By Bianca Silva
The racist video emerging from the University of the Free State (UFS) last week has been a big wake up call for people across the country: racism is still an issue and it still accompanies gross human rights violations. Those who thought these issues had emigrated were evidently wrong; apparently they have only been swept under the rug and confined to private conversations.
I was one of those naïve people who were optimistic enough to think that in a modern society we were mature enough to ensure that 14 years after Apartheid people would no longer be judged on superficial characteristics like skin colour. At the very least I thought our generation would have the insight not to commit the atrocities of the past. But we cannot just point fingers at UFS and label them racist. Firstly not all the students and staff members from UFS are racist and secondly we are not in a position to point fingers when racism exists at our own university.
I had the displeasure of meeting someone, a buddy of a Rhodes student, whose view on the world was everything I thought we’d left behind – he only saw black and white and felt no remorse for the injustices of the past. I say displeasure because I wished people like him no longer thought that way. He started sentences with “I’m not racist but…” and everything that followed those words made my blood boil. The more he was told his ideas were racist the more he tried to convince everyone that his ideas were a true reflection of the world. Perhaps it was his self-righteous ego and lack of conscience which rendered him temporarily deaf to the evident rage around him. What scared me was that a supposedly enlightened human being could be friends with a person like that.
We may try to make ourselves feel better by saying that the incident isn’t as bad as what happened at UFS. Racism is defined as treating someone differently or thinking worse of someone because of their race. Both instances fall into the same category.
South Africa experienced international sanctions, economic failure and social isolation because of Apartheid. We reached a global consensus: racism is wrong, yet it seems we still struggle with it more than a decade later. Racism just makes no sense. The incident at UFS shocked people internationally. CNN and BBC news speculate that we still haven’t dealt with race issues. Black university staff were forced to eat food that had allegedly been urinated on and then complete a number of other degrading activities on film. A group of students disrespected their elders, because of their race and then ignored their free will and integrity. This would be defined as ageist, racist and a violation of human rights, which surely makes it an atrocity.
I challenge you to deal with this issue, if we want to challenge the reputation South Africa has adopted we need to react. What would bring justice to the issue? Should the UFS students be excluded from all universities and criminally charged? I think so. This is our country. If we have decided globally that racism is wrong then surely we should do something when it happens. Activate would like to challenge you to discuss the issue publically or even just think about it.. It is Human Rights Awareness week and we are all human, or at least 98% chimpanzee.