Rainbow nation bubble has burst, now we need to build a better one

Image: Halden Krog © The Times

Maybe 1994 was the new South Africa-light. The segregation boards dropped and we kind of played along with being united yet still living apart.

We chanted rainbow nation yet in its colours it features no black or brown. Petty? No, but anyways, like a drunk person trying to walk a straight line, black people have kept it together with unbelievable patience and tolerance.

They were waiting for some meteoric economic improvement in their immediate lives, a sincere apology, justice, land, a return of their dignity. But, so far, nothing. Some of our black people forgot what the Struggle was all about.

Others forgot there was even a Struggle.

But like any bad patchwork, it was only a matter of time till the cracks appeared and proved to be something irreparable.

We need to start over and build a better nation.

As I sat with a white family that hosted me via AirBnB on a short trip to Gauteng, we spoke openly about race.

We spoke merrily about a range of subjects one does not often talk about - how black women are always dressed up and in really high heels, and why some wear bedroom shoes in the mall.

I blushed, thinking about my own gripe with that because it doesn't apply to all black women.

I did not have any questions in particular but raised unwavering ignorance from white people with regards to our history and how it still upholds their privilege.

It was all fun, filled with banter. On the final day the talks became deeper.

On that night I was that drunk person thinking "stuff it, the straight line didn't matter" as I corrected a few wrong impressions of black people's lives - that the odd black person in a Bentley is not the true reflection of the lives of black people.

I explained the structure of racial discrimination in the workplace and insurance companies until I realised that gathering myself is even harder and just like a drunk, I may cuss and piss with no shame.

The disconnect of most white people from the reality of Africans needs some serious finger pointing and accounting, backed by admonishing.

It brings into remembrance how Europeans did not come here to integrate or coexist with indigenous people, but to conquer. Slowly, that reality is collapsing. Black South Africans have had enough.

As we sat with the family at dinner, we crossed into politicians with my half-indifferent view that no politician has ever been perfect.

I raised my thoughts on how politicians are not the answer to creating a better society. Should there be an uprising, I ventured, it'd likely be led by society and not political leaders.

The Clifton Beach saga, and the flocking of crowds in taxis with the music volume on high, is just the beginning. More tension will likely erupt as South Africans try to root out racism and all kinds of bigotry.

And just like a drunk uncle who has had enough of being thought of as nothing and excluded from family meetings and activities, black people will pop this bubble of a facade that looks pretty only on the outside.

What I know for sure is that 2019 is not a good year for those who continue to ignore the bitter reality of the majority of South Africans.

* PS. The drunk reference is just a metaphor, and does not imply a general lack of sobriety amongst black people.

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