Braai Day is a good example of commercial interests hijacking what should be one of South Africa’s most important holidays, says the writer.
On Monday, while some of us will be reflecting on our heritage and identity, others will be braaiing meat. There is nothing wrong with a braai - and I might even braai myself, depending on the weather - but it becomes a problem if you use that as your main identity marker on Heritage Day.

Braai Day is a good example of commercial interests hijacking what should be one of South Africa’s most important holidays, where we should really be able to reflect on our history and the oppression and exploitation which was based on race and class that bedevilled relations in our country for many decades and centuries.

South Africa is a beautiful country with beautiful people and part of our beauty can be found in our diverse backgrounds. This is something to celebrate and you cannot do that if you are determined to reduce your heritage to a braai.

Personally, I will reflect on the many parts of my own heritage and identity. There are so many parts of my identity and it frustrates me when lazy South Africans try to pin my identity down to what they perceive as my race.

I don’t believe in race. It is a construct used by ignorant people to justify their prejudices.

When people believe that others are of a different race, it becomes easier to discriminate against them. So-called Durban businessman and convicted fraudster Kessie Nair became the latest South African to spew racial obscenities on social media in a five-minute video in which he referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa by the k-word.

While many have attacked his utterings as being those of somebody who is mentally unstable, the sad reality is there are many others who share his views. They are just clever enough not to broadcast their views on social media.

I have never bothered about what people call me, as long as they allow me to describe myself in ways with which I am comfortable.

All of us have multiple identities, and most of us cannot always be proud of all of these. But identity is tied up with our heritage. Where we come from plays a big role in determining what we eventually become.

For instance, I believe that my religious tolerance is partly because I grew up in a family where there were as many Muslims as Christians and my commitment to gender equality has been influenced by spending most of my earlier years with my mother and two sisters and, more recently, with my wife and three daughters.

My interest in journalism was piqued at an early age by the presence of newspapers in our house. Despite being poor, my father made sure that we had newspapers every day. It was difficult not to be influenced by newspapers and to consider a career in the media.

My interest in music was rooted in the love that my parents had for music, which rubbed off on all my siblings, while my interest in sport developed at a time when playing soccer was one of the few activities we could indulge in as working-class youngsters.

My love for food was developed watching my mom cook and trying to help her sometimes, even though my help was mainly restricted to tasting before she dished up for everyone.

None of these things relate to race and this is why it infuriates me when people try to make race my main identity marker. I am many things, and I would have been all of that irrespective of the racial identity that people try to pin on me. Happy Heritage Day.

* Fisher is an independent media professional. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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