Editorial: Break the wall of soft apartheid

Publication: CityPress

This article raises a very important point, and one that we should all be aware of in South Africa. Apartheid may have ended over 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist in another form today, one that this article has termed “soft apartheid”. Soft apartheid is when a country continues to divide itself along racial lines. Soft apartheid is when 80% of a population is socially, politically and economically disadvantaged for little more reason than the colour of their skin. Soft apartheid is when young school girls are discriminated upon because of their hair and their language. Recent findings from racism monitor, Plus 94 Research showed that despite apartheid ending so long ago “South Africans still seemed to have not fully embraced … greater interaction and learning across racial and cultural divides.” This is something that needs to be rectified and dealt with sooner rather than later. We cannot continue to live in a society where we are still defined by an archaic and backward system, and where the benefits of democracy are confined to the wealthy elite.

The grand architect of apartheid Hendrik Verwoerd must be laughing in his grave.

More than two decades after the birth of a democratic South Africa, the nation remains deeply divided along racial lines.

Verwoerd’s twisted visions for permanent, racially based social, political and economic divisions appear to have been a success.

Not only do black and white South Africans view each other with mistrust and hatred, but they also remain ignorant and intolerant of one another.

This week’s appalling situation at Pretoria High School for Girls and other former Model C schools, where black girls were discriminated against because of their hair and language, exemplifies our lack of progress in building a cohesive nation.

But our inability to see each other goes far deeper than a lack of understanding hair.

The findings of a racism monitor, released this week by Plus 94 Research, paints a disturbing picture of a South Africa whose people have been unable – or unwilling – to cross racial and cultural lines in the post-apartheid period.

The survey found that, despite the end of apartheid, “South Africans still seemed to have not fully embraced … greater interaction and learning across racial and cultural divides.”

Respondents polled revealed the prevalence of black-on-white and white-on-black racism.

They also showed that black-on-black, black-on-coloured and coloured-on-black racism, along with xenophobia, have become common experiences for a disconcertingly large number of South Africans.

The survey also found that an increasing sense of alienation by poor South Africans, caused by a lack of economic transformation and a “sense of missing out on the fruits of the democratic era” was intertwined with racial discrimination.

The figures are scary.

Nearly 80% of black respondents felt they were treated worse in public than other races; 44% of black respondents had been discriminated against by other blacks; and 77% of Indians spoke of being discriminated against by their black counterparts.

We are in trouble, as evidenced by the spate of racist incidents that have occurred in public this year.

There is no time left to waste. We need an urgent national effort to break down the walls of soft apartheid that remain entrenched in our country.

Dialogue about race and a real attempt to ensure that South Africans end their fear, hatred and ignorance of one another has to happen now.


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