South Africa has come far in terms of its new-age democracy rooted from a painful era known as the Apartheid regime which saw the rainbow nation torn between a superiority complex that merely played in your favour, depending on whether or not you had won the “ideal” gene lottery. The further you were, from inheriting the ‘Caucasian dynasty starter-pack’ as an ultimate jackpot, the lesser you were regarded as a human being worthy of a dignified life, or rather… a life that didn’t pertain of your hair being prodded with HB Pencils in order to determine what share of value, let alone respect, you ought to be given.
It’s about 25 odd years later and we still see ourselves in a political and social lingo where South African society continues to battle to put the pieces together, even after the great likes of Nelson Mandela hinted to us that the completion of this complex puzzle called ‘ubuntu’, first and foremost, starts with a change of mind before anything else.
As much as the apartheid regime left us with one hell of a glass ceiling that we as a unified people needed to break in order to experience the liberties that we cherishingly yearned for previously, we somehow seem to still be caught up in our own mental subjugation which sees us as a South African society of all races subconsciously reliving the very same mental prejudices that we thought we had eliminated from the past injustice.
For instance, I grew up in suburban areas, attending what was defined as well-polished private schools that saw the likes of many pupils like myself bearing the harshness of tongue blisters for merely twisting and swirling the tongue purposely to sound like the heirs of Victorian Nobles back in the days of William Shakespeare. I was often teased for such humorous irony, especially by my extended family back in the rural and township areas. Here was a black, Zulu, private-schooled girl, a portion of her identity resembled that of Shaka Zulu’s pride and joy, the meanwhile her ability to have partially mastered the English language was an achievement that made some people glare at her like a bewildered British colonizer.
Why is it that Model C schools are given a definitive honour as soon as a hint of ‘whiteness’ is spotted amongst a crowd of school children?
“So Thobeka, how does it feel to be in a Model C school with other white peers? It must be nice huh? And I’m sure it is very expensive”, many would curiously inquire. Why is it that Model C schools are given a definitive honor as soon as a hint of ‘whiteness’ is spotted amongst a crowd of school children? Who said a Model C school needed to be expensive to be deemed a prized possession for a child’s intellect? What is it about the English language specifically that suddenly earns you a position of respect in a continent that ironically enough prides itself in an African renaissance of livelihood and identity? These were the questions that often plagued my mind in bed in the middle of the night until my slumber.
Anyhow, not knowing how to answer the inquiries of my so-called curious companions in the manner that would be fulfilling, I would usually end up ensuring their minds that whatever fantasy they had conjured up, it was surely as real and as tangible as a Disneyland ticket. Anything to keep them happy really, even if it meant playing into their mental deceits.
You see, as I grew older I had realized that it wasn’t in the questions that people asked about my private schooling which demonstrated some form of mental subjugation, but rather it’s in the way they had perceived them which illustrated a much bigger problem that I’ve noticed South Africans can’t help but portray even amongst one another — mental imprisonment.
We see this play out in many instances and not just in what I’ve personally shared: There’s a mental imprisonment that has deluded us into thinking that one ought to become fearful and guarded when they drive into a township area filled with predominantly black individuals, but in the meanwhile you automatically let your guard down when you enter a suburban area with a predominantly white community.
We are all guilty of this one way or the other, but why?
There’s a mental imprisonment that has deluded us into thinking that one ought to become fearful and guarded.
Or how about a mental imprisonment that says; a white, black or Indian person can’t possibly set foot at the Cape Flats due to it being a coloured dominated zone whereas KwaMashu is a black-dominated zone and if I had to ask you what race association would you make with an area such as Durban North, Phoenix? The first thing that would pop into your mind would be an Indian. Perhaps you would even go as far as mimicking their accents for familiarity sakes.
Again, we have all been guilty of this one way or another, but the question remains, Why? What about a mental subjugation that says, Woolworths is a ‘’white” groomed food retail, in the meanwhile Cambridge foods is a ‘’black’’ catering retail and therefore we find ourselves being lured to make purchases from a Woolworths store because it’s societally comforting and seen as some sort of economic achievement, hence the online jokes that we make about people who shop at Woolworths and the value system we place on them.
And yet again, we have all been guilty of this one way or another, I continue to raise the question as to why? Could these snippets of South African thinking demonstrate the notion that the Apartheid era still lives amongst us in our mindsets despite the legalities of the regime being non-existent in our laws today?
There’s a psychological pattern that we all seem to have fallen in the traps too, but how can we fix it, let alone take notice that it exists amongst us as people of all races?
We purposely choose to be divisive even when unintended. A mental stronghold that has us in bondage in terms of racism and classism, two of the best proteins the Apartheid monster used as it’s societal dietary. There’s a psychological pattern that we all seem to have fallen in the traps too, but how can we fix it, let alone take notice that it exists amongst us as people of all races? Perhaps if we start having conversations and self-evaluating ourselves as contributing individuals in our society, that’s when we would be able to walk into a journey of, “people discovery”. A type of discovery that takes into regard how we can be conscious of our individuality amongst the people around us to ensure that we build a rainbow nation that is not only “legally” sound but mentally and emotionally repairing as well.
Therefore, my dear South Africans, don’t “get over it” because “getting over it” has never been a form of psychological restoration. One could say the same thing about dwelling over it, which on its own develops an unhealthy mental imbalance over time. Rather, let us focus on a new psychological revolution, the type that doesn’t remain hidden within our subconsciousness to the point of unrecognising brotherhood even when it strikes at an opportune time such as now.
Compiled By: Thobeka Felicia
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