Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ja... what he said.


I was 12 when the New South Africa came into being. The Rainbow Nation.

I often get asked what it was like, living under Apartheid rule, but I honestly don't recall much of the unrest as it was happening. I guess that's because we were still living in segregated communities for the first 10 years of my life. 

The strongest memories of "surviving Apartheid" that I can personally recall, are the bomb/attack drills that we had to practise in primary school and the fact that I called every black man I saw "Amos" because that was the name of my gran's gardener.

The bomb drills are a particularly ludicrous memory - a horrible whooping alarm would go off and we would all have to scramble under our desks, close our eyes, cover our ears and sing "Ol' MacDonald had a farm, ee-eye-ee-eye-oooooh" or something similarly innocous to ourselves. I assume the reasoning was to muffle the sights and sounds of our white classmates supposedly being butchered around us. I like to think of it as the Head in the sand defense mechanism. Why teach self-defense when they can just blinker themselves and pretend that nothing is happening?

I remember watching Mandela being released on TV, and asking my mother what all the fuss was about. I think I remember her saying it was a good thing for the country, but I had no idea why. 

I don't remember much else, really. I had a normal childhood, didn't witness any violence or unrest - other than what was reported on the news (still to a limited extent back in the 80s). But I did, without a doubt in my mind, benefit from it. And surely there aren't many white people in SA who can claim to have not done so. 

My parents could afford to put me through decent schools. We had two cars to our four-person family. We each had our own room. I'm not saying that it was cushy, or that my parents had it easy financially. Not even slightly. But it was better than 90% of the population. Much better. 

So, yes I benefited from the system of inequality. Sometimes I feel guilty about it, knowing what other South Africans were subjected to during those years. 

Other times I feel angry that I am expected to apologise for the inequality.

Peet van Aardt is succinctly refreshing about his feelings on this matter. To the point that I felt inclined to comprise this entire post with three simple words and a link: What he said.

1 comment:

rd said...

Yeah, I had no idea what was going on "back in the day".

I had Sibusiso in my primary school cricket team and his family represented South African blacks on a whole, so I never knew what everyone was complaining about.

I plead blissful ignorance