Brackenfell High School incident shows racism runs deep; reach out to seek redemption
by Shabodien Roomanay
The Brackenfell High School incident should be viewed as a barometer for how deep-rooted racist tendencies are still ingrained in many white people.
It is an indictment that almost three decades after the demise of apartheid, racism still resides deep in the psyche of many. Our Constitution guarantees the right of association and freedom of expression. To defend their legal rights is important, but they also come with responsibility and obligation.
These rights are not enshrined in the Constitution to further entrench superiority; separate people and to hang on to the colonial project and construct that cast millions of people on to the heap of third-class human beings.
If a simple definition of racism is where someone treats another person differently because of their skin colour, texture of their hair, size and shape of various parts of the body and because they speak the same language but differently, then the actions of those parents and teachers who organised a private “whites-only” party still have no idea that they are still stuck in the National Party chambers.
That the children, who must have spent and socialised a number of years with children of colour in their classrooms, are not able to see that their inability to invite others to share in what should have been a happy end-of-school occasion, to be obnoxiously dishonest, is shockingly disturbing.
These are new adults; not kindergarten kids. That they are, or were, unable to see the deep-seated wrong of their conduct; that they instead after years of “exposure” to other young adults of colour, should have educated their parents who saw fit to accept that a private party is acceptable, have contributed to the superiority complex that many still harbour.
If ever there is blatant evidence of “successful” social engineering sought by future historians, it will be South Africa's apartheid legacy.
Despite the denials of many white people, they still do not see the incredible privileges they had accumulated over the apartheid years starting, not in 1948 when the National Party grabbed power, but factually from the mid-seventeenth century.
The dispossession, the elimination, the degradation, the humiliation and casting aside to feed the colonial masters’ ongoing land grabs across the globe should be the backdrop to a new thinking among white people.
There is an opportunity to unearth the roots of the incredible damage done, and to understand what is required to plot the way forward.
The shameless and unfettered privileges included economic and financial advancement, supported by an apartheid legal framework.
A select group of people were guaranteed jobs, large-scale opportunities to start businesses with low cost labour, state contracts at inflated prices and land. If many white people have not seen it fit to read up, with access to information as available as it is, on their forebears’ plotting and the subsequent violation of others, then we are going to have an even more serious problem.
And it seems that many still have a “it was not us” attitude. White people do not know, or care it seems, what the Group Areas Act did, what impact it had; how communities were systematically destroyed. Here is a suggestion. Go out and meet the “others”.
A head-in-the-sand approach 30 years on is not helpful. Instead of political parties scoring points by protesting the “private party”, gather in your thousands and protest the actions of the few parents yourself. Your silence is rubber-stamping those actions of the learners and parents.
Do not hide behind the legal protection afforded by the Constitution. Instead, do some deep soul-searching and reach out. It cannot be that most white people have not set foot in the townships. Go and see for yourselves the conditions under which most of your compatriots still live. It will allow you to be cognisant of the reasons for much that emerges from these areas. You would be shocked, dismayed by what you will see and experience. You will be equally surprised by the humanity that you will be shown. Let Brackenfell High School move you to do this.
Roomanay is the Chairperson of the Muslim Views Board, past Headmaster of Islamia College and Founder of the Salt River Heritage Society.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
Do you have something on your mind; or want to comment on the big stories of the day? We would love to hear from you. Please send your letters to [email protected]
All letters must have your proper name and a valid email address to be considered for publication.