Social media aside, most adults and children seem reluctant to talk about racism, even if they have strong feelings about it.
Dineo Mthiyane. Image: Supplied
The year I was 10, my parents transferred me to a predominantly white school. White kids made fun of the food I ate, my accent, how my school accessories were different from theirs because mine were cheaper and I had thick, straight hair on my head and legs. . I had to grow up fast to keep my self-confidence.
Most adults will tell you that “it’s easy for kids these days.” Almost all generations have been doomed to hear this from their elders. But speaking to a few teens and children myself, it seems this is not true. In fact, it is much more difficult for them to come to terms with the extent of outdated generalizations that would be frowned upon even in slapstick comedies.
“One day I was walking in the mall and I went downstairs to tie my shoelaces. There was a white lady. She flinched and grabbed her bag and glanced at me until I left, ”17-year-old Nkosi Sibindi told me this week.
Nkosi lives in Umbilo, KwaZulu-Natal. At his delicate age, he tells a story that I have heard countless times from people much older than me.
Nkosi echoes this. “It was shocking because you would think in our time that racism would be something foreign, that we ourselves would not know. It didn’t make sense that people in our time still behave like this. It was shocking and it hurt me a lot.
But unlike how I remember my elders telling me similar stories, Nkosi didn’t back down and made sure to finish tying his shoes before continuing his run.
While social media is teeming with people fighting against race and racism, in real life, many children and adults are uncomfortable talking about it in a conversation and facing it openly.
Sibahle Nkehli is a 17 year old from Musgrave who works with the Durban Youth Council. It focuses on a number of community campaigns and projects, including education campaigns on topics such as environmentalism and fundraising campaigns for the poor.
“We serve the community, but we also educate each other. We are having discussions about xenophobia and we have raised funds for an organization that helps refugees, ”explained Sibahle.
But they never spoke of race.
“In fact, we didn’t talk about racism,” laughs Sibahle. “And that’s a problem because it just seems to get around us. It’s like people don’t want to talk about it.
Siblings Dineo (17) and Simphiwe (15) Mthiyane from Newlands West, KwaZulu-Natal, are not afraid to open up on the subject. Together, they assist their uncle, Wandile Mthiyane, in his ephemeral project the Anti-racist hot dog movement. It started after Uncle Mthiyane and a friend faced a racist response from the Durban Under Sea Club, also known as the Point Watersports Club. With this initiative, they try to speak openly about racism.
Here, the brother and sister duo work selling hot dogs in different locations and talking to people about their experiences with racism and their views on the race in general. The experience is enriching for them.
Simphiwe Mthiyane. Image: Supplied
“I feel good, I feel like I tried to make a difference. We try to make a difference. It’s not just about selling hot dogs; it’s about bringing people together and seeing their perspective on racism, ”said Simphiwe.
Dineo intends to someday bring the event to a wider audience, as it helps them access and understand people of different races.
“I don’t just make friends from my running group. I’m getting to know what they think about racism. Then I know what a white man or an Indian or a person of color thinks about racism. “
Dineo Mthiyane. Image: Supplied
Children have different views of what racism is. Some see a clear distinction between discrimination and racism. But it’s not so black and white for others.
Jordan Totham (18) from Berea, KwaZulu-Natal, said he had not experienced racism himself, but said racism can spread to whites as well.
“People say there is white supremacy. So people say ‘they don’t know what they have. They are people who have everything. Sometimes I feel like this is not true because some of us white people have a hard time getting by. Sometimes they don’t understand the whole story based on what they think, not what they know.
Photo of Jordan Totham: Supplied
Ruby Healing, 17 from Bedfordview, Gauteng, sees it differently. Ruby said she was never a victim of racism because she was white.
“Whites cannot be discriminated against because there is no history of racial oppression. If I have been discriminated against, it is because of my gender, my sexuality or my religion. But never my race.
WHAT IS RACISM?
Racism is when you discriminate against people of a different race or color, anyone who is not you, who is different from you. Anyone can be a victim of racism.
Nkosi, 17 years old
This is how we treat another racial group. It can also be a black person versus a white person.
Dinéo, 17 years old
How we treat people unfairly based on their skin color and where they come from, such as their country.
Simphiwé, 15 years old
Racism is when peachy people are mean to you because of the color of your skin and it just doesn’t make sense.
Zaphin, 9 years old
Racism is a systemic problem because it is a system that continually oppresses people who are not Caucasian, and includes the education system and the prison system, to ensure that others stay at the bottom of the ladder. whatever happens. The discrimination is more direct and social, such as not finding a job because you are black. Racism is much deeper, it is systemic.
Sibhle, 17 years old
Racism is a type of discrimination based on the color of their skin, and treating people differently based on the language they speak.
Racism has a lot to do with an imbalance of power due to a huge problem of oppression. It’s more based on the superiority of the colonizers based on pseudoscience, greed, superiority.
Rubis, 17 years old
Healing ruby. Image: Supplied
Meanwhile, in Cape Town, nine-year-old Zaphin sat up in bed just before bedtime and explained over the phone that the concept of race was not rational. Zaphin’s real name was withheld after a request from his parents.
“Race is the different skin tones of different people. You know that our palm is very light and that it is peach, while the back of our hand is completely brown? It’s kind of like the color of your hand is some people’s color peach, but for some reason it’s called white. And when you have brown skin, for some reason I don’t know why either, it’s called being black. There are also people of color and Indians, ”she explained. “Racism is when peachy people are mean to you because of the color of your skin and it just doesn’t make sense … inside we have the exact same thing.”
Zaphin once told her mother that she wanted to “be peachy and have straight hair,” and her mother told her about race and racism. “And then mom taught me to love myself and to love the color of my skin.”
Zaphin; Image: Supplied
HOW TO DEAL WITH RACISM
What we learn from our parents has a big impact on what we understand about society. But as Diversity Trainer and Program Developer Asanda Ngoasheng explained, kids are more likely to challenge their conservative parents if they know more. She says people who think critical race theory is brainwashing children couldn’t be more wrong.
“Even children with the most offensive opinions are very quickly able to see the harm in what they are saying when you explain it to them in child-friendly language. People are scared and say “why are you teaching my children this”, but the children already know it. They see these things and they observe the diversity, ”Ngoasheng explained.
She works with children at schools such as the prestigious Roedean School in Johannesburg to help them articulate and address race and racism.
“Sometimes the house is good, but the company is bad. You think of a South African child who sees a nanny and service people who are all black and they internalize the idea that blacks are for service. When I challenge this socialization while we are working on the program, I find that the kids are malleable and are willing to challenge their parents on these issues.
Schools are important for children to understand what race and racism is. For the past six years, students at Rhodes University in Grahamstown and others have called for a decolonization program. In 2019, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga called for a decolonized education system. But it still meets with public resistance. In April 2019, the ministry published an evaluation report review existing textbooks in the school system with a view to adding sets that promote diversity. Nothing came of it.
“Looking at what I had to learn in the textbooks, it is worrying that the children still have to learn this way. Like racism – what is in the books is not what racism is. So the government has to take care of these textbooks, ”Dineo said.
Some children consider that the structural policy changes implemented since 1994 are insufficient to deal with the forms of racism they face.
“People think stuff like BEE and reclaiming land are the only steps we should take to eradicate racism. These problems do not eradicate racism, they try to reverse the harmful effects of racism. The government should start focusing on tackling racism in schools. Teach more about inclusion at school and spread it to families.
Ruby, on the other hand, says adults need to step up and learn so they can teach young children. “I was watching a video on YouTube and they said ‘in the information age ignorance is a choice’. If you don’t understand something, google it, ”she said, citing a United Nations Statistics that more people have a telephone than a toilet in their house.
“All over the world it is not being treated properly. Black Lives Matter was a huge thing because it was black. But if it was a victimized white person, it wouldn’t be that great. The way it is presented and processed is wrong. People should sit down and talk about it, ”Dineo said.
When I asked Zaphin what she thought adults could do better to fight racism, she didn’t let me finish my question: “Stop doing it at all.
Two decades after I was in school, kids still hit hard and fast. This time around, however, there are parents who manage to embrace the wounds better.