There is no place for racism in a rainbow nation
RACISM. Be it subtle or overt, it conjures up images of heated arguments and fights, frequently shaking the psyche of our rainbow nation.
When the yoke of racism ravages schools, we should all be afraid. The problem is so deeply rooted in our subconscious and in the very depths of our minds that most of us cannot even detect or see the problem right in front of our eyes.
Here are examples of racist incidents at our schools in just one week: A geography teacher at St John’s College allegedly told black pupils in his class the only reason they got good marks was because they sat next to white pupils. The rest is history, but is an indictment on our nation.
Parents of Klipspruit Secondary School have protested against the appointment of a black principal and have demanded the appointment of a coloured principal, because there is a lack of representation of coloured people in school leadership positions.
In Kempton Park, pupils at Windsor House Academy were allegedly kicked out of the school because their traditional African hairstyles were deemed unacceptable by the school’s principal. I have given the school three months to come up with an inclusive code of conduct.
Of course, racial inequality in our schools is a product of our deeply-rooted historical and institutional racism dating back three centuries.
But look around you. Look left and right. All around you are allies in one of the great ongoing struggles of the South African experience – the struggle for the soul of democracy, the struggle for social justice and, most important, the struggle for equal education.
Indeed, as a nation, we have made gains in fighting racism since 1994. Racism has ceased to be the overt, crude, in-your-face of pre-1994. Today, it is generally more subtle, sophisticated and covert.
Why should racism be allowed to exist in a country in the south of the African continent that is supposedly known as a great melting pot, a rainbow nation?
Racism is a silent epidemic, it is insidious and treacherous. It excludes instead of oppresses. It is gentle on the surface, but unrelenting and horribly damaging at its core.
The fact that racism permeates our society is not an excuse for school personnel, parents, communities and school governing councils to perpetuate it.
As an institution, each school must take responsibility for acknowledging and addressing racism. Unless the school, the surrounding communities, governing bodies and parents take steps to counteract racism, they are aggravating existing inequalities.
Racism is frequently subtle, unintentional and invisible, but always potent. Often it involves complex and cumulative factors, for example when pupils do not have access to teachers with full credentials, because they cannot find a teacher of a similar race.
When governing bodies or local school policies have the effect of advantaging or disadvantaging certain racial groups or when funds or resources are distributed unequally, racism is frequently at work. When racial disparities go unaddressed, this too is a form of racism.
The next problem is that many people tend to think that one form of racism is better than another form or that racism in one community or situation is better than in another.
Racism is racism. In all cases, lives are destroyed. People are harmed physically, psychologically and emotionally. Racism in any form, quantity or shape must not be tolerated.
Some people who are comfortable and who do not see racism regularly, have the habit of denying racism exists. When one talks about racism, another soul, deluded, may sling accusations of whining and whingeing.
Racism is also easy to trace, because we can feel its effects. Think about how the nation responded to the St Johns, Klipspruit and Kempton Park incidents.
How do you make people see that racism is a problem in our community? Racism is creating situations that segregate where people live, where they attend school, work and how they live their lives.
I believe that everyone would love a world with more equality, with more bridges across this great racial divide, but the problem seems too overwhelming. Our segregated schools, townships, suburbs and cities make it easier to turn our heads.