I’m sure everyone’s social media is littered with posts about the the recent #FeesMustFall protest. It is one of the largest protests that has affected us on a national scale to date in South Africa. And with any movement in South Africa, the racial argument comes hand in hand. That’s just the way it is – because the claws of apartheid sink that deep.
And we should acknowledge the role of apartheid that has played here. If there was no apartheid, there would be not be the huge social and economic gap between black and white people. It is because of apartheid that most of those that need financial aid are black students. It is because of apartheid that most of the beggars on the streets we see are black people. It is because of apartheid that when we hear of a robbery or rape, we automatically assume it is a black person or that we secretly assume a black person got a job based on BEE rather than merit. White privilege is not purely economic privilege but it is the privilege that has been seeped into our thoughts. And this is why hearing the words ‘we need to get over it’ instigates such a strong reaction from a black person – because apart from their lower economic standing, they also need to get past the invisible hurdles that have been placed in your mind.
Of course, there are people who DO use apartheid as an excuse or as a reason to attack a white person or win an argument without merit. These are the people who consequently tire out white people and wish you do just ‘get over it’ – because how can you make a point with a person who only wants to bark, guilt trip but not listen? We also need to understand that in this generation, most opportunities ARE offered to black people. When a white person sees a job advertisement that states BEE for the umpteenth time, it takes away their hope for the umpteenth time. It is like seeing land when you’ve been out at sea for days, only to get closer and find out you have to be black to land there. And yet they STILL have people throwing the term ‘white privilege’ in their faces – how can we expect them to understand this term when what they’ve experienced is clearly black privilege?
What we need on both sides is understanding and acknowledgement. We all need to understand what white privilege is and why there is currently black privilege. We need to acknowledge that white privilege does exist but also that black privilege is happening and causing reverse inequality. We need to understand that this is at no fault of our generation but the consequence of consecutive groups of people who had the power to put such policies in place. We need to understand that the #FeesMustFall movement is not a black and white fight but a PROTEST from our generation against the current group of leaders who have failed us.
It pains me to see friends, classmates and colleagues arguing and fighting amongst ourselves when it is all because we aren’t truly understanding each other. We need to acknowledge each other’s privilege and struggle in order to move forward.
The #FeesMustFall movement initially made me think it was disruptive – how is denying another person’s right to education by barricading entrances fighting for education? But will the movement be as effective and on such a large scale if this had not been done and further, done during exam time? A protest has to gain the attention of the masses in order to be effective. This protest was strategically planned and not just a bunch of ‘hooligans’ gathering to sing against inequality. Our individual plans may have been disrupted, but think about the child who cannot obtain an education because of poverty. Rather than thinking we have the right to education, think about how an education for ALL can benefit our country and consequently, benefit us individually.
When I saw the protest was taken to parliament, it made me sentimental because it showed that the students understood who was truly against us. It also showed our generation of all races uniting with each other for the same cause. This is clearly progress. Be that as it may, we need to be realistic and peaceful in our protest. Violence and war has NEVER resulted in the benefit of anyone, except those pulling the strings attached to your body using propaganda as a means of control. We must also remember that our demands should be realistic and that we aren’t taking advantage of the situation. There will always be people who have a different agenda and harmful intentions. We need to remember that not all of the inequality that we were born into is because of apartheid or BEE. Let us not forget that we as individuals are also responsible for our futures. We are not entitled to anything and should not expect handouts. A sense of entitlement is the reason we had apartheid.
For those taking part in the protests, be careful of mob mentality – it can be such a dangerous thing. There is no reason a protest can’t be courteous and peaceful. Violence breeds violence. Be careful of that person who wants to be forceful or cause harm – they are not there for the same reason you are. We not only have to stand up against injustices done to us but all kinds of injustice. Finally, be careful of losing yourself to the crowd – remember who you are and what you are there for.