It came down on the 9th of April 2015. A wrought, red iron crane wrapped around its arrogant body and lifted it from its mantelpiece. The singing crowd elevated as phones were lifted to capture the moment, blurred by the shoulders of fellow students. Amateur footage, real. A plastic bottle flies over the crowd and hits the dislodged statue with force, ricocheting into the distance as a group climb the fence, board the truck, and further deface it’s smugness with paint as it is driven away. Paint is better than faeces I thought. On second reflection, throwing faeces provokes talking and feeling. Today, shit palpably shifted the dominance of my history.
“Each of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world” (Mandela, 1996)
“You [South Africans] are the Rainbow People of G-d.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1991)
When Archbishop Desmond Tutu used the term rainbow to describe the project of building a unified South Africa, he began a discourse about the nature of racial reconciliation in the country. Given this grand vision of racial harmony, many ask how we achieve its realization. Some contend that what threads us together is a feeling of exclusion, that “regardless of who we are, we all feel outside the box of South Africanness.” (Mashile, 2013). They argue that the project of building a non-racist, a non-sexist and an inclusive society in the form of a ‘rainbow nation’ is only a pipe dream or a failed experiment. These notions are reinforced given massive inequalities along racial lines that stubbornly persist on a daily basis. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I responded to the incident of blackface by two white female students at University of Pretoria by writing an article highlighting how this incident exemplifies a phenomenon called white privilege. Reflecting, I noticed a huge hole in the piece that demonstrates the irony of writing about privilege– that you often speak from privilege when talking about privilege. Littered throughout the article was the separation of white South Africans, including these white women from myself. It is as though I would rather talk about them, those other white people who perpetuate oppression. By pointing to them, I could feel good in my blanket of privilege and roll over with the feeling that somehow, I am exceptional; exceptional because they cannot see their own privilege while I can. Digging deeper into this, it became apparent that I was walking a continual line between shame and responsibility– shame at receiving the unearned privileges my skin and gender bestow upon me, responsibility as an advantaged person to participate in the dismantling of privilege systems. Continue reading