THE RACE TO EQUALITY IN THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA
By: Xolani Shabalala
When one reflects on the long journey that South Africa comes from, you realize that undoubtedly we have achieved a lot in 20 years of the new South Africa. However, the big question remains: When are we going to stop being a nation that is race conscious?
1994 is the year when segregation was officially demolished. It was a changing milestone to a hundred years of oppression. Then came the new South Africa, which without doubt people had so many expectations about it. One of those expectations being a rainbow nation celebrated for its diversity and beauty. One’s colour though has continued to be the leading focus of one’s identity, whether visibly otherwise. Sadly, this is one factor that remained the main reason for inequality.
The following young people are born frees who have experienced racism in the democratic South Africa. They each have experienced racism first hand.
Nqobile Msomi (21)
She was a victim of racism on two occasions. One was when they went out with her friend for lunch. The second one happened when again she went out with the same friend for lunch at a restaurant in Florida Road. She says nowadays racism is undercover. Some people try to hide it, but in one way or another it’s still evident.
With the first incident she says that they found a white person’s hair in their food. When they tried to consult the manager about the hair, the manager insisted that they had never had that problem before. There was no apology or remorse from the manager’s side regarding what the customer had found in their food.
With the second incident they had asked for coffee and the waitress said the barrister had left. Later on a white family arrived, asked for coffee and received it. When Nqobile asked the reason why the family is receiving coffee, the waitress simply said that they offer coffee to a special few people.
“I felt angry as a paying customer. I also deserved to be served just like any other person who came to ask for their service. I was also angry that this is still happening in the new South Africa,” says Nqobile.She added that she doesn’t think racism will ever end. “People are still people, and they will instill the same values to their coming generations. It’s a mindset thing, a vicious cycle.” Simphiwe Mlambo (20)
For him racism happened at a book shop where he wasn’t attended for almost four minutes. When he was finally given some attention, he was asked if he will find it more comfortable speaking to a person of his kind. “Everytime when I tried to get something they’d ask if that’s what I really want,” says Mlambo.
He says the incident made him feel belittled because of the colour of his skin. “I don’t think racism will end. There will always be a gap,” added Mlambo. He says that he also finds it pointless as a nation seating down trying to talk about something which won’t change. “We should just forget about it,” he said.
Steven Leggo (20)
Leggo says he hasn’t been a victim of racism. But has surely witnessed a racist incident at an Oppiekoffie event in Johannesburg, where two black guys were making racist remarks about a Dutch man. He says another event was when he witnessed black on black racism, or rather what we’d likely call colourism, i.e. discrimination on skin colour where one fair skinned black guy was being rude to the darker guy telling him that he is ugly and should likely kill himself.
He says, “I felt disgusted on both occasions and a little bit disturbed. Why would you do that to another human being? We’re all the same beings!” says Leggo. He added that he believes at some point racism will end, people are travelling more and more, some change will come.
On a lighter note, two girls with different races are the best of friends. Samkelo Mthimkhulu and Catherine Botha says for them race has never mattered, rather than being a problem it has added beautifully in their friendship.
“We make fun of each other’s customs and norms, it really a blessing that I befriended Samkelo.” Says Catherine. The ladies added that people should stop making race a big deal. Stereotype will always be an issue, but racism can get away.