South Africa is still too black and white to see grey

30 January 2013 - 15:46 By Lebohang Nthongoa

South Africa has been used as a model for political and societal transition for a good few years now.

We have gone from apartheid to the new South Africa, and there are still underlying issues when it comes to racism. Issues we try to sweep under the carpet, rather than address.

Jesse Duarte came out today asking for the nation to change the language used on issues of racism.

I very much agree with her on this one, we are still stuck on racial division and we still see South Africa still in black and white terms.

A white family friend has a daughter, who was about 6 at the time. She was friends with a black girl at preschool. She brought the friend home one day; and when the time for her friend to go home came, the father picked her up from the house.

This little blonde girl had the biggest expression of shock on her face, and turned to her mother to tell her what she found so strange when her mother told her to say goodbye to her friend: 'But he's a black man!'

I don't for one minute believe there is something racist taught by my friend to her small child. And as great as it is that she has no concept of race and colour when she's on the playground with her friends, the fact that a 'black man' represents something to her shows that we have these racial prejudices from an early age.

But what do we do then to replace such ways of thinking? If we teach children in an obvious way not to see people in non-racial terms, then they will be so conscious to it that it becomes a problem.

If we ignore it, then we risk having our kids listening to and copying what people outside the home say and do.

I am of the opinion it will get there in time, and if we relax a little, we will find our footing sooner. Tension about the matter is in my mind, almost going against natural movement in that direction.

I think our democracy is moving in the right direction and in the future there will be a time when we have some sort of balance in everything (political, economical, etc), to change our language on race issues.

I don't know if complete non-racialism is possible, even old democracies still struggle with it. We are still too young a democracy to think we can perfect the change so soon though.