In South Africa, the history of racism slaps you in the face. It isn’t that their record is any worse than others. It’s just much more recent. The Apartheid regime wasn’t voted out of office until 1994. That was two seconds ago. Which means someone from my generation would remember being definitively classified by his or her color. That struck me hard—apparently I’m very protective of my generation.
Being in South Africa is like being dropped in my grandparent’s time. And just like the frog in the boiling water anecdote, the racism burns. But despite it’s recent racial turmoil, South Africa isn’t a hateful place. It is a place that’s overflowing with hope. This hope is of a people who wanted change and saw it happen. A people who were recently granted their freedom and don’t intend to waste it. They’re also learning to hate many of their current politicians (a basic right of all democracies). They have a long way to go—but don’t we all?
The reality is that we’re all a little bit racist. Not all our racism is hateful, though most is hurtful. And the slope to hateful racism is slippery and dangerously treacherous because racism can sound so reasonable.
The Apartheid regime labeled their system “good neighborliness” and a “celebration of differences.” “Separate but Equal” sounded so fair. Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, is apparently very well thought out.
“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”
Racism is the single greatest evil I’ve witnessed in my life and it is responsible for some of the greatest atrocities of our time. It takes sensible men and women and turns their hearts hard and visions red. So what do we do?
Well firstly, since we’re all a little bit racist, you have to wage a constant and ruthless war on racism in your own heart. Work every day to judge a person based not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character (to paraphrase a man who knew what he was talking about). And that’s the easy part.
We’re all also responsible for representing our own race.
I’m a white girl. And I know exactly what racists think of me. So I’ll uphold the good and combat the bad by overcompensating constantly to prove racists wrong. There is nothing more abhorrent than hateful racism being proven right.
This fight is too important to rely on the Government (though Governments are equally responsible). It requires a thorough examination of your own heart and your own skin. Only knowing yourself will allow you to move forward. Ultimately, racism will only lessen with each generation and we must fight for even that small progress.
When I think of my grandparent’s generation, I’m appalled by their mentality on race. And I pray our grandchildren feel the same way about the racism of our generation. I hope they’re mortified that we could be this way. I hope they’re shocked.
Let’s pray that they are horrified by our mindset instead of stuck in the same one.
Speaking of the next generation, here’s a children’s poem I wrote to help discuss racism with little ones. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the story of A Panda from an Indian Zoo.