BY WENDY TROTT
Before South Africa was South Africa, the land belonged to the Khoi and the San. Then groups moved in from further north, constantly shuffling power dynamics and sometimes using vicious methods to win power and expand their empires. Then, over a long period of time, colonialists from many other faraway lands arrived at the shores of South Africa, and proceeded to exert their own power over the existing population in brutal and inhumane ways. All these groups eventually inter-married, creating mixed race groups and spreading throughout the country. What followed was a long period of crushing, painful and vicious oppression, but also one of valiant struggle, commitment and the eventual triumph of the values enshrined in our constitution: equality, freedom from persecution and compassion.
But the migration has never stopped, it has continued as our brothers and sisters, our same blood and our compatriots who supported us throughout our darkest times, arrived in our country to be a part of that freedom and equality, and to revel in our beautiful nation as we learned to do. Race and nationality are merely labels based on artificial constructs that history has placed on us at various times. Take me, for example. I am ‘white.’ But that is only the label used to describe me. My ancestors over time were British, French, German, Russian, Belgian, Malay and probably some Indian. But I am absolutely nothing but South African. Every other person in this country right now has an equally complex genetic makeup and hopefully an equally simple identity.
I acknowledge that I have benefitted from extreme privilege in my life. I acknowledge that many people have legitimate grievances against some of the more recent immigrants to our land that need to be dealt with. But if we are ever going to do something to make these things better, to make things better for EVERYONE who now lives in our country, who has chosen to be a part our beautiful nation, we have to take action now. Now is the time to stand up and fight again for the values that our country almost tore itself apart to preserve. Now is the time to swallow our pride and our frustration and honour the commitment that we have made to be SOUTH AFRICAN above all else and respect the responsibilities that that entails: building a new country built on a rainbow nation.
There are many problems in our country. Violence will not solve them. Unproductive criticism will not solve them. And betraying the values of our Constitution certainly will not solve them. Concrete solutions and responsible leadership will solve them. Right now we need a movement to commit to honouring the responsibilities of being South African: accepting what we cannot change, even if it difficult, and dedicating our lives to what can be, which really is a whole lot. We are the only people who are going to do this. We are the only ones who can make the decision to fight for our country. I don’t care where you come from, I don’t care what you look like, as long as you love my country I will honour you. Are you willing to make the Rainbow Nation work? How?