Third place winner of the Essay Competition Against Racism

Who would think that a school would need an ANTI-RACISM policy. I mean it is the one place
where we are taught about racism.
“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the
simple art of living together as brothers. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind
nor serenity of spirit”- Martin Luther King, Jr.
“June 16th, Soweto Uprising- please go over that for your exams, class dismissed”
Did I learn? Yes. Do I know the dates? Yes. Do I know their names? Yes. Do I know when it
happened? Yes. Where it all took place? Yes. How it happened? Yes. Why it happened? Partly.
Do I understand it all? No, it doesn’t matter anyway , what matters are those great marks on
my report. That’s all everybody cares about anyway.
Exactly 46 years ago,552 months ago,2399 weeks ago,16790 days ago approximately 20000
students took to the streets of Soweto protesting to receive the same type of education
irrespective of their race. 176 – 700 died. 1000 injured. Their voices – heard, history rewritten
and a 360° turn in South African history – or so we thought. “How can Keitumetse get more
than me in my Afrikaans speech. Ma’am may I please redo it” – These words spoken by a
Coloured classmate of mine sting like salt in an open wound. To this day I still see my
classmates with hierarchical mindsets. A hierarchy determined by the amount of melanin
present in my skin- one which makes me to be considered inferior. I’ve had Coloured and Indian
friends who felt identifying as black was blasphemy because they considered themselves to be
“less black”.
“Please raise your hand if you are black. So there are ten of you in the class. Okay thank you,
you can put your hands down” – these words spoken in every classroom taint every student’s
mind. See how our differences are being diminished in the very same classrooms where we are
taught to overcome stereotypes and prejudice. How could you not notice that you are different
from everyone else? How could the colour of one’s skin not be as clear as day and be the first
thing you saw when you looked at someone? Schools should be Laboratories of ANTI-RACISM –
or so I think. Now how would these Laboratories work. See the way in which racism is taught is
distorted. The first problem is that it is taught in the history syllabus. First of all why history ?I’ll
tell you why, it’s because the system wants us to think that racism is a thing of the past. The
system wants top achievers not anti-racist citizens. They teach us to to be non-racist but as
Angela Davis once said “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be antiracist.”
Apartheid is a painfully engraved history of South Africa. We are taught about it and even made
to write exams about it, yet it doesn’t sink in. It doesn’t bother us. It’s just names of people
which we are forced to remember and forget as soon as we leave the classroom because it only
matters when it is for marks. We understand the struggle our predecessors went through – or
so we think. We are taught about the apartheid historical events such as The Sharpeville
massacre, Shell House massacre, Saint James Church massacre and Soweto Uprising. They are
drilled into our minds and carved into our souls so much so that one would expect racism to be
a foreign concept in schools yet it is where it is bred. Why is it that we understand that fire
burns yet continue to place our hands over it? Do we like the feeling of being burnt or do we
forget that fire burns as soon as we remove our hands?
We are running a race where the finish line is placed at the starting point. The only reason why
we are still fighting the same war our predecessors fought is because we don’t realise we are in
the battle. I mean how could you possibly win a fight if you are not in it? The reason why there
are still barriers between us is because we aren’t trying to break them down. This why we
aren’t moving forward yet we are going nowhere fast. Clearly there is something that isn’t
being done in schools.
The only way to move past racism is to teach it like what it is. No, not the Sharpeville
massacre,not Soweto Uprising and certainly not Apartheid. Teach me about the Grosvenor
Girl’s High School incident in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Stellenbosch University and Rondebosch Boy’s
High School in the Western Cape, Clarendon High School for Girls in the Eastern Cape and
Hoerskool Jan Viljoen, Pretoria High School for Girls and Cornwall Hill College in Gauteng and
the one that stands out for me is the incident at Fred Norman Secondary School – where Fred
Norman Secondary School made the headlines when a teacher was seen to be racist, a history
teacher if I might add. Let’s talk about how someone who knows so much about racism, so
much so as to teach about it ,was racist. Don’t just teach me about the heroic names like Helen
Joseph, Chris Hani, Mahatma Gandhi, Ahmed Kathrada, Fredrick Willem de Klerk, Desmond
Tutu, Winnie Mandela, Joe Slovo, Robert Sobukwe, David Webster, Ruth First , Walter Sisulu ,
Albertina Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Helen Suzman, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela. I heard their
names a thousand times. I know their names better than I know myself and that there is the
problem, that’s why racism in schools is as common as dirt .
See if we spoke about why we find it better to associate ourselves with people that “look” like
us and speak the same languages as us, if we spoke about why we are attracted to those of
same race as us like how the north pole of a magnet is attracted to the south pole of another, if
we spoke about why the amount of melanin in my skin seems to determine my capabilities or
how being black is seen as a limitation by my teachers. If we celebrated our differences and
accepted them and if, just if, we were taught to believe in one race – THE HUMAN RACE. Then
and only then would our schools stop producing non-racist citizens and would now produce
anti-racist citizens.



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