I did not protest, but I did not discourage those who felt strongly about it not to.
It seemed petty and at times I doubted my stance. But I feel even more strongly now than before.
Here’s why I didn’t protest:
I felt that to march would be insulting.
Because the question remains: Where were we? By ‘we’, I mean the middle class, the white, the coloured, the Asian… Where was the support from our nation when lower-income, and yes, black youth were fighting for free education?
Where were we when the former were mourning for the miners shot in Sharpeville-style in post-Apartheid South Africa? Where were we when the youth sought to remove a statue of a man who played a massive, if not lead role, in the legacy of slavery, Apartheid and genocide of African people by establishing the diamond trade (yet the amount is unclear as they were not given the dignity of being counted). Why could we not understand why they would not want a statue praising this man, watching them as a reminder? I could go on.
The question is: did we have the right to decide that given our absence in these cases, it was time for us all to unite?
Even worse, did any of us even feel any sort of sorrow to our fellow South Africans for not being there ?
I wanted us to understand.
To understand that even though we believe our cause is just and necessary, that too is how the above-mentioned people felt, and yet we did not join.
When our voices really WOULD have helped. We let them fight alone, and watched- or even worse, belittled and criticized. We gave no empathy and we did not defend them when they were villianized by the media and police to justify violence against them by the latter.
I wanted us to understand what it felt like to be left to fight a cause that affects everyone not just ourselves, mostly by ourselves.
I wanted us to question.
To take time to actually understand and think about the issues of why many would not join, instead of dismiss them as ‘thinking too much’ or ‘pulling the race card’.
I wanted to motivate us to empathize and sympathize
..instead of judging and separating ourselves from a reality that exists for more than not, just because it is not our own.
Words: Zoya Pon
Feature image: Sullivan Photography