THE BLOG

Brandishing The Old Flag Any Time After '94 Is Unacceptable

Stop telling people to "get over apartheid", if you are going to do so with the tricolour in your hand.

02/11/2017 13:03 SAST | Updated 02/11/2017 13:03 SAST
David Harrison/ AFP/ Getty Images
Protesters gather at a demonstration by South African farmers & farm workers at the Green Point stadium to protest against farmer murders in the country, on 30 October, 2017, in Cape Town.

I have had some personal experiences that have helped me understand what it feels like to not matter. These experiences are in no way comparable to the indignity and pain of living under a system of institutionalised racism, but I think they have given me a glimpse into what that could feel like. Perhaps that is why the presence of the old South African flag at this week's #BlackMonday march has lit such a raging fire inside me.

I can't begin to understand why anyone would wilfully display such a clear symbol of oppression and brutality. Under this flag, thousands of South Africans had to carry passbooks and answer to baas at their every move, their loved ones were taken in the night -- often never to return -- and they were forced out of their tiny homes to make room for a white man's castle.

On Monday (and at many other events since 1994), a group of people saw fit to proudly fly this flag. It was and remains nothing short of an insult to the very people who consciously chose to stand in line alongside us in voting queues in 1994, instead of exacting the revenge they deserved.

Is it really too much to ask to condemn this behaviour in no uncertain terms? Is it really too much to ask to confine this flag to museums and learning institutions where it can be displayed in the context of its blood-soaked history?

Unknown

Are we really not willing to make this small gesture to clearly say: "we know that this is a painful symbol to you, and we will not allow you to relive that pain for another minute if we can do anything about it."

To me, it seems like such a small gesture, but one with the potential to mend bridges that we thought were impossible to save. This flag should be as distasteful to us as the k-word.

This flag is a symbol of institutionalised racism, and 23 years later, those memories are still fresh in many minds. For the most part, the lives of the victims of apartheid have not changed much, and this flag is a reminder of what could have been, had they not been denied a proper education, land ownership and the right to vote -- among many other rights they were stripped of.

Can we once and for all, as white South Africans, admit that we have no idea what it was like to live under the apartheid regime? Can we admit that we have no idea what it is like to live as a person of colour, facing daily racial profiling and bias, never mind the historical disadvantages that are yet to be resolved?

Can we not make this one gesture of atonement? It hurts me to see good people so disrespected. It should hurt us all. Stop with the "one bad apple" narrative. One bad apple is one apple too much. Stop telling people to "get over apartheid", if you are going to do so with the tricolour in your hand.

Stop telling people to "get over apartheid", full stop. Do you go around telling people to get over the Holocaust too? Stop with the, "But look at what they did/said/posted. They started it first." I've heard more mature arguments from a four-year-old. Stop saying: "We felt protected under that flag." It renders me speechless with shock. I have no words.

Just stop!

If you feel like it's time to do the right thing, to put the pains of someone else ahead of your own pride and fear, then I encourage you to sign this petition to ban the old South African flag.

* You will note that I don't address the Black Monday/ Support the Farmer campaign directly. I think that is a much bigger and more complex conversation, and one I don't personally feel ready to take on today. It is, however, important to note that I have never said that farmers' lives don't matter. I've just said that they don't matter more than everyone else's. I also object to being fed propaganda and lies.

** Some of the images posted on social media recently were not taken on 30 October 2017. However, a number of other photos and videos were. The unashamed display of the old tricolour happened. And to me, the brandishing of this flag at any time after 1994 is unacceptable.