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[Opinion] “Racing” around the truth of identity by Milisuthando Bongela

June 2, 2014

This is an important conversation and the way things went down in that studio is a microcosm of a society, feelings, ideologies and realities that exist outside of the studio. It feels like this ”race thing” will never go away, but this discussion chips away a problem that will cease to exist, perhaps not in my life time or the lifetimes of my children but some day.

Conversations around the impact of Apartheid on black AND white people is the only thing that is going to carve a truly integrated way forward. It is important to address the pressing daily needs of poor South Africans, that is an urgent priority, but we are not going to get far by not unravelling the issues around the fact that problems like poverty and inequality exist because of a system that entrenched power within one race at the expense of anybody that wasn’t part of that group, in other words the root causes of said problems.

The first thing is we need to understand what racism is, how it works especially today (it’s an extremely sophisticated system, just like sexism) and then we can start to identify ways to destroy it, for perpetrator and victim and the victim in the perpetrator. We can’t begin to fight something we can’t identify and don’t understand. I’m still trying and when it slaps in the face at least once a week, I only feel the sting much later because it’s lightening fast and is very good at disguising itself and it’s usually attractive and shiny. We need to talk about this until we are human in the face, until the humanity that racism took away from all of us is restored.

Whenever my black friends and I get together, race and racism always comes up in our conversations. This is not exaggeration. It’s like going to school every day and being in the same period from first bell to final bell. It’s great. It encourages me and them to engage with literature, films, music and art that addresses racism, not because we are suckers for torture, but so we can understand it, have the ability to destroy it in its tracks when we see it coming for us or anyone else who may not know its tricks.

A white friend of mine recently said to me, ”you know Mills, honestly when I get together with my white friends we don’t talk about racism because it doesn’t affect us. It’s not something we discuss on the regular and I’m a little apprehensive to bring it up in some of my circles because it’s just not something I am accustomed to”. She also said, she understands the manifestations of racism in South Africa but feels powerless and doesn’t know what to do or how to physically act on her concerns with her privilege and her position as a benefactor of apartheid.

This is one person’s response. What is yours? Do you have a similar experience when you are with your friends of the same race? Does racism affect you? Do you or do you not see it as necessary to talk about racism? Are you colour blind? I’m not inviting literal answers to these questions on this platform ‘cos we all know how that gets on Facebook, next thing we have to give each other fake smiles at Vida when the truth about our politics is revealed.

This is just something to chew on in your own time and hopefully with your loved ones. It is inspired by Lebo Mashile’s sentiment in this video, has white South Africa dealt with the emotional and psychological effects of apartheid on them as a group? ‘Cos the black people I converse with never run out of things to say regarding apartheid because we are trying to heal.

That said, I can’t know how much we are progressing because the conversation stays amongst us and it not addressed the people that white racism sought to protect, white people. I am inviting answers to the following question: How does watching this video make you feel? (Eish, if you have the bandwidth or you can watch it at work during work hours tomorrow). It’s always scary to write these kinds of posts because they are an easy target for misunderstanding.

If it’s not your cup of tea, feel free to unfriend, but I know you’ll think about it. This is what watching this video has made me feel tonight.

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