Khaya Dlanga
Khaya Dlanga

Excuse me while I blame apartheid

Many white people see no just cause in blacks blaming apartheid for anything. It ended almost 14 years already; get over it already, they say. Often it is said with indignation, if not irritation, as though to say, how dare they!

Those who insist we stop talking about it tell us it’s in the past, so we should forget about it. Perhaps it would be easy to forget if we didn’t bear the scars of the past. For some it’s not mere scars; some walk around with deep sores that are still healing — slowly. Every now and then, the sore is disturbed and the healing process is reversed.

It is easy for the “perpetrator” (I use that word liberally here) to say: “Forget about it,” because he does not want to be reminded of his sins. At the same time it is also too easy for the victim to keep playing the victim card instead of getting on with it. There is a middle ground somewhere between these conflicting feelings.

When we blame the legacy of apartheid, most white people take it as a personal attack on them for having benefited from the system. Or they accuse blacks of refusing to take responsibility for whatever is going wrong in the country. This is not the case. It is an attack on the system. We are not asking you to feel guilty. If anyone needs to get over anything, it is white people who walk around carrying guilt. This guilt might paralyse them, or even make them unwitting racists. Or, even worse, cause them to overcompensate, thus wiping away any sincerity in their efforts to balance the past.

To be honest, had I been white during the height of apartheid I don’t know if I would have had the moral fortitude to stand up against the National Party government. Perhaps I would have condemned it in the comfort and privacy of my mind.

The legacy of apartheid is very real. Let us not pretend that people don’t have a legitimate reason for blaming it for their current condition, as some excuse for their lack of progress. It is an undeniable fact that the vast majority of black people were denied a good education; some were even denied an education. The government of the day did not bother to build schools for them.

Where there is education, opportunity soon follows, and without it blacks were caught in a vicious cycle of stagnation. They saw no real progress for themselves. Instead of passing on wealth from generation to generation, their descendents inherited poverty and a very visible reality that they were not allowed to prosper in the land of their birth.

To dismiss these realities as mere laziness on the part of the black person is a clear lack of understanding of the position the formerly oppressed find themselves in today. The black person is still playing catch up.

We in the black community are lacking decent education, even with the new government. The teachers who teach most black students did not get a fantastic education themselves. With these steep hills to climb, it is a miracle that so many children who went through those schools have managed to extricate themselves from the web of hopelessness.

Jobless blacks in the townships and in the rural areas do not expect the government to do anything for them. What they want are opportunities so that they can improve their lives — not handouts. Many of them don’t see these opportunities, so they create some for themselves even in the bleak conditions in which find themselves. Young men create car-wash businesses and young women hair saloons, to name just the most obvious examples.

On the other hand, blacks look at white misbehaviour through the prism of race without seeing the core of the problem. When we only look at it that way, we don’t try to solve the issue.

The black community must not confuse with racism the young white man’s anger. He cannot understand why he has to be at the back of the queue when he seeks employment. Let’s say that he is too young even to remember apartheid. Shall we now punish him for benefiting from a system that was not of his choosing? Is it his fault that he just happened to have been born into it? Whether he would have grown up to be a perpetrator of the evils of the previous system or not is immaterial. What matters is that the system ended before he could be a conscious and active participant in it. What do we do now?

Having said all I have, I would like to point out that I am not as naive as to believe that racism does not exist. Sadly it is does. We saw manifestations of it recently at the University of the Free State.

Whether we admit it or not, we are all victims of apartheid. But we cannot be victims forever. We may have been victims, but we don’t have to think and act like them. The only way we can raise above it is when we first seek to understand. However, this must not excuse bad black or white behaviour.

259 Responses to “Excuse me while I blame apartheid”

  1. Eagle

    They don’t want to give undeveloped land and help their people make it productive, which the white farmers are only too willing to help them with.

    They want to expropriate developed land for a quick fix solution. Only who will feed the cities when those lands go fallow?

    And yes – the ANC on local, provincial and national level have sold off large tracts of land since 1994. Why ? Kickbacks?

    June 4, 2008 at 11:51 am
  2. Say_it _like _itis #

    I have read every item written here. I seriously see the benefit of a white homeland.

    Few of these writers will ever see the reality of SA life. Nor will they when the time comes extend hand of friendship. The same when they have a problem will sure know where to turn when they need it solved.

    As Black – Xhosa / Zulu – historically have no claim to land beyond the Kei River. I suggest that they move out of the Western Cape and let the white man rule Himself.

    Then the proof or the pudding will be in the eating. Will we see the black flock to the whites for a better life or stay in their side of SA?

    August 27, 2008 at 11:37 pm
  3. Morne #

    Here’s a white person’s opinion: White people don’t like being reminded about apartheid, because it makes them feel guilty, as they very well should. But our reaction is pretty normal, especially when it basically causes grief. Nobody wants to experience grief. So it’s a natural reaction! I would like, however to point out that I think people are giving apartheid way too much credit for things that are going wrong currently.

    It’s really just enforcing it, emphasizing it’s influence. Spend more time on current issues that are important for your children’s future than to your past. And talk as much as you want about apartheid, as far as I am concerned, just don’t sow the seeds of it and make it grow back into the monster it once was!

    God bless!

    October 3, 2008 at 11:24 pm
  4. say _ it_like _is _but_cannot #

    A little known fact is that pre 1994 there were almost as many Black millionaires as there were white. All exploiting the market as every other person in SA.

    The point that most of the blacks miss and quite a few whites is that the main reason for the lack of good black teachers was the 1976 liberation before education.

    Pre 1994 black Teachers where required to “enlighten” and incite black children. Not to teach the curriculum. A more than large proportion of Blacks were being taught in white schools from the mid to late eighties. For the most part these appear to be the one’s who make the moist noise about the inequality of life.

    Another is that even those blacks who have the White education maintain the Black second class citizen attitude and refuse to get off their butts and use the same creatively These sit on their backsides and blame the white for every wrong that comes to pass. They carry the biggest chip on their shoulders because of their wish to be GIVEN and not earn their position in life.

    This is not a local phenomenon. It is found in every black area of this planet.

    Having travelled and spent some time in areas such as the Bronx, and those predominate black areas in London and France, there is the common thread in all , that of “poor down trodden nigger attitude”.

    These people have the opportunity, have the education and the for the most part law on their side. But still they blame the white man for their problems.

    I suggest that those who feel white guilt take the time to discover the world through a black mans eyes and live and meet the Black people in Western countries particularly those in the USA where Blacks have had real freedom since the early sixties.

    Blacks have a long memory that seems to date back to the slave trade and the colonisation of Africa. The anger felt about forcing them from the Bush into the real world runs deep. The use of hard work, money and taking responsibility for their actions seems foreign to the majority black psyche.

    I just cannot sake off the feeling that they want the rewards of little effort of the old days when you sat and drank beer while your women worked.

    October 4, 2008 at 12:19 pm
  5. Sheeple #

    Khaya,

    Firstly, congratulations on winning the Digital Journalism award. I first ran into your name following the heated debate between yourself and Reindeer on Youtube. I am surprised at the amount of views you received from viewers on Youtube. I was surprised not because I believed you had particularly interesting content being discussed on your channel but that there was more thumb-sucking going on than a new-born baby. Responses were irrelevant to the topics discussed and was generally the the biggest load of dribble I’ve heard in years. I must, however compliment you on coming across convincing enough to have the uninformed, unfamiliar with exact events, studies or figures take your dribble for fact. Admittedly, I got bored with your random, selective musings whilst ignoring other real issues… all without any reference or sources to back up such statements. In this regard, you will make the perfect politician.

    Following you winning a journalism award (and being touted as one of the most influential online journalists), and my response to you sparked by your post on “Excuse me while I blame apartheid” I could not find a better description for the remainder of your so-called fans than “sheeple”. People following a perceived authority’s ideas without sufficient research and undermining their own human individuality. A stark reminder of the state of our society (and the South African online society in particular)today.

    The reality is that I am a white South African who lived through apartheid growing up. I am proud of who I am. I do not make excuses for what has happened in the past and I certainly don’t walk around all day feeling guilty for myself or the past. It’s all part of this life we live! We make mistakes, we learn, we forgive and move on. You use the word perpetrator liberally but you follow it by “be reminded of his *SINS*”? Erm. No, it’s easy for me to move on with my life because apartheid ended 14 years ago.

    “If anyone needs to get over anything, it is white people who walk around carrying guilt. The guilt might paralyse them…”.

    Brother, I don’t know about you by I don’t walk around carrying guilt I had no hand in. I feel guilty if I don’t leave a tip for the waitress who served me. I feel guilty if I haven’t taken my girlfriend out on a treat for a while.

    The majority of black people were denied an education? The government of the day did not build better schools for them?
    Please state your references.

    From the 1980s the state had invested massively in education to levels equal to Japan as a percentage of GDP. Much of this investment was directed towards black schools but was in the end pointless as these schools had become sites of political struggle from which they never recovered. Funding was provided, schools and books were burnt down…. I fail to see how exactly these people were denied an education.

    The point is for all the wrong that came with apartheid, all people were afforded an opportunity to make something out of their own. The culture fostered however, was that of a dependency state – always expecting government to do everything, and if government don’t, well, then we’re at a loss and we’ll blame them forevermore (over a decade on).

    Quite frankly, be proud of who you are… don’t make excuses, and please, don’t make excuses or try explain what supposed guilt I must be feeling. I made peace with the wrongdoings of a failed policy the day the country became liberated. It was simply an ideal dreamt up for a different way of approaching a society. Like any other ideology being tried and tested today. Capitalism. Communism. Socialism. These are all ideologies… so too Apartheid. We are not “special” and unique in this country. Many other countries have been through similar, if not worse circumstances.

    It is all in search for a better society. Sometimes some aspects work, sometimes they don’t but we continue working on a system that will hopefully benefit all some day.

    Start to do something to help build such a system, read the next page in the book, don’t get stuck on re-reading chapter one over and over. Especially not if the book was written before your time.

    Stop wallowing on your sorrows, or see a psychiatrist. Being upset 15 years on about something which you did nothing to change sounds a little self-obsessive, doesn’t it?

    January 17, 2009 at 12:08 am
  6. regardt #

    hallo how you doing……i just wanna say that ok im white i know that was wrong but hell lets just move on please im 23 and really want to live here and honestly i cant even remember apartheid its time to let go or else it will never ……….we just creating more hate and for what we are all south africans black white coulered…..etc and we have a beautifull country and we should be proud not by what coulor runs the country but by how privliged we are for having the chanse to live here…..our generation can make a diffrence we should just say out with the old in with the new ……i know i cant speak …im white aaaaaaa please get over it i can never justify for what was hapening in that time but thats not our time any more this is our time….our time to shine baby yeaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh and i love south africa sorry for any spelling errors im afikaans. so guys what do you say …… we have to raise our eyes to the heaven and seek answers there GOD will turn this around if only we let HIM ……..

    October 22, 2009 at 8:33 am
  7. elsa19 #

    You want to be still uneducated in a dessert? You can still be- just go away from that place witch has been built up.

    June 5, 2010 at 4:09 am
  8. elsa19 #

    With money and education (witch u dont have couse cant compete with P.H.D) and development and goverment (with was made all that exists now in that your country) also came this apertheit.
    Choose what u dont like and leave one. If u dont like what u have then go with apertheit live in desert as it would be without money and development and dont ever dream of bed. (actually maybe you havent then even been born- look what happened in europe with hitler:killing)
    If u dont like apertheit witch came with all that couse for that times that was as much as good as u say now your racisms is good then forget it and live in what was made in and is build.
    For theese today times racissm is abuse and abuse needs to be eliminated. Since you couse racism in South Africa dont be surprised if USA next invades SA.
    Get education- it will make u think. But its already too late.

    June 5, 2010 at 4:23 am
  9. “apertheit”? “theese”? “racissm”? Else19, if you’re going to try tell other people to get an education, you might want to learn how to spell.

    October 27, 2011 at 10:09 am

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