by Joy Robyn Dembo, married, with an 18 year old son and a 25 year old daughter.  Addicted to the www, particularly Twitter. Recruitment Response Handling Consultant and Freelance Copywriter, vegetarian and animal lover.  

Sitting outside the Hotel School, I  watched the kids trickling out… White, Black, Coloured, Indian, Chinese …all smiling,  chatting,  joking and hugging.

“And your point?”,  you might be saying?

What  really struck me about this scene was that these kids are colour blind – they are just students pursuing a common goal! And, this makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. These kids don’t know how lucky they are to be growing up in an integrated, free society, as opposed to the abnormal, sinister society in which my generation was raised.

As Human Rights Day approaches, I wonder whether people just see March 21 as a day to remember the old Chevrolet ad “Braaivleis, Rugby, Sunny Skies and Chevrolet”, or whether they stop to think of the horrors of Sharpeville, The Soweto Riots, and the appalling human rights abuses that led to South Africa’s economic isolation, sport and entertainment boycotts, rolling mass action  and countless deaths in exile and detention.

I think back to a scene in the movie “Sarafina”, depicting the sharp contrast between an idyllic Parktown garden full of happy white kids, celebrating the “Madam’s” child’s birthday, laughing and shrieking as they bounced up and down on a jumping castle, while the “maid’s” black daughter looked on, remembering  the horrific ordeal she had just been through, at the hands of the SAP.

Credit: hcfany.org

Credit: hcfany.org

I think back to my childhood when my mom employed an amazing black lady who had a “Peri- Urban pass” which didn’t allow her to live or work in Johannesburg.  How absurd is that?  Whenever we got word that the police would be raiding in our area,  Anna would sleep inside the house.  But, we would still spend the night in a state of panic, in case we were raided and they found her.

I also think back to the years I spent at Wits. I was appalled that only Whites students were permitted to study there  and joined the picketers, protesting against Detention without Trial, Harsh Pass Laws, and the horrors of Vlakplaas and a host of other human rights abuses.

Inferior education and poorly paid menial jobs for black people were the order of the day.  Black families were split up by the migrant labour system, and black people were forced to live in appalling conditions (both of which will take a long time to rectify) Protesting and striking were banned, shops were prohibited from opening on Sundays, “Communist literature” and “immoral movies” were banned.  People were arrested and tortured for not carrying their ID with them, detained for no reason and murdered for standing up for what they believed in!

Suffice it to say those were dark and sinister times for the majority of South Africans, so this March 21st, let’s all remind our kids how lucky they are to be living in post- Apartheid South Africa.  Our fledgling democracy may be far from perfect, but it’s a huge improvement on the OLD South Africa!

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