Youth day, June 16, commemorates the Soweto Uprising of 1976 where thousands of black school students embarked on a peaceful protest against Afrikaans being used as the primary teaching language in their schools. This day culminated in hundreds being massacred by the Apartheid police and ultimately went on to be one of the most tragic, yet pivotal, protests in South Africa’s history. An event that resulted in a widespread revolt that turned into an uprising against the Apartheid government.
As a result of these efforts we now live in a rainbow nation (a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe post-apartheid South Africa). However, with the death of George Floyd, and global outcry of the Black Lives Matter movement, we as South Africans have been forced to re-evaluate the role of race in our “rainbow nation”.
While the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement are American, the problem of racism is not. This is a global humanity issue. A very real issue that one affects the overwhelming majority of South Africans every single day. Racial injustice & inequality are still an undeniable reality in this country.
In a cycle that seems to constantly perpetuate itself, 44 years since the Soweto Uprising, black children are still fighting for equality within educational institutions. High Schools across the country have been embroiled in disputes over allegations of racism with students speaking up about instances of interpersonal racism, from both students and teachers, which are held up and protected by the systemic racism that has permeated our experiences as black people in this country. Many of us can tell similar if not identical stories having attended these same schools more than a decade ago.
These students have shown immense courage by publicly demanding the schools take action against the teachers in question & institute transformational policies. Much like the students in 1976 these children have decided that enough is enough and they are prepared to fight the much-needed fight for racial equality in their schools. This gives me hope for the future of our country, that our youth remains committed towards fighting for what is right.
Author Luisa Teish so beautifully said that “We are the ancestors of the future and what we do now will have an impact”, and as such the work doesn’t end with the youth. We all play a part in shaping the future the next generations will inherit. It is our responsibility to use our voices to enact change. We can no longer be silent in the face of racial injustice. Racism cannot be the legacy future generations continue to inherit!
Levi”s South Africa