University of Apartheid: The burden of being Young & Black in Stellenbosch

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 So, I watched “Luister” which is the Afrikaans translation for “Listen”. It’s the 35 minute documentary and this is my direct perspective in reflection, after watching the thought and emotion provoking documentary, I realised that the stories shared go way beyond just ‘Afrikaans being the first language of teaching and a culture’.

It reflected the intensely administered racism, discrimination, misogyny, infringement of human dignity and bureaucratic instantiations of cultural myopia, black students at the University of Stellenbosch face.

“I feel like it’s wrong to be black…Sometime’s when I’m alone I ask God why He made me black…”

This was one of the opening lines of Luister, of which one cannot help but play repeatedly over and over again, and with each repetition, the quavering words from the young black man projecting them, can make one cringe with unrestrained energy.

To think about just how much a person can hate themselves and their eternal being due to the intolerable actions of another – This to me, proved the evident result of racism’s disastrous psychological effect – at the highest degree

This is racial oppression in the new South Africa, and this makes me slightly fear that, although we, as citizens, try our utmost best to initiate responsive and interactive platforms to dialogue about racism – South Africa is not far from going through a national racial confrontation, based on ethical contradictions and misjudgement of personal feelings, thoughts and opinions between races; that will seek to recognise and diminish myths, stereotypes, stigma and discrimination associated with the races in battle.

Citizens of South Africa, young people in particular, have become more conscious about their human rights and well-being including their socio-political and economic belonging. Youth of colour have been historically oppressed and the current millennial generation of South Africa, is seeking more than just what the revolutionary democracy opened doors to 22 years ago.

These young Millennials still believe racism is visibly evident. The Post -1994 Agenda took away the violence, brutality, murder and immoral political injustices that accompanied racial segregation – But it did not equally so, effectively & efficiently adjust the economic and social status of the previously marginalised people versus the generational wealth, social capital and financial head-start that whites had & still have in the new era- and that is exactly what the youth generation of the South African economy are now striving to fight for.

In Luister, One sighted how ‘students at the University are dropping out, because they do not understand the language in which they are being taught.’ This instantly reminded me of the 1976 June 16 Soweto Uprising, where protests were led by numerous students from high schools in Soweto in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in local schools, where an estimated 2000 protested and an estimated 700 were killed by the police.

I believe, It’s happening all over again; in a different economy, during a new era, with diversified socio-economic statuses and levels of understanding. When I mentioned this belief to a young and privileged non-black acquaintance of mine, she mumbled back in response:

“Then why don’t these blacks just get with the program and learn Afrikaans and embrace the culture so that they can get the education they need, without all this drama?” Drama, she said. Drama.

I couldn’t begin to have a mutually beneficial and common conversation with her, but instead challenged her response with too posing a question:

” Why does the University, rather not make English the main language of instruction and provide electives for second additional languages of preference from the 11 official languages , as standards of teaching instead?.”

This was also in reference to the statement on compromising ,made by one of the interviewers on the documentary and in accordance to the recognition of the Spirit of Ubuntu, Unity and celebrating diversity towards transformation and ‘moving South Africa forward’. How can we be expected to willingly keep silent & simply ‘compromise’ , in trying to gain access to education like everyone else, help us?

“If you don’t speak Afrikaans you don’t belong here.” To which commenter’s on the documentary voluntarily role-played, responding: “You are in my continent, you’re standing on the soil of my country where quite frankly, you don’t belong” But, We don’t want it to lead to that, we are trying to build a rainbow nation & nation-building should be efforts of all citizens – but for as long as we still have the select few minority, who bestow feelings & responses of superiority on the select majority amongst us,

In my careful observation, if left unchallenged it will rapidly turn out to being a bigger problem than we intentionally perceive – A big silent problem, where the effects of its outburst will be volcanically catastrophic.

As mentioned in the documentary; indeed some liberals are subjected to “friendly racism” from their counterparts – where they are more willing and eager to accepting black criticism, as long as it is ritualised and there for exculpatory and somewhat entertaining – which is tragically sad because it’s apparent applauds solicitude yields of select friendships and lead to less mutual respect.

Indeed, Today’s liberalism no longer curbs discrimination, it invites it. It does not visibly & loudly expose racism but rather it recapitulates it; and sometimes reinvents it. It is evidently clear that the power of law on it’s own, however vigorously enforced, cannot diminish racial discrimination.

It is time to call the mind-set exactly what it is in this millennial: Liberal racism, and work towards transparent, honest, respectful, non-disruptive and non-dictative methods to address racism. In relation to how it affects us as individuals and societies so that we build trust, mutual respect, acceptance and tolerance amongst races.

We as young black academics from different cultures, backgrounds & societies need to stand strong in unity and collaboration, where through Open Stellenbosch and other relative campus coalitions, readdress racism in the liberal form that it now exists and rightly condemn the efforts that it leads to. Let it be a reminder that Lack of University Management addressing such issue will lead to further preventable aggressive apprehensions.

WATCH: Luister Documentary:

 Author: Zanele Mabaso       Twitter: @zanelemabaso23

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