One should commend the pupils of Pretoria Girls High School for their united bravery of both speaking out against and fighting the racist policies of their school. It is one thing to recognise what is wrong, and quite another to seek justice therein. These young minds managed to exceptionally do both.
Unfortunately or rather fortunately, the protest comes when we are fast approaching the Heritage Month when issues of cultural diversity and social cohesion should be addressed. South Africans of different races and creeds should be educated on how to coexist with each other and be tolerant of other cultures.
The shadow belief that ours is a rainbow nation puts our country in a state of stagnation. No so much has improved between and across societies in relation to cultural tolerance, racial integration and social cohesion. One is tempted to say that we have not been emancipated from apartheid in this sphere.
As an ordinary South African, I normally perceive and experience racism within the environment I am employed. Once, a white man who was a guest asked whether I was drunk after some misunderstanding in which he was the guilty party. Instead standing up against this act, I asked him to repeat his words and he just shrugged and faked a smile. I doubt that he would have asked this to his fellow White.
Without a doubt, not every white person is racist. That said, not every black person is innocent of racism. Racism is a two-way street which comes in different contents and forms.
Integration, in my view, implies finding common ground, understanding and appreciating one’s background while at the same time, making it a responsibility to learn and discern the background of others. By this, one should not attempt to instill or coerce one’s cultural principles to a differing culture. Every culture or society should be evaluated through its own lens, through its own principles and values.
Accommodating others should not be our aim as this implicitly and explicitly means that one group is superior than the other. It is the one who provides accommodation who sets the terms and conditions of the hospitality. It is also this person who acts from a position of power while the other acts from a position of inferiority and servitude.
Cultural diversity calls for every culture and subculture to be recognised and respected, it calls for harmony within and across societies. Further, it calls for cultural equality and representativeness. Through this, we do away with ethnocentrism and more specifically eurocentrism which is so deeply interwoven in our society. We also do away with various other forms of discrimination and prejudice.
As soon as we are ready to be a truthful nation and face our predicaments rather than sweep them under a carpet and put a fake united smile, we are far off from being a envisioned rainbow nation of Nobel Laureate Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu.