Apartheid in South Africa
It saddens me to read that so many tourists encounter apartheid in SA and that they still believe that most white people are racist. As a South African citizen I want to give an insider’s perspective into apartheid.
As a young (I’m 21), white Afrikaans South African, I believe that I’m part of a new generation of people that is busy rebuilding this country and trying to right the wrongs of the past. We are so sick and tired of the rest of the world regarding us us as racist just because we are white. I really resent that. I wasn’t even born when apartheid was at its height, and I was only 10 when South African became a truly democratic country. I went to school with black children, interacted with them and now I’m working with them and have become friends with some of them. I didn’t even know exactly what happened during the apartheid years until we did it in high school history (it must be remembered that not all white people were in favour of apartheid, and my family for one never raised me to be prejudice towards other races).
Unfortunately there is still a minority of people who cling to the old days, but they are usually older people who grew up with apartheid. It’s unfortunate that tourists should encounter such people and make their minds up that the rest of us share the same point of view.
Racism not only existed between white and black, but also between black and coloured and even between the black tribes themselves. Apartheid in South Africa have been far more complex than meets the outsider’s eye. This country is such a mix of different cultures: English, Afrikaners, Portuguese, Dutch, Indian, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana, etc., and we are all just trying to live in harmony and forget the clashes of the past (in our history all of these different groups have at one stage or another been at each other’s throats).
It’s true that a lot of black and coloured people still are poor and have to live in shacks, which of course is utterly wrong. But believe me when I say that many white people also suffer, and many live in equally appalling conditions. There are a lot of charities, churches and societies where black, white, coloured and Indian are pulling together to better the lives of the less fortunate, regardless of race. Unfortunately a lot of poor people simply don’t make use of the help that’s being offered, and they use the money they get from government grants and charities to buy drugs and booze while their families suffer at home.
For black people there is no more limitations on where they may go or where they can stay (in the past many public places and suburbs were for whites only). Education is for everyone and black kids can go to school and varsity, they can become doctors, teachers, lawyers, scientists, sportsmen, CEOs of companies, business owners, politicians or whatever they want. African bands and musicians are selling their cd’s, actors can perform in their own language on tv or on stage (remember we have 11 official languages) and black models can strut their stuff on the catwalks.
Yes, we still have a long way to go, but you cannot change a country that took centuries to become what it is, in only a few short years. I want the rest of the world to know that we are trying and that they should acknowledge the progress we’ve made so far. When you decide to visit our beautiful and eclectic country, forget about our history and instead of looking for apartheid everywhere and finding a racist remark in everything a white person says or does, try talking to people and going to places that have already overcome the stigmas of the past and are looking forward. Rather look forward with us as we are embarking on this journey of hope for a brighter future and a truly united South Africa.