by Veronica Boyi
I wear the color of my skin like armor. Like a knight caught in constant battle, I fight not only for my individualism, but for recognition as a human being every day.
People all over the world say that they are tired of hearing about the struggles of black people; they’re tired of hearing about suffering and slavery. That debate has never ended. Being a black South African woman in the 21st century I still have to defend my color and my Afrikaans accent to non-black South Africans as those people believe I am not fully South African because I don’t speak ‘broken English’. I am forced to answer questions about my skin color and education on a daily basis. What do the two have to do with each other?
We live in a democratic era, yet people are still subjected to racism and prejudice because they are not fair skinned or highly educated. That’s not what the struggles of apartheid were for. That’s not what so many innocent South Africans died for. They died for freedom, for the freedom I and so many other South Africans have today; the freedom to dream, to want and work towards better, to be educated, to be equal and to be our individual selves.
Our people were forcefully removed from their ancestral land, shoved onto demarcated pieces of land and forced to live in shacks like cockroaches. They had to and still do live far from any health facilities, away from bus, train routes and public health services. To this day, we still live in those shacks, which were dubbed townships/slums, we still live miles away from basic service providers and we still live on top of each other like matchsticks in a box. We’re still removed from our homes and history for the sake of money. What freedom is that?
My grandparents, parents, their families and countless South Africans, including the greats like Hector Pietersen, Oliver Thambo, Chris Hani and Steve Biko did not fight or die in their pursuit of equality, liberation and freedom for the life we as black people are subjected to live today. They did not defy the laws of oppression to have half of democracy. Yet, we cower behind each other too afraid to say anything because no one listens to us anyway.
Those were the people who made me feel proud to be black and South African. I never thought that the day would come that I would feel otherwise. Today, I and many more South Africans are embarrassed and ashamed. Politicians and investors have turned African against African. Instead of building a strong and united nation, they’ve stolen from us and lied to us, their people. They made the rest of the world believe that we are a people to be trampled upon. And so the world has, with mighty boots.
We talk about our grievances in our homes, busses, trains and taxis because there we are on equal footing, we understand each other. We want better lives and futures for our children. We know what we look like and where we come from therefore we still continue to fight loudly and silently to make those who are still oppressing us listen. Just because the machinery pieces, buildings and uniforms have changed doesn’t make it any less a form of slavery.
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