23 October (2015) – An Open Letter
Note: Feel free to judge my opinion, just do me one solid don’t form an opinion until you have reached the end of the post. It might be long so you might have to commit to the read!
I feel like to start a story one must always give context. A difference in context, in my experience, is the key factor for a difference in opinion. I also believe that the understanding of a person’s context is the breeding ground for agreement and the opposite, is the breeding ground for confusion.
So my context…well, part of it. I grew up in what I would call an upper-middle-class family. My mother had to work very hard in an industry dominated by men. For most of my life, my mom was a single parent. Yes, there were men, forms of fathers, in her (our) life but none that I would deem my mom no longer a single parent. My mother paid for everything for me my clothes, my schooling and everything that goes with raising a kid. My mom, due to her circumstance, could not afford to go to university although she had been accepted and was planning to go. Soon after she finished her matric she got a job at a bank.
Growing up I never thought my parents very racists, in fact, compared to the people around me and the kids in school they weren’t. I knew they were prejudice but never thought of them in the way I would a “hardcore racists*”. I don’t know how but somehow I never saw black and other races as less than me. I don’t think it crept into my paradigm. I remember from a young age getting very upset about the way an older man spoke about people of a different race.
* Not that there is such a thing
This is not my doing. Growing up I was raised by a maid. She is my second mother. To this day I wish she could have a life with access to the privileges I have. I would dare to say that she had equal if not more influence on the person I am today. In her, I saw someone that loved me no matter what, I saw in her, not a black person who cleans, to me I saw a mother.
In closing to the context section of this post I’d like to say, no rather declare: I am privileged! My mother is privileged! White privilege is not an excuse invented by black people because of their laziness. White privilege is the child of government that bred inequality and built a system that benefits people with a low pigmented skin. If you still don’t understand what it is and the fact that it exists watch the following video.
I drove to work and the traffic was crazy. Upon approaching the Merriman robot on the R44 the lady on the radio announced that there were students blocking Merriman and drivers should make use of alternative routes. “Agh I hope they don’t make me late” was the immediate thought fluttering towards my consciousness. The protest didn’t interrupt my commute. Arriving at the office I thought “Dodged a bullet there, thank heavens my office is not in town!”
I arrived at work. I was aware of the fact that the atmosphere around the country was tense, but I thought that whatever was happening has passed and that soon the only headlines will be the outcome of Saturday’s game. I spoke to a colleague about the protest and in short, he was in support of it and I was saying, “Yes, I understand the reason. But my rent goes up 10% every year!… What I don’t understand is why they have to disrupt society?”
After a relatively normal day at work. My girlfriend and I watched a movie together, caught up and soon I was home. I have this routine before going to bed, I check facebook and read the news articles that frequent my facebook feed. I get caught up on what has happened across the world. From that day I remember only one post. A friend of mine posted the following:
“Years from now when #FeesHaveFallen, when they’re discussing the events of the #FeesMustFall revolution, your son/daughter will come to you for help with his/her history project and ask, “Where were you?”… What will you say?” — Mihi Matshingana
I fell asleep without much of this hitting my conscience.
I got up this morning and saw multiple videos posted on Facebook, friends of mine sharing about what was happening on Stellenbosch campus. I got in the shower and thought “What will I tell my children about today?” I didn’t know…
Catching up on the morning Facebook news I read a few comments from students who felt mistreated and scared because papers were torn up and rooms were occupied by protestors.
My first thought was “How can they stand for something when they are removing the same thing from other students” My second thought was “Thank heavens I am done with the university”
I went to my office, traffic was once again pretty hectic, but I got there undisturbed. I was at my office for a while when a few friends from church came to ask my colleague (a different one from above) and myself, probably more my colleague than me if we were joining the protest. My college graciously replied that she can’t because she has worked. I also replied with the same in a less gracious fashion. I added my view that although the fees need to fall I do not support the way in which it was accomplished.
I was wound up, pretty tightly, about what happened. I then decided to watch the address made by Lovelyn Nwadeyi. When I started watching the video my idea was to find holes in what was happening.
I then decided to watch the video and put everything aside.
After about 30 minutes, I understood what was going on!
For lack of a better word, I was converted!
I was so moved that me staying in the office because of my work, to this day feels like a feeble excuse. I wanted to join this protest with everything in me, but I caught wind of it right at the end of the battle. I drafted a facebook message to Lovelyn, it might have been foolish and stupid, but my desperation to help bubbled out of me.
You see years of indoctrination by a previous regime and their thoughts had dictated my opinion, it had clouded my judgment and my own racism came to the front. I had to deal with that I had to repent of these prejudices I had. I had to decide that this is happening and it is great. I had to decide that I will do anything to see this future come into existence
I am late to this one fight, but I am not late to the war! Yes, the war! Thousands of students have marched against university fee increases. Students on wits campus are at this very moment planning their next actions. However, there is a lot more to fight for
There are four groups of people I want to address:
1. People who are for the movement but against the action.
Please understand that change does not come easy. I think Gandhi’s word “Be the change you want to see in the world” has disempowered a large group of people. We believe sometimes that if we change ourselves enough the world will follow suit. I doubt that was the sentiment of Gandhi. I believe that by starting with yourself and actioning change in the people around you is what he meant. Please know that no change comes easy.
We now pick the fruit of The Struggle, however, at that time the struggle was inconvenient and difficult for all who are involved. The people taking part in the protests during The Struggle weren’t people who had time on their hands many of them held jobs and had families to support. They understood that if the injustices of the regime continued no amount of money or security could attain their children a future worth living for. The same is true here if you want to see a nation transformed. If you want a future of zero unemployment and complete equality where basic needs like healthcare and education are accessible to all then start inconveniencing yourself.
The reason for disruptions is not to disrupt but to get the powers at be to see that we mean business. We will no longer be swept under a rug of apathy and secrecy. We demand transparency from all leaders. We demand to change WE ARE NO LONGER HOPING FOR IT!
2. People who are against the movement.
Whatever your reason may be please lay hold of the truth. Don’t allow the views of others or a fear inside you to dictate your actions. We are at the precipice of changing this nation we will succeed to see an equal and corrupt free society. I cannot see a reason why you would not want that.
3. People who are protesting.
No matter how late you arrived we have only won one battle, some are still fighting to win that battle. This week we proved to our nation, our government and the world that the youth of South Africa will no longer stand for injustices. We are united across race lines, across belief systems. We are the ones who see hope for our country, let us not give up now. Let us demand free schooling, free healthcare. A government that reports to its people not to its funders. THERE IS NO LONGER A PLACE FOR CORRUPTION! We can demand this! We can expect our leaders to change!
I saw a feed this morning that stated someone had unfriended quite a few people who were Christians.
I find that troubling not because she unfriended them but because of whatever circumstances lead to that being necessary. Yes, we need your prayers, yes we need your church’s public support. We, however, need you. The government only listened because of the number of students behind this. If you know me you’d know I have a strong belief in prayer. I personally have prayed many times for this nation to be freed from the injustices we face. My prayers have been answered! Never in the recent history of South Africa has such a diverse group of people stood together to make a change! Now it is time for us to take charge and take hold of what has been released over our country.
My final words are: I have hope for this nation! This week has given me a revitalized pride in saying that I am a South African!
I charge our government to change before more disruption is needed. We, the youth, are not the problem, the corruption and the government that sits idly by is. If you want a quiet, peaceful uninterrupted day. Stop the corruption. Make Education Free. Provide Healthcare and Sanitation to all. Increase the Minimum Wage. Stop using our money to line your pockets.
#CorruptionWillFall #InjusticesWillFall #FreedomWillReign