Johannesburg, South Africa

Whiteness and the Apartheid legacy.

Whiteness and the Apartheid legacy.


There was this thread on twitter by @PieterHowes the other day about whiteness, white privilege, white supremacy, and the impact of Apartheid on South Africa and why racial tensions continue to penetrate through every issue in this country. Please take a moment to read this. Then go watch a few documentaries, open a few books, read a few newspaper articles, then think about why black people are still hurting 22 years into this democracy.


“What Madiba tried with Rainbow Nation ideology was noble and it prevented a civil war. But it failed on many other levels. See below:


The Rainbow Nation ideology, ironically, whitewashed the pain of black people and the legacy of Apartheid and pre-Apartheid oppression. This meant that white people carried on as if nothing had changed, shielded from atonement and absolved of responsibility to help equality. Now, 22 years later, white people throw their hands up in the air and say “but what must I do?” or “get over it now” which are red herrings.


Germany actively atoned for WW1 and 2. They were humbled and school curriculum’s were aimed at teaching WHY what they did was so very wrong.The impact of their atonement is evident in the fact the Germany is today one of the most liberal and progressive societies in the world. In SA the mistake was made to limit atonement to the very small portion of whites who were physically involved in Apartheid atrocities. But white society collectively was never forced to apologise for complicity and made to be part of the physical changes to structural racism.


This is why white people today feel like they can wash their hands or scapegoat the ANC for all the problems in our country. The ANC is fucking up, we know this. But whiteness and all its accompanying benefits must be addressed before we can do anything else. I grew up going to school with black people who I saw as my equals. I was 9 in 1994. Apartheid was not my doing. BUT, I MUST atone. I must atone because our parents never did. I am complicit just by virtue of being a privileged white born in SA. Scary, but unavoidable. Even though I missed the majority of Apartheid it’s taken me years to see and acknowledge how much I still benefit from its legacy. That’s why when I hear black people saying it’s time to reopen the wounds and finally scrub them clean I am 200% prepared to do that!


No matter how frightened we are as white people of losing our privilege, we have to understand that holding onto it is a 1000 times worse. I’m not doing this to score points, please, my life is good! Doing this cause I want black SA’s to have a chance at living a dignified life. So let’s open the wounds. Let’s hurt and get vulnerable. Let’s atone and admit our privilege and work towards balancing the scales. And as my new mantra goes: let’s dismantle whiteness from within. The benefits of doing that work will change the lives of millions! My journey of change has begun. I’ve met like-minded whites and we’re starting our own process. Join us, please. If not, what are YOU doing?


Lastly, white peeps, admitting these very real and debilitating problems isn’t weakness. It’s liberating strength. We need to do this NOW! Think about it this way: our ancestors started this shit centuries ago. If you’re tired of hearing about it then help to end it! Simple.” – Pieter Howes


You can follow Pieter Howes on twitter here: @PieterHowes

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