When my thoughts race all over the place then I must be the craziest yet most empathetic person around. But then only I know it.
I’ve lived more of my life in Australia but my connection with South Africa will forever be a big part of who I am. I did a whole lot of growing up there.
As we age, our childhood memories become more precious. There are triggers, someone mentions a game or a particular snack or even a song and it can set off hours of conversation. I know in our household it does. Just ask our children.
For those born in the 50s and 60s, things were very different in apartheid South Africa. Some younger South Africans, thankfully, won’t know the full horror of apartheid. They were impacted economically but may not necessarily have experienced the daily humiliations that their parents or even older siblings suffered.
This is why we need more stories. We must ensure that this information is not lost. I grew up during a time when segregation between the races were strictly enforced by law. Depending on socio economic backgrounds, the different race groups never mixed socially. I worked with people in an office but could not sit in a cafe with them. It was forbidden by law, based on my skin colour.
What bothered me when I wrote A Darker Shade of Pale is, there were fellow South Africans who allowed the discrimination to continue. They sat down in a cafe when they knew that I could not. Many white South Africans relished in the life that was handed to them.
What I will say, is this, my observation, many of us don’t know in South Africa and out of it, we don’t know where we belong or who we are. The human rights history of South Africa is so tragic. We need black and white South Africans to bridge the gap, so that those who were classified as mixed race can slot in.
I’m not talking about those who are wealthy, who are living a different life because economically they can choose their path. I’m referring to those, they call ‘previously’ disadvantaged, but who remain disadvantaged.
I couldn’t get to know white or black South Africans while growing up. But our lives were intertwined in some absurd way. I think absurd is the right word here.
I was thrown into that absurd mess without my permission. And many of us sought refuge in a foreign land. White and black South Africans with so much in common but too polarised to know it.
We need true reconciliation. An apology, or a simple statement: It was wrong, we should have known better. Just don’t say ‘we didn’t know’, cause that is painful.