My daughter came to me tonight, and told me that she had got into an argument with one of the boys at school. Now, as good-natured as my daughter is, she remains MY daughter, and I felt it was important to make sure that this wasn’t something that should, perhaps, be left alone so I asked what it was about. Apparently, one of the boys at school told her “We (white people) won Apartheid”.
Jaime was immediately both amazed and outraged and asked what he meant. “Well, for every one white person killed, seven black people were killed.”.
I’m going to let that sink in for a minute. This was a statement from a 13 year old boy. In other words, when he was born, we were seven years into our democracy. We had celebrated our first democratic election. We had shared our heartache during the TRC. We had celebrate the Rugby World Cup. We had watched a second election, and were enduring the devastating HIV policy of Thabo Mbeki, whilst trying not to cry every time we read his “I am an African” speech. In short, we were coming to grips with what it is to be truly South African.
How the hell does a child born into this country seven years into democracy form an opinion like that?
Leaving that aside, Jaime’s response was, to me, amazing. “We came in to their country, took their land and slaughtered them. We killed husbands, wives, mothers, grandparents, children. We enslaved them, we took their homes away from them and left them on the streets. They came in weaponless and we came with our rifles and slaughtered them.”
Not quite historically accurate (an assegai is a weapon, right?), but the general theme is spot on. Apartheid was not a game, and we certainly did not “win”. I feel quite ill just thinking about it, actually.
But I am so, so proud of my little girl. At the age of eleven, she is not only astute enough to recognise racism when she hears it, she is brave enough to stand against it, even when nobody else will. Not only will she speak out for those who cannot, she will speak out even when the only ones who hear her are those who don’t want to. Most importantly, I was blown away by her use of the word “We”.
An eleven-year-old child, a product of the rainbow nation, has acknowledged that she is the recipient of white privilege, that she is the descendent of white imperialism and that, as a result, she has the obligation to make right. She speaks out, she acknowledges the wrongs of the past and she is prepared to take personal responsibility for what that means to her, today.
Today, my daughter made my heart swell to twice its size, because she demonstrated a maturity that adults seldom show.