South Africa: Finding Common Ground Amidst “Race War”

South Africans are definitely not colour blind. Forty-odd years of apartheid has ensured that the concept of race is entrenched in the hearts and minds of many citizens of Mzansi (as the country is known locally). The dawn of democracy in 1994 gave birth to hopes of an equal society, free from the prejudices of the discriminatory laws that kept South Africans apart for so long. However, sixteen years on, it is becoming increasingly evident that race and its associated stigmas, is a hurdle that South Africans are struggling to overcome.

Together as one!

Judging from the blogosphere, it seems that South Africans are weary of being labeled and truly long to find common ground. Ryland Fisher articulates these feelings:

In fact, I have been amazed when I travel overseas and we are all just considered to be South Africans, because that is where we come from. However, as soon as we return home, we again attach our various identities. So then we become African or African black or black African, coloured or so-called coloured, Indian, Chinese (or black), white or in the minds of some people who would like to perpetuate apartheid, European.
We disintegrate into Xhosas and Zulus, Tswanas and Pedis, Vendas or Sothos. We become Tamils or Hindus, Muslims or Christians or Jews. I am not saying that there is something wrong with all these multiple identities but when we use our identities as a weapon against others, as we tend to do in South Africa, then I think there is a problem.

Using “identities as a weapon,” as Ryland has stated, is something that South Africans are all too familiar with. It is sometimes termed as “flashing a race card”. It seems that race is often used to try to win over an argument or make a certain point. In fact, the term race card became so popular that enterprising young South Africans actually produced tangible cards and marketed them as can be found here.

Be that as it may, wading further through the matrix of the web, one gets a palpable sense that change is in the air. It seems that South Africans from all walks of life are transforming, irrespective of the divisions that are so widely reported about in mainstream media.

David Gemmell’s words are truly optimistic about the state of race relations in South Africa:

A few years ago, when my daughter was at junior school, we arranged for me to collect her and a friend, to go to movies. When confirming our plans I asked which friend she would be bringing.
“Mel,” she said. “Remind me, who is Mel?” I asked in typically vague father style. “She's the slightly plump girl with glasses that came to my party – you've met her.”
When I picked them up, the most striking thing about Mel was that she was black. My 14-year-old daughter didn't seem to think the colour of someone's skin was useful to describe people. All my friends have similar stories.

One-Eye-Only has a similar experience:

Yup, the white folks and the black folks and the coloured folks and old folks and young folks and gay folks and breeder folks all danced together. If Nelson Mandela had seen it he would have orgasmed. South African folks, dancing together, to classic South African music. Really, this divisive shit we like to espouse all day gets over-ridden by what happens when we all get together with a few drinks…

The upcoming FIFA World Cup has also contributed towards the surge in South African pride and togetherness. Many South Africans have displayed the pride and confidence that they have in the nation by displaying South African flags on their cars, as African Crisis explains:

The interesting thing is that it is not only black motorists who are flying the flags. A surprising number of white drivers have flags on their cars

Perhaps Dogs of War delivers the current sentiment the best,

South Africa belongs to all of us. A guaranteed way to for all to succeed is for South Africa to succeed. Take my word, South Africa will succeed.

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