (TREASON BITCHES) or a mass white/coloured/indian/yellow/blue exodus so we can leave the ANC to rule their all-black state.”

19 likes.

John: “Okay, putting my happy face back on.”

1 like.

CT_oped racism facebook0 REUTERS

James: “We are going to end up like Zimbabwe who now have $128 in their government bank.”

3 likes.

Jane: “Nicely done.”

2 likes.

Jack: “The Western Cape just needs independence, but I doubt that would happen without some sort of civil war.”

1 like.

Joe: “Yeah, that’s a good idea, let’s all fight fire with fire, seems to be working well so far.”

No likes.

When I read this, what I was immediately struck by was this sense of assumed innocence, as if being born out of apartheid and growing up in a democratic South Africa means we are untouched by it.

It’s not as if when South Africa became democratic, a spell was broken and everything became equal; the ramifications of years of unjust laws have left their mark emotionally, politically and economically. This is something that young white South Africans find easy to forget – this is something black South Africans find impossible to forget.

As a young white person it is understandable to want to forget about the past – dwelling on it will not benefit you in any way. Forgetting is of the most benefit to you. It is easy to forget, from your suburban home with your private school education; it is much harder when you’re sitting on the other end of the socio-economic spectrum.

This is something to which white youths are insensitive, but more importantly, they are ignorant of the fact that they are as much a product of apartheid as their parents. If you are an 18-year-old white South African, you are living in the house you are because of the apartheid government, your parents have their jobs, their experience and education because of apartheid, they have given you the lifestyle you feel entitled to because of an unjust system. And you may want to forget this.

But if your parents are uneducated, and you live in an informal settlement and can barely pay for food – would you be so willing to forget?

I did not engineer apartheid, nor did I ever vote for the National Party; it is not my fault that it did what it did – am I benefiting from it today, as a 19-year-old white South African? Yes. I have benefited all my life. And the reverse can be said for many young black South Africans. They did not live through the process, but they’re living through the consequences, we all are, and it’s going to take a long time for people not to be condemned or advantaged by apartheid.

Secondly, the ANC: what’s going on there? The ANC is not a black movement. Being an ANC supporter is not about being black. Nor has is ever been. The ANC was a liberation party, and the good it did for the democratisation of this country is something that will never be forgotten or undervalued. Having said that, I do believe that it has lost its way a bit. The essence of this political party is different to that of the liberation movement. It is not as inclusive as it once was, and I feel that many white South Africans who voted the ANC into power are feeling alienated and disempowered by it.

Also, let us not condemn an entire, multifaceted political party because of the actions of a few. There are still many good leaders in the ANC. However, I fear that loyalty will be the death of this party; fear of speaking out could take it on a path where it no longer recognises itself, or what it stood for. This saddens me.

“…f**k every uneducated, prejudiced black who says the ANC should be in power.”

No. Since when is being uneducated something that we hate people for? Being uneducated is scary, it is especially scary when mixed with anger and frustration and resentment and fear. These emotions breed, and when people cannot understand why they do not have a job or water or electricity – just that they do not have it – they can resort to violence.

When you have nothing, only the stones you can throw and the songs you can shout – what else are you to use? I cannot condone violence; I can only hope that if I were that desperate I would not be that intolerant. Being uneducated and wanting the ANC to be in power is something we cannot fault people for – unwarranted prejudice is a different story. The ANC has, generally, done an adequate job. Is there a future for the ANC in South African politics? I do not know.

It is rare that a liberation party is able to evolve into a functioning government. And there is no shame in that – what the ANC did in the past will not be discredited unless it becomes that which it once fought against.

“…go die and let the country flourish without you.”

I will not humour this by commenting, it is too disgusting.

“I’m sick of racial sensitivity and prejudice.”

Aren’t we all? We all wish we could forget about race, it is such a superficial and arbitrary means of classification. However, racial insensitivity and heavily loaded prejudice (like this post) is the last way to advocate change.

As much as I wish all could be forgotten, I know it can’t be – and I am willing to struggle on through South Africa’s teenage years. This is our awkward phase. I will not burn tyres and buses in protest, but I will write about that which I disagree with. I want to live to see an unprejudiced and happy South African society. I like this country.

Finally, the similarities between this post, the anger of the white youth, and that we see of the black youth on the news is quite ironic. Sometimes I fear that we are on the brink of self-destruction. Everyone is unhappy. White youths are angered by all the change, all that they see taken away from them. Black youths are angered by how slow change has been. The wealth of the small white population is constantly in the faces of the black poor. And the even smaller black minority’s immense wealth and flamboyance is rubbed in the face of the white middle class.

Everyone is angry, everyone is struggling. It is hard to reconcile the ideologies of the past with the economics of the present.

If you want to leave South Africa, no one is going to stop you. A country needs people who want to be here in order to flourish. “Here” is far from perfect, embrace that. People need to be sensitive to the injustices of the past. They must be willing to make concessions in an attempt to equalise an unequal society. There is much to do – but much has been done.

I understand that people are angry. I am angry. Violence, physical or literary, is not the answer. Violence is crude, temporary and unthinking, and can ignite a fire we will not be able to extinguish.

South Africa has no use for a civil war.

If the past has taught us anything, surely it is that we are above that.

l Spring is in the second year of her BA at UCT, majoring in English literature and philosophy. She blogs at www.caitlinspring.blogspot.com.


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