Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reitz, an island of hope in the Free State (?)

A group of 4 white students acknowledge guilt in the week, following the discovery of their shocking video, where they humiliated black workers, in their hostel called Reitz Residences or Flats. There is a significant difference between the trials of the Reitz-4 and the Waterkloof-4, a group of white students who brutally kicked to death a black man one night, in Pretoria. The Reitz-4 acknowledged their guilt and expressed the desire to make amends. I would also recommend monetary compensation for the victims, although it would never be able to restore the dignity of me Koko, me Rebecca Adams, me. Naomi Phororo, me. Mittah Ntlatseng and mr. David Molete; the restoration of their dignity is rooted in much more then a symbolic gesture.

It seems to me that these boys, in the words of Jonathan Jansen, are the products of 'knowledge in their blood'. Yet, they, unlike the Waterkloof-4 seems to be aware of the graveness of their actions. For me there are other concerns. The fact of the matter is that this video, was entered in a competition for students on the campus of the University of the Freestate. I don't know, if it won any prizes, but seemingly no-one, not the organisers of the competition, nor the crowds watching it, raised any significant protest. It was, as the four said later, an attempt to be funny, like the volk's hero, Leon Schuster. They simply wanted to be the next Leon Schuster. No jokes. But moreso, and this is critical, they were taking the political messages of white supremacist groups like FF+ (FreedomFront Plus) and AfriForum on their campus, to its logical conclusion. Their actions need to be seen within the context, at that time, of these organisation's consistent campaign on various traditionally Afrikaans campusses, against what they called 'integration'. The message of the video was: this is what we think of integration. The black workers represented the black 'hordes' who wanted to come and invade their space, in this case the 'island of Reitz' or the University of the Freestate. When this repugnant story broke, the FF+ and AfriForum, usually very vocal and ready for any interview, simply walked away from these boys. They were on their own. The political leaders never conceded anything, they simply pointed out that these boys lost the plot. Well, they did lost the plot, because they were led by and they trusted organisations and leaders who continue to hide their intently racist visions and interests, in their quest for a dream that was doomed from inception.

Its at this level where we need to focuss our attention. Yes, a mission to overcome racism need to address the personal journey of acknowledgement of guilt and commitment to restorative justice. At this level, exposure to the other on the same level, in equal-power relationships is critical. But its much more then this, this journey needs to be a communal journey, as the practices and rituals which sustain the myths of racial supremacy are deconstructed and replaced with new rituals and practices, which consciously embody equality, openness and justice. These new practices pursue a quest for redress and transformation; it seeks together to nurture new communities, a new just society. Its difficult, fraught with deep and painful learning experiences; its breaking down the islands of separation, yet it builds slowly but surely, islands of hope.
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