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What we saw in Phoenix is as a result of our damaged minds

In Phoenix, northwest of Durban, armed residents built roadblocks around their neighbourhoods. Screengrab from AFP video

In Phoenix, northwest of Durban, armed residents built roadblocks around their neighbourhoods. Screengrab from AFP video

Published Jul 25, 2021


“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Martin Luther King, Jnr’s words came to mind when I saw the damage done to people’s lives in Phoenix in particular.

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In Phoenix, we are not counting the damage of property and burnt buildings during looting but the damage of racism and hatred that erupted in the name of protecting property. Black African brothers and sisters were shot and clubbed to death, just because they were walking around the area at the time the looting was taking place.

Indeed, what happened was not only in Phoenix and Chatsworth but even Lotus Park. It was evidence of the back-seated tension that has not been spoken about openly, for fear that it would raise tension.

Historically, we know that Indians were removed from the Inanda area, having been living together as brothers and sisters, not out of their will but because of apartheid laws of segregation. I don’t think that matter was dealt with in a proper manner. There has always been that hidden hatred for a few.

We must remember that apartheid has taught us that we, Black Africans, are not the same, we were made third-class citizens while Indians were regarded as second-class citizens. We cannot bury our heads in the ground and behave as if we did not see the damage of the mind done by the racist regime of pre-1994.

Was there a time after 1994 where we paused and reviewed the damage that was done in our minds when we were separated? Why do we shun the truth, that we have been using derogatory words toward Indians and called them “C**lies” and “c**rros’’ while they will call Blacks ‘’K**fer’’?

What we see in Phoenix is as a result of a damaged mind. How did people who were living together a day ago become such enemies, so that whosoever is Black and walking around Phoenix is shot at as an enemy?

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Looking at some of the videos, black people were hunted and shot at like targets of shooting practice. Their cars were stopped, and they were pulled out and some clubbed while others looked on and cheered. Some people were killed.

That was a damaged mind full of racism and hatred revealing itself.

We were too quick to call ourselves a “rainbow nation”. Yesterday, we were enemies and, the next day, we were supposed to clap and sing together.

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Looking at what was done in Rwanda to undo the damage must teach us how we can rebuild relationships. We quickly wanted to show the world that we are a forgiving nation, yet there were no institutions fully established to teach the people what it means to live together as a united nation. Some black people were advantaged by money and be able to buy houses in the Indian communities, yet we did not allow ourselves the time for healing the wounds inflicted by racism.

It may be true that, in some case, that Indians took a stand of self-defence due to the internal damage of thinking that they are a soft target for the poor because of the state of socio-economic conditions. There was element of fear when the looting started. The Indians and whites thought they would be easy targets. It is understandable but forming the barricades of one race when in other communities we live together was as the result of what racism can do.

Why is it that when we are under attack, we quickly forget that we live in a country of united people? Why group yourselves according to race and begin to shoot Blacks? Is it because they have never trusted Blacks all the time but were not able to speak about it? Or is there another reason for this deep-seated racism that was entrenched in people’s minds?

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There has been an outcry of failure of our leadership as the ruling party. People are accusing us of a loud absence. Where were the community leaders, traditional leaders, religious leaders and political leaders in this crisis? People believe that when it’s time to vote, we are too visible and during the time of crises, our presence cannot be accounted for. Maybe one of the truths is that, as leaders, we were not taught or trained on how to handle crises in leadership. This is something we must learn.

When all is said and done, we have a major task of rebuilding again. We have to destroy the seed of racism, not just to chop the roots. We have to engage on social cohesion, not in theory but on the ground. We have to re-establish the moral regeneration course. We need to relook at the RDP of the soul.

* Bishop Dube is the founder of eThekwini Community Church International, is co-convener of the National Interfaith Council of South Africa and the Commission for Religious Affairs.

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