Editor's note: It has been nearly 25-years since the end of apartheid, however, racism is still thriving in South Africa. Ilze Lee, a 43-year-old woman who grew up during the apartheid regime in South Africa, writes about racism and personal responsibility in our beloved country.
As many others, I held my breath when apartheid came to an end. It was a time of fear and uncertainty, but also… hope. So much hope for a better South Africa, for equality. For a rainbow nation, starting anew.
Instead, as each day goes by, the anger is building. Racism is not only alive and kicking, it is doing the sakkie-sakkie boeredans whilst making the mother country shake with the vibration of the gumboot dance.
My country is in big trouble. And it is easy to say ‘that’s not my fault, it is not my problem’. But it is. It is everyone’s problem. Saying ‘I am not a racist’ is no longer enough.
It is time that we all have a good look at what we are contributing to this world.
We need to take responsibility for not only our actions but our inactions too.
Fact — there are MANY people who want to learn from the past, who want to unite and start building a better South Africa together. If you look for it, you will find evidence everywhere.
It is also true that many have no interest in it. They stand by what was, no matter how much it destroys around them. Of course, if you look for evidence of that, you will find much of it. And it is time that we raise our voices — black, white and everyone in between.
Even if it is a whisper at first. But we need to get the message across and say ‘that’s not good enough’.
It is time for us to consider what legacy we want to leave behind for our children. Do you really want your kid to be raised in a world where anger and hate are fuelled against another person just because of their skin colour? Do you want your child to grow up to a bleak future, without hope, but a lot of fear?
Even if you are not raising your children like that — is it enough to sit in an uncomfortable silence whilst someone else next to you is doing that? Or agree half-heartedly because you don’t want anyone to be ‘offended’ or calling you names. But you sit by, watching your country being destroyed.
I get it. Even writing this, I know that some people will be judging me harshly for addressing this.
But I have a voice. I have a choice. And I choose to stand up for what is right.
I choose to look for those who are just being decent human beings. The people who recognise that we all have strengths, that if we bring that together, we can build something mighty and wonderful. Those who find the strength to say to someone of their own race that the hate no longer has a place in our wonderful country.
Especially those who find it within them to stand up and walk away from hate speech, from those who keep fuelling that fire. Because soon enough, if we all walk away from it, they will find themselves without an audience. That fire without any oxygen.
I know that I’ll have to deal with negativity, taking a public stand like this. It would be the easiest thing to do, turning my back to it, especially as most of my time is spent in the UK. But it comes back to taking responsibility for our role in the world. And I for one, am stepping up.
You have the right to be angry, black person. You were treated in a horrible way through no fault of your own, and it was wrong. So wrong.
You have the right to be angry, white person. Your biggest fear of the country going downhill is coming true.
But what you choose to do today, is determining the outcome for tomorrow. We can either decide to lay the weapons down, or we can continue as is until there is nothing left.
Please. Please think about what you are doing.
Even if you just take one small step today in the right direction. Every step counts. Every time you keep your mouth shut instead of saying something nasty, counts. Every time you distance yourself from fuelling the hate, counts. Every time you say that you are no longer a part of that hate counts.
Step Up. Take responsibility for you, that is enough to cause a ripple for others to notice. You are part of the solution to this beautiful country. BE the difference.
About the author:
Ilze Lee is a writer, mentor and business woman. Lee said she tries to do her bit in creating 'positive ripples in the world'.
She also runs a Facebook page called Step Up South Africa.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Briefly.co.za.
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