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A challenge for everyone - change your perspective

This morning I had the good fortune to read an enlightened letter to the editor of the Daily Dispatch. It juxtaposes wonderfully the difference between emotional and rational thinking. We can't feel like others, but we should try to see through their eyes.

The challenge Mthethe throws down is that we do this for people we don't necessarily like, and who are dissimilar to us. This means finding something out about them, and seeing our common humanity.

Here is Mthethe's Letter as reproduced in the Daily Dispatch (http://www.dispatch.co.za/2007/03/17/editoria/letters.html).
We all suffer for the sins of our forefathers – black and white

DEAR Shaun (and any other white South African who feels that they are being punished for their forefathers' mistakes):

I cannot pretend to know how it feels to be white in this country and how that impacts on your job prospects.

Having said this, I would like to share some thoughts (as a young, 29 -year-old South African) on what could be done to deal with the anger you and other young white South Africans feel.

Growing up in Mdantsane township during the apartheid regime made it very difficult to feel good about myself. From early on I was made to feel second-class and not good enough because of my skin colour (black). To make things worse, all state institutions endorsed this by segregating our schools and distributing resources according to race with black learners received less money.

Some white South Africans feel that there is reversed racism and that we should not have affirmative action but should focus on giving people jobs on merit.

With all these systems in place, many black people remain unemployed and hopeless and desperate. Have you driven past Duncan Village and seen the conditions under which black people live?

I am not suggesting that you should not feel the way that you do. All I am pointing out is that perhaps even those 17-year-olds in Duncan Village feel hard done by by the government because they had hoped they would get houses and opportunities.

I read that you were considering getting a British passport and I can tell you that those 17-year-olds in Duncan Village, Reeston, Mdantsane, Newlands do not have that option. If they are fortunate enough to get a job, those 17-year-olds would have to buy their families proper houses – and I don't mean in Beacon Bay or Vincent Heights but rather a four-bedroom house in the township.

When I was 17, my mother lived in a squatter camp (I think it's called Joe Slovo, in Mdantsane Zone 6). I imagine that the 17-year-olds who still live in that squatter camp feel hopeless.

I had to buy my mother a house and supported my brother and my extended family. I always challenge myself to think beyond my own frame of reference and I guess I am posing the same challenge to you. I really believe that any 17-year-old in South Africa (white, black, Indian, coloured) needs to feel he is wanted, hopeful and that he can make a contribution.

We need to build this country and no one is going to do it for us.
History will judge both of us as to the contribution that we make in
building this country.

We need to hold our government accountable and, given that racial
segregation is not tolerated any longer, you are as important in SA as any other 17-year-old.

In reality, I think we are all suffering for the mistakes of our
forefathers. – Mthetho C Tshemese, Melville, Johannesburg

Posted: March 18th 2007 06:35

(no comments at present)

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