Diverse Backgrounds:

I'm always amazed at the words "diverse backgrounds."

What does it mean?

"Diverse backgrounds," in the South African context, pertains to Black and Brown people at the bottom "rung" of the racial hierarchy.

As a CRT (critical race theory) practitioner, I am puzzled, though not surprised, when reading about the Fish Hoek High DEI "backlash." White children in Fish Hoek are "taught" to be "nice" to people of other races, and in doing so, they believe they are "absolved" from being racist and the beneficiaries of a global racist system.

Black and Brown children are mostly "taught" to comply and work hard. To get a decent job that will ultimately lead to the goal of owning a nice car and a house in the suburbs.

The problem with the above is that Black and Brown children need to integrate "quietly and respectfully" into "white spaces" and not cause too much disruption.

There is no authenticity once they enter because the "loudness, the use of their mother tongue, their hair in its natural state" needs to go.

Black and Brown children are "expected" to adapt to white social norms or move "back to where they came from."

Most of them adapt to such an extent that it requires a re-integration into their cultures and families when they are home.

White children have freedom of movement and mostly freedom from judgments and daily microaggressions.

They can be themselves (which is how all children should be) in whichever setting they are in!

The problem with the "debacle" at Fish Hoek High is that it's not isolated. It happens in most schools in Cape Town, but the difference is that white people living in Fish Hoek consider themselves progressive. They're not like "those racist parents" from Brackenfell High in the Northern Suburbs.

They are correct in saying that because some of the parents of students from Brackenfell are guilty of overt racism, while Fish Hoek's parents are more covert.

They adopt Black children, run soup kitchens, and donate to the Masiphumele community when there are shack fires, etc.

They are the "good" people, except where it matters most-that is; real integration.

I live there, so I would know because I have observed. A few doors down from where I live, there is an abusive white male and whenever he goes "off the deep end," not one of the neighbours confronts him. I have been "confronted," albeit politely, about playing music, my cat wandering into neighbours' gardens (even though other cats are there too), and told to be quiet even though I am not noisy. In other words, integrate or else.

At shopping malls close by, some white people will treat Black and Brown workers terribly. They will rush in demanding service, display rude behaviour and talk down to them.

The workers, primarily Black and Brown, are not paid the same as their white counterparts and often do not rise to the management level (check statistics). According to the racist narrative in the Western Cape, Black and Brown people can't possibly manage. So they become supervisors while doing everything a manager does.

Unfortunately, systemic racism is what we all, knowingly or unknowingly, subscribe to!

The worst is the "Rainbow Nation people," who think that talking about racism makes someone like me racist and hateful and causes division. If that were the case, I guess talking about medicine should make me a doctor. (Insert eye roll)

Refusing to acknowledge our painful past and unequal present renders situations like teaching DEI or Black history much harder to implement.

Ask yourself this: if white parents want to sweep things "under the carpet" and "move on," what do you think their children's reactions will be when faced with DEI or anti-racism lessons?

The daily microaggressions levelled at the students cause unhappiness and failures at schools in the Western Cape.

"No dreadlocks or Afros"
I've seen white boys with hair longer than the collar in school uniforms.

"Keep hair neat and tidy."
Don't colour your hair. Tidy the braids. No beads in the hair.! I have seen white girls with hair that's coloured.

"English only, even during the break!"
Yet, I have heard white children speak Afrikaans.

"Stop being so loud!"
As if white children are not loud either.

"Can't you be more like...?"
While holding up an example of a Black or Brown person, white people feel all Black and Brown people should emulate. That particular person managed to integrate into the white community, often by losing their identity.

"Your accent! Speak properly!"
While not telling white French or German children the same.

"I don’t know why you are late again!"

Conveniently oblivious that some children have real challenges coming to school, and most have to get up in the early hours of the morning to catch public transport to school.

"The ANC is messing up this country!"
As if every Black and Brown person is interested in politics or votes ANC. And as if South Africa had a thriving economy before 1994.

These are a few examples of what these children endure daily, excluding racist remarks and overtures from overtly racist peers and teachers.

Can it change?

Of course, it can, but it will take acknowledgement and work primarily from white people.

Whether acknowledged or not, we live in a global racist system, and there would have been no need for a Black lives matter movement if Black lives mattered.

We can be diverse and live in harmony once white people acknowledge that systemic racism is not in the past simply because visible Apartheid signs are no longer displayed.

There is inherent dishonesty in pretending all is well and racism doesn't exist because it's "uncomfortable" to learn!

Black and Indigenous history should form part of the current curriculum (not merely glossed over or designated to a page or two). Perhaps then, white children who learn it would be less likely to repeat their parent's and grandparents' "mistakes." and work toward real change for all, not a "diversity" that requires Black and Brown children to integrate into "white society."

Systemic racism is Anti-Black practices.
Structural Racism is The silent opportunity killer.

Racism has nothing to do with white people being "nice or friendly" and everything to do with a global system designed to uplift white people and oppress Black and Brown people.

Using the "K" word or other derogatory words against Black and Brown people only means that the person is overtly racist within the racist system that remains firmly in place. If it weren't, DEI lessons would not cause such an uproar. Because Anti- Racism doesn't get "actively" taught in schools, these incidents will continue to occur.

"We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist."

- James Baldwin


CRT Practitioner, (life requires brave people), Writer @ The Fair Digest, Wellness Coach, Human Rights Activist, Motivating you (There are enough mean people)

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Thesna Aston

CRT Practitioner, (life requires brave people), Writer @ The Fair Digest, Wellness Coach, Human Rights Activist, Motivating you (There are enough mean people)