About two years ago I made a post called Second Class Citizen. It was a moment in time for me when I suddenly realised I was no longer an equal citizen of this country. It was a very short post - something like "I'm sitting here filling out yet another form on the racial profile of my business and I've just realised something. I'm a second class citizen in what I consider my own country. Have a great weekend."
It was a wierd moment. Up until then I hadn't paid much attention to the politics of my country over the past ten or so years. Satisfied that we were now a country of equality, I was very focused on finding my way in business - and simply filled in all this new paperwork asking for racial profiles without a second thought.
I'd love to give a link to what transpired after that, but it languishes in a pay-to-participate forum elsewhere. In short, it turned out I wasn't the only one wondering about this new direction.
This was followed up a month or so later by a new post - "Where now the rainbow nation" - lamenting that we had left the rainbow nation era and were back to our old ways - preferential treament based on race.
It was a record of an awakening - recognising that our country had changed again - that racism was once again in the statute books, and that politicians were manipulating business to achieve their racist agenda. And that as a business owner I now needed to pay more attention to the political direction of our country and how I was being used to achieve these political objectives.
Over the past two years, from time to time, I try to get all the aspects of this new era squared away in my mind. And to date I still have difficulty getting everything to fit. During the year I just suppress it, I guess. Lots of other things to occupy the mind. But once a year I get all philosophical as I let my mind free to roam options and plans for the coming year.
Probably the question I've struggled with the most is "Why is a black South African considered more South African than a white South African citizen?"
Strangely enough - this isn't so much about the fact that we now have a scorecard to help us clearly highlight and measure our difference. I suspect the moves in thresholds and targets in the BEE scorecards are sufficient so that any company that is genuinely applying a non-racial HR policy can achieve a reasonable score. There will be some uneveness. Black business owners are not called upon to contribute to upliftment of the general populace to anywhere near the same extent as white business owners. I don't think it is entirely moral, fair or even wise. But I know life isn't always fair, wisdom is rare and morality is in the eye of the beholder. I remain heartened by a little sign I saw on a manageress's desk once many years ago which is etched in my memory:
And before I get jumped on to say that I'm espousing any kind of superiority theory here - I mean nothing of the kind. She was/is a super-achiever in my eyes, and that success had nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman. It simply reminds me that achievement is more an act of will and effort than an accident of birth. And simple acceptance of this fundamental truth puts one way ahead of the mass of people who would believe otherwise.A women must achieve twice as much as a man to be considered half as good. Fortunately, this is not difficult.
No. The BEE codes are just one of the symptoms of the underlying problem, which I currently think is a fault in mindset that says I must first look at your colour before I can interpret your intentions.
Not sure about that? How about this:-
A crowd - predominantly black - jeers and walks out of a gathering when our President steps up to address the meeting. The crowd is criticised for a lack of respect. And I agree. It was a lack of respect.
If that crowd was white? I'm sickened by the very thought of how that might have been seen.
An extreme example of something we see in a less dramatic, but very real way every day.
There was that wonderful period when we were embarrased by words such as "black" and "white." Now it's once again a part of normal conversation. Worse still, it's not an adjective - it's a paradigm. A valid way to see and judge one's fellow man. Deep down I find it very disturbing that I can simply trot out those words without blinking an eyelid nowadays. But our leaders seem comfortable with it, so obviously I'm just being over-sensitive. I'll just keep on suppressing that feeling of discomfort. Part of the need to be pragmatic about these things. Besides which I'm human - I could be wrong. Maybe it really is OK. Silly me.
So maybe that isn't the problem. Maybe the real problem is that I think I'm a South African. Maybe in reality I'm just the unwanted residue of the despicable colonial invasion. Yes. That would work. It's all falling into place. But there is a problem.
You see, best I can tell, my ancestors did this invasion thing nearly 100 years ago, and where they came from don't see me as one of their citizens. And to be honest I don't see them as my country either. For reasons which in the eyes of so many is simply not enough, I consider myself South African.
So, fresh on the heels of the acceptance of the BEE codes, yet another step in a strategy based on the concept that we need to clearly differentiate between white and black if we are ever to integrate as one society, we have this:
South Africans must work together to redefine their shared common identity...Mbeki: Redefine common identity
Pretoria - South Africans must work together to redefine their shared common identity, President Thabo Mbeki said at the lighting of the eternal flame in Freedom Park in Pretoria on Saturday.
A ceremony on Saturday introduced Freedom Park's memorial element, Isikhumbuto, which bore engravings of 68 000 names of people who died in the struggle, to the president and to the nation.
Mbeki said Freedom Park represented a mirror image of the country's consciousness and it would be a place of hope where the country's history would be embedded.
"It will hold memory in incubation allowing us to nurture a place free of racism and hatred."
from News24 here
I thought we had it defined about right in 2000, personally. But right now I'm not sure many of our citizens still sees me as a South African, let alone having an opinion worth listening to.