Its heart wrenching to see the images coming out of South Africa. As foreigners live in fear of their lives in the place they have come to call home. Having lived as a foreigner in three different countries, I can easily picture my self in this ongoing crisis.
Many don’t realize how much it takes to leave your home country to go and make a living in another country.
Often times there is hostility displayed towards the foreigner by the citizens due to many issues, such as ignorance, ethnocentrism, miscommunication, on both sides. But life for foreigners is not always fraught with tension. There can be honest and meaningful relationships between the immigrants and their host communities.
But crisis like the one in South Africa only show how easy it is to take for granted this fragile relationship. It also opens our eyes to see how prejudice we all can be, even though we may call it by different names. (classism, racism, tribalism,sexist, ageism).
What makes this particular scenario so sad is that this violence is against fellow Africans who share and have a lot in common with the citizens. Showing that hate or prejudice knows no bounds. Racism is no different from tribalism. It is all about seeing the ‘others’ as inferior.
I wonder what has happened to Pan Africanism. Where did brotherly love and the philosphy of Ubuntu (human kindness) disappear to? Have we forgotten so soon our shared history as Africans? I wonder what Nelson Mandela would think about the current situation? When we need to come together as one, we are instead torn apart by anger, fears and distrust.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
― Nelson Mandela
I think the quote says it all, and its too sad that we are failing to live up to the legacies of these great men who gave so much so we could be better people in our relationships with ourselves and with others. Instead of building upon their life’s work we are tearing it down with our fears and dislike of others who don’t talk the way we do, who don’t eat what we eat or believe what we hold to be absolute truths.
“The only difference between man and man all the world over is one of degree, and not of kind, even as there is between trees of the same species.
Where in is the cause for anger, envy or discrimination?”
― Mahatma Gandhi
We forget that it is our differences that adds beauty to our world and makes the world a more rich and vibrant place. Yes from time problems will surface simply because we will not always see eye to eye with others. But that does mean we must fall back on our primal fears and react on them.
We must learn to think beyond our tribal and cultural feelings. Opening our eyes and ears, and try to picture our it looks like from the “other’s” perspective. Its then we will realize that despite the differences between us, we are still essentially members of one race.
And before citizens of other African countries and other countries begin to gloat, and think we are better than South Africans, we must realize we are all guilty of the same sin, just may be in a different shade.
We must realize that hate, that fuels this kind of violence is harmful not only to the victims, but to the perpetrators as well as to the countries we come from and lastly the global community.
This kind of violence cheapens culture and societal values and makes a mockery of the values we claim to hold dear. It also worsens the fragile situation even more and then it slows down progress in the nation, both economically and socially. And in the end it is not only the victims that suffer, but the perpetrators and the country as well.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
In the end I still believe in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, but at a much larger stage, where people are judged not by skin color, hair type, nationality or culture and religion but by their character. I hope South Africans, and citizens of other nations will remember that we are connected to each other and so we must look out for each other.