By Kate Douglas
WHAT? You have to be joking! I cannot believe that the Stephen Biko posters were vandalised in the Bantu Stephen Biko Building. This makes me sick and I’ll tell you why: because this wasn’t some student’s drunken antics, this was people being racists…again. It makes me fume. As students, we are supposed to be the ones looking forward to a brighter future, yet many of us often seem to be products of the past. Of course, racism exists within all racial groups, but it is the white racists who seem to be the most brainless of them all. If students aren’t making racist videos at the University of Free State, then they are trying to vomit on posters of Stephen Biko. Well, so I’ve now heard. One can only assume that this is because of the Union’s name change. A student emailed me saying he had overheard various racist comments about the new name, one being a sarcastic comment that South Africa should be renamed ‘Republic of Mandela’, because everything is being named after him. Again, I am outraged. To those students I would like to say a few things:
Firstly, Mandela spent 27 years in prison because of white racism. When he was finally released, he adopted a policy of reconciliation and forgiveness, this when the average person would probably have been furious and plotting ‘pay back’. It should be recognised that Mandela gave to white racists what white racists did not give to him.
Secondly, can you not understand the rationale behind the name change? I guarantee you that you would feel differently if a building was called, let’s say, ‘Mugabe’ and it was changed to…um…well, I don’t know. I can’t for the life of me think of a commonly accepted worthy white person in Africa. Wait, there are the odd few. Anyway, my point is that I cannot see the justification behind such angry vandalism.
Thirdly, I am outraged that I share the same skin colour as you. Every time some pigmentless twit passes a remark in a Grahamstown club or stupid comment in lectures, I, and thousands of other white South Africans, feel ashamed. It is sad that we categorise people using race but the fact is that we do.
The responsibility is to now deal with racism. What makes it so problematic is that acts like the vandalism of the Biko posters are rarely done publicly. They are cowardly acts and it is difficult to develop an understanding of them. What I think needs to be done is to create an environment where such issues can be freely discussed. I also believe that it is up to students to take a stand to this. It needs to be well-known, across the spectrum, that this is not acceptable. I’d like to see an equal display of races marching against racism.
Finally, I’d like to see those vandalisers come forward and show their faces. But of course they won’t because they are cowardly…and probably damn ugly too.