South Africa woke up to the hurt caused by colonial and apartheid statues with a bang when the #RhodesMustFall movement spread around the country like wildfire. A wildfire fueled by generations of hurt and pain. A wildfire fueled by the energy of the youth.
Indeed, parties like the DA were so happy to discuss the “born-frees”. There is no such thing as a black person born free of institutional subjugation, but they were referring to a group of black youth that were born after 1994 that they laughably believed would see the world like they do. They could not have been more wrong. These young black people were born into the self-belief that they should not have to make do with the status quo. These young black people grew up with teachers and parents explaining who the men in statues are, and what they represent, and they have had to try and make sense of how a free, democratic government led by black South Africans, can have perched in the most prominent spaces in the cities, the glorified emblems of murder, racism, subjugation and hatred for blacks.
Before we continue, watch this very short video below. It is no more than 30 seconds. It is the mayor of New Orleans, a white man – the beneficiary of white privilege and supremacy – talking about why he had ordered the removal of all Confederate symbols from his city. It is revolutionary – a white American leading this charge. It is a video every white and black South African should see. It took America generations to get to this point. We have the chance now, 20 years into democracy, to do the same thing.
It is about time the minorities stop being arrogantly deaf and start to see the statues and street names through the eyes of black people.
Watch, and then we will write more:
It does not end with statues. Poor black people walk along streets named after the architects of colonialism and apartheid all over this country. Black people too poor to drive, living in shacks that are the direct result of the crimes against humanity, walk along streets revering the selfsame crimes that put them in this situation.
Watch what Sunette Bridges said about what happened to the Paul Kruger statue, and contrast it to the progressive attitude of the New Orleans mayor.
We have no doubt the Confederate apologists in America are furious. But it doesn’t matter. The symbol of removing divisive, hateful statues speaks to an awakening, an acknowledgment and an ownership of the horror of a racist past.
Imagine Germany had statues of Hitler and Goebbels mounted in front of its parliament because it was part of their history? How would they explain that to other heads of states? How would their citizens explain that to tourists? How would their mothers explain that to their children?
Yes, we must never forget our history. Yes, we must work towards building a future with new heroes to be remembered. But our government and lawmakers, as well as citizens, should never honour murderers.