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Never Again, Apartheid: South Africa Takes on Racism

The #TakeonRacism online platform continues to facilitate sharing of stories and ideas to contribute to the non-racist society envisaged by the late President Nelson Mandela

South African students protest racism and exorbitant university fees

The Anti-Racism Network of South Africa (ARNSA)  completed its first annual anti-racism week yesterday. The first-of-its-kind campaign against racism took place from 14 to 21 March 2016. The campaign rolled off with various events and programs held across the country which included dialogues on human rights, anti-racism marches and conferences, information sessions on the Equality Court, school assemblies, community prayers and an ongoing social media campaign for dialogue.

An online pledge hashtag #TakeOnRacism: was created to facilitate nationwide commitment to curb the social disease of racism. The campaign responded to a backdrop of increased racial tensions in the past year which have dominated national and international headlines.

The cracks in the “rainbow nation” mirage grew wider this year when several prominent white South Africans were called out after uttering racist statements and hate speech on social media platforms, comparing black people to ‘monkeys’ and ‘entitled victims’.

These incidents sparked a national outcry against the scourge of racism in the country, resulting in a #Racismmustfall social media campaign. University students also spearheaded the calls for social transformation through the #Rhodesmustfall and #Feesmustfall movements in 2015, calling out institutions of higher learning for their systemic racism.

The students are continuing to highlight a lack of transformation at top management levels, academic tenure that is still predominantly white, exorbitant tuition fees and language policies that exclude majority black students and a curriculum content that still reflect vestiges of colonialism.

These incidents opened up the deep wounds of South Africans who still live with the remnants of racist apartheid legacies in their daily lives as reflected through the widening social and economic inequality gaps.

Recent statistics published by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation about the state of racism in the country indicate that race relations have worsened since 1994, with 59.8% of blacks, 67% of whites, 63.1% of Indians and 63.1% of Coloureds agreeing with the statement.

The Anti-Racism week campaign aimed to curb the spread of racism through public education on issues of racism and to provide a platform for South Africans to openly speak on their experiences of racial prejudice. South Africans participated in the campaign in all areas of social interaction, finding ways to foster reconciliation and social cohesion.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation says “racism is a debilitating problem in society that requires urgent attention. To not give it the attention it deserves is to gamble dangerously with South Africa’s future. Our history, structural inequality and the way we were socialized resulted in racism digging its heels deep into our national identity. Undoing something that runs deep in our veins is an enormous task for each one of us, but not impossible to overcome.”

The #TakeonRacism online platform continues to facilitate sharing of stories and ideas to contribute to the non-racist society envisaged by the late President Nelson Mandela when he said in his inauguration speech as South African president in Pretoria, May 10, 1994:

“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign.”

Pearl Mashabane
Johannesburg, South Africa. Pearl works in the diversity management and employee wellness sector in the public service. she loves traveling and learning to ask for food in as many languages as she can, just in case.
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