The Red About Red October

03 November 2013

There are a number of things in life that I just cannot tolerate. I cannot stand someone smoking in a queue with people around him. Get out of the queue for heaven's sake! Come back when you are done, we will keep your place. And please throw a mint in your mouth while you are at it, just so we don't have to smell your breath.

Another thing I just cannot stand in life is men who urinate in public. These men stop anywhere when nature calls and they just release with no care under the world of who might be passing by or looking. They just do their thing and you as the passerby are the one who needs to feel embarrassed. It does not make sense but it happens every day just like racism.

The first time I experienced racism was at my second job. A friend of mine and I were hired on the same day as interns. We were fairly good friends "“ not best buddies but we knew each other from varsity, we were in the same class and had gone to outings together. And now that we were working together, we started having lunch together and spent more time together. One day a black colleague of mine asked me if I knew that my friend was earning more than I did. She knew how much I was earning because she was my senior and therefore had discussed my salary before I was hired. I did not want to entertain what she was telling me because she was known for having a big mouth and so I did not want to believe what she had just said.

One afternoon I was about to leave the office after a long day and had to print some documents to take home. I collected my print outs on my way home and put them in my bag and left. Late at night while I was busy reading what I had printed out, I came across a page that was not my print out. This was my friend's payslip that had accidentally mixed up with my print outs, and yes she was earning more than I did. Actually, not just more than I did but double what I was earning.

Now, I had an undergraduate degree and an Honours Degree when I joined that company. And I was busy with my studies still, trying to get another qualification under my name. I had enough experience as I had been freelancing in the same industry and had actually had a six months internship in another company in the same industry. My friend, on the other hand, only had an undergraduate degree and no experience in the industry we were in.

I was shocked beyond words! I had a lot of questions but at that time I did not have guts to ask my employees why. I kept quiet and vowed never to work for someone for the rest of my life. I vowed that I will work and gain experience that I need and thereafter, start my own practice. I shared this with my friends and I was so angry to find out that they were also going through the same thing in their work places. My eyes were opened to one thing " you can study until you are blue on the face, have all the experience that is needed- but your colour will still count against you. At that moment, being black was a curse for me.

Unfortunately, that was not the last time I experienced racism, there are several other times but there is no enough time to mention all of them here. This however does not mean that whites are the only racist people in South Africa. Blacks are as much racist and we cannot run away from that fact.

I however never thought that I would ever see what this country witnessed in October. Red October was one of the things that left me traumatised emotionally. I was very angry and scared at the same time. I was angry that there are some fellows in this country who view violence, crime and murder in colour. There are fellows in this country who, it seems, do not have a problem with the slaughter of the black society in this country. Black people can die like flies but just leave the white people alone.

I would have been the happiest citizen if the Red October supporters stood up and said no to killing of any race. I would have been the happiest if they stood up with their black, Indian, coloured, Chinese, pink, purple or blue sisters and brothers and said NO to violence against the human race. Now the Red October supporters' march ignored all the violence that every citizen in this country endures and preferred to add colour to the violence.

What made my eyes go wide to a point of popping out was when they said that they are tired of being killed by black people. Would it then be better if they were being killed by other white people? In one of the news sites I read it was stated that 17 white people are killed every month. I am not sure where they got those statistics but the question I had was how many black people are being killed every day? Just because the black person is killing the white person it makes it wrong? So, is it right for white people to kill other white people? This is a new level of racism - blacks should kill blacks and only whites can kill whites!

Statistics actually show that white people are less likely to get killed in South Africa because they can afford the security levels that the majority of black people cannot afford. Black people on the other hand endure crime more each and every day in the townships as compared to a white fellow in Sandton. White people were even scared to come to townships because they said townships are dangerous. In other words, black people in townships were living in danger. Our white sisters and brothers preferred to stay in their suburbs so that they do not get to witness the danger in townships. But now they are the ones who face more harm than black people. It does not make sense to me.

The Red October march was however not only about the killing of white people by black people but on their website they also state "We are tired of Corrupt Governance, Racist Black Economic Empowerment and Affirmative Action policies. We can no longer tolerate the destruction of our infrastructure, our filthy government hospitals, our pathetic educational system, dirty dams and rivers, uninhabitable parks and public areas, dangerous neighbourhoods and filthy streets! The list is endless and we say it's ENOUGH!"

I laughed when I read that part because I thought, are you the only ones affected by this? Now, I am not saying that our government is doing great in terms of service delivery but do these Red October supporters actually think about what black people are enduring out there? Can they stay in a one-room shack that can fall anytime? Can they tolerate their kids going to township school with no resources at all? In fact, can they tolerate their kids studying under a tree because there are no classrooms? Can they tolerate bucket toilet systems "“ having a bucket inside your house where you do all the natural excretion?

We are all affected by our filthy government hospitals, pathetic education system, dirty dams and rivers, uninhabitable parks and public areas, dangerous neighbourhoods and filthy streets! and no one of us should cry out more than the other!

The Red October supporters feel excluded, ignored, and they feel that the government run by blacks is destroying everything. There is fraud, crime, violence, the list goes on. But they forget where we have come from. They forget that the apartheid system left black people damaged not only emotionally but economically as well. Black people had to start from scratch to build themselves economically and emotionally. The rebuilding process is going to take a very long time. Black people endure poverty and pathetic education because they cannot afford good private schools. They endure filthy hospitals because they cannot afford private hospitals. The supporters of Red October have for some reason forgotten that all these ills were caused but a white system that viewed white people as supreme and tortured black people. And when that is brought up, the same Red October supporters are quick to say let's forget about the past and move on. Or, it was their grandfathers who did those things not them. Oh well, can we also say that it is the criminals who kill and not the whole black society?

Yes it is very sad that white people are being killed. It is sad that black people are being killed. It is sad that Indians are being killed. It is sad that people are being killed. Murder is not a race thing. It is just that - murder. Making farm killings a priority crime while side-stepping domestic violence and rape makes no sense to me.

It is sad that they feel like they are victims but everyone can stand up and call themselves a victim. I am victim for being black and I was born female and I live in Africa. I think they are looking at the glass half empty, in fact empty when it is actually half full. Rome was not built in a day so why should they expect a government that is effective and has no issues?

But I am not saying I am racist or I have no empathy for them. No, not at all. I do have empathy for them, but they should look on both sides of the coin and look at the society we live in with objective eyes. They need to stay calm and pray, and not only pray for white people in South Africa, but pray for the country at large. And if they cannot pray, let them come together with everyone in the society and form a march that will be against human race violence, and not just white violence. That is the only way out.

The sad thing about the Red October march, which can actually become a danger to the country at large, is that it didn't do any good for the country instead it fuelled more anger and hatred among black and white citizens. Any fabric of hope towards unity between black and white was suddenly broken. Many black people were rolled back to the apartheid years where and when they felt like animals. They are the murders, not white people. They commit crime, not white people. They can die, but not white people. They can continue living in the dumps, but everything should be done to make sure that white people need not experience such. Black farmers can die but not white ones. How can we live in unity as blacks and whites of this country when there are still people who see their lives and well-beings more important than that of others?

What happened to what we call the rainbow nation? Why do we call ourselves the rainbow nation if we do not behave like a rainbow? Can you separate the colours in the rainbow after the rain? The colour lines in the rainbow are very different but they are always aligned together in parallel, one colour does not see itself as being better or brighter than the others they stick together all the time. If we then call ourselves the rainbow nation, how does one colour of this rainbow nation stick out on its own and want to be treated different?

Yamkela Tywakadi

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