THE BIG READ: Beyond mere tolerance
Last week ended on a colourful note . There was a flurry of condemnation of statements by people from across the racial divide. What was , once again, brought to life is that South Africa has a long way to go with its nation-building project.
On Friday, Twitter was treated to FHM model Jessica Leandra's tweet that said: "Just took on an arrogant and disrespectful k****r inside Spar. Should have punched him, should have."
The same person once also made a post saying, "Highlight of my weekend? Almost punching an #Engen petrol assistant. No tolerance for rude African monkeys whatsoever!"
Clearly, this was an explosion of anger and resentment that had been suppressed due to tolerating instead of dealing with the prejudices that we hold.
In isolation, Leandra's ignorant views ferment, and upon contact, there is an explosion.
In another incident there was a circulation of racist remarks made by Ken Sinclair on Facebook, via e-mail, who said: "Seriously, seriously, seriously, had enough of the blacks in this country. Arrogant f***ing swines, and I will make it my facebook status because I want them all to know. You are all f**k all without whites, you would still be in your little mud huts. Go on as if we owe you everything, we owe you shit! Expect everything for nothing and have the biggest attitudes I have ever come across. You will all fall short sooner or later . karma"
An instinctive response for any black person to this kind of rubbish would be to swear at this person and justifiably be angered - right there a standoff is born and potential racial violence could come to life.
In another incident on Friday, too, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson refused to address the Cape Town Press Club in the presence of DA shadow minister Pieter van Dalen. Van Dalen had to leave a press club that he is a member of simply because a self-absorbed, ignorant and bullying minister said so.
On the same Friday, there was a news clip of Phathekile Holomisa questioning the legalisation of same-sex marriages. In South Africa this is no longer a debate; it is law through the Civil Union Act of 2006.
The question we have to ask is did we choose right as a nation when we decided to preach tolerance - be it racial, cultural, religious, or political tolerance?
The problem with a society founded on tolerance of our kind is that there will be explosive outbursts.
Tolerance asks people to suppress, bottle and conceal their anger, prejudice and resentment without dealing with these negative traits. Tolerance often promotes separation, the less contact the more chances of peace. Ours is clearly not a natural harmony but an engineered one, making it fake. We remain sensitive because we are still wounded and haunted by the demons of the past.
We may be quick to dismiss these bigoted remarks as views of a few people who are extremists and represent a minority within our society. The contrary is true.
Many South Africans, of all colours, abhor one another. But this seldom comes to light.
Many black people in our little corners will admit that they hate white people and want them as far away as possible, equally many white people in their little corners admit to this, too (about blacks).
I think the reason for this is that the Nelson Mandela-led reconciliation process was a top-down approach that was to be tolerated for the sake of peace, not because there was peace. We have lived in engineered peace for far too long and it might be good to heed the words of Steve Biko in 1970 when he said, of the student community, "The people realise now that a lot of time and strength is wasted in maintaining artificial and token non-racialism at student level . "
These words resonate with today's South Africa. Until we deal with the past openly and honestly, we will not win in our quest for dealing with discrimination.
We need to look beyond tolerance and start developing ways of acceptance so that we can coexist authentically.
- Mnguni is a Durban youth activist