Do non-black South Africans have the right to prescribe a Westernized mindset to an African context?
By Trinisha Vandeyar
I write this, first and foremost, as a citizen of the world, as a South African second, and lastly, although I wish I didn’t have to, as the category of race I am obliged to fill in on more or less every form I complete; as an Indian. What makes South Africa so unique is the cultural diversity and depths of heritage that still lie dormant, waiting for discovery. We have so much to give as a country, not only to the African continent but to the world.
Apartheid is often seen as simply the way in which a really dark government separated the people of a nation according to their colour. What very few people, particularly those running about saying it’s time we just get over it, don’t understand is that Apartheid created the mother ship of all ripple effects. One of the biggest and less thought about consequences was that while privileged people under the apartheid government were given exposure to the world, not only from an economic viewpoint, but from an experiential and cultural context, the people they oppressed were left behind with little or no understanding as to why except that it was about the colour of their skin.
Being a young South African, privileged enough to have a job that pays me enough money to afford to travel, it saddens me that so many socio-economically free people still don’t get it. Racial separation has been so entrenched in South African consciousness that we seldom even realise how our behaviours reflect it through the way we want to impose and prescribe a westernised mindset to an African context. Have you ever observed how resistant we are as a people from learning from people who are not white or westernised? Have you noticed how Africa is still perceived as backward because westernised minds don’t understand and are too afraid to learn about African context and culture?
I have no issue with progress. The issue I have is when progress comes from a place of patronisation and under mindedness. What arrogance must existence in the westernised mindset to believe that that way is the only way or that that way is the right way? How few non-black South Africans are actually willing to explore African culture, context, and experiences without, by default, shutting it down as something archaic, backward thinking or slow? Any form of historical culture or heritage, if anyone dared to look closer, has lasted that long because traditions are full of wisdom. They humanize and give a sense of belonging to the diversity that exists among us. The opinion that these traditions are not relevant to the world, can’t be integrated or should be changed to conform to a westernised way of thinking, working, living and being, is to say the least, the ultimate insult to what has already been a difficult enough life for most South Africans.
What would it mean to you, to the people you interact with everyday and to the country as a whole if we just took the time to move beyond our fears and pre-conceived notions about one another? What if we could change something simply through investigating the things we don’t know about as opposed to trying to impose a mindset that may never have been the right one to begin with in the first place?
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Kaya FM.