A distant ‘Living Proof’

Life. I watched this movie, it made me cry.  I cried not because I had myself lived through their experiences (which I didn’t) but I cried because our parents, grandparents and great grandparents and even those who came before their generation had been subjected to the discrimination and apartheid laws that the African-American women (and their children, even those before their generation, like us here in South Africa) had been subjected to for centuries.

This, is the life our people lived – a life they had become familiar with because it was how they were distinguished from “others”, a life that “othered” them, one that should not be wished for/on anyone else. In fact, it wasn’t a life at all as that’s not what life for a human being ought to be.

Yes, millions of our people have managed to get past that, their lives have changed for the better. Not all of them though. Every time they look at that chapter of their lives, they feel lively and sad at the same time, their hearts beating with joy, happy that they are the “Living Proof” of ‘that’ “otherness” which was called life by many of their masters and mistresses.

Watching this title track video of “The Help”- and recalling their lives (one I am fortunate I never had to live) – and taking into account “Life of a Slave Girl” I am currently reading, I imagine those sisters, brothers and their mothers and fathers and grandparents in the “Life of a Slave Girl” book I started reading this weekend.

I am not reflecting on this to “upset” many of you at all (as some might think I am) especially those who are sensitive to this subject, those of you who keep saying “but some of my friends are black” or those who like saying “but some of my friends are white” and even those of you who like telling subjects to that awful system “to get over it”, often hiding behind “The Rainbow nation that Nelson Mandela fought so hard for” for us to “forgive you and forget”.

No, that’s not to upset you guys at all. But that’s a part of that discriminatory system to dehumanised the black communities around the world that we cannot simply wish away and or ignore. Worse, we cannot present such instance are not visible in our communities, hoping they will just go away all by themselves. The sooner we talked out these wounds, the better. Talking about these is not to make you (beneficiaries of that system – you know yourselves) go on some guilt-trip and feeling sorry…. but it is acknowledging that past, how it had left many families broken and how to make sure that such a thing never happens in our life time.

But just as Youth Day yesterday was a moment of reflection of how far South Africa had come, and charting its way forward especially on youth development – the same can be said about my own reflection on how far our people – particularly the majority who were subjected to such a cruel system – have come and what a long way they have to go.

This is even more important as the policies in place (although abused and misused by some) that are meant to address such a discriminatory system legacy are seen as “reserve discrimination”. They are accused of in fact being the cause of the poverty that millions of them continue to live under to this very day.

It is further worth mentioning that we should never be made to be apologetic our these policies and how we would want a better life for every human being. Of course it is not all subjects of that discriminatory system of ruling that saw black people in particular as sub-human (here in Africa and in many other parts of the world) that can reclaim their dignity and humanly life as “The Living Proof” of their old and cruel life. Millions are yet to sing to this song.

We have a long way to go.

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