A Response to ‘’Dear White South Africans”

Dear Ntsiki

I have read your post and given it much consideration. I should perhaps start by saying that I am a white male who was born and raised in Durban. My heritage is non-Afrikaans, but I am not sure that that makes me ‘English’. I am however English speaking. There are a few issues raised that I would like to share my view on.

It is true that that I am of European descent. My ancestors (mostly in 1820) arrived in South Africa and committed atrocities against black people; enslavement, Apartheid, etc. I was born in the early 1990’s into a privileged life. I will never be able to understand fully what the people of this country went through, the oppression and the humiliation. You will always have my sympathies for what happened.

I would like to talk about identity. I believe that I am African. I might not be black by my family has lived here for 200 years. I have been to Europe and certainly do not consider myself European. African identity is not a matter of race, it’s a matter of culture.  I am a South African because my culture exists nowhere else. It is what makes me who I am. It is my home.

Some of your arguments are based on scale, time and space to be exact. Before my ancestors lived in Europe they came from Africa, yes, the cradle of humankind. Before Zulu and Xhosa people arrived in South Africa they had pushed down from central Africa as part of the Bantu expansion, only a few hundred years ago. If coming from Holland/France/Spain makes me European because of the dispersal of my ancestors then coming from central Africa (assuming you are Zulu/Xhosa or Bantu for arguments sake) makes you a central African, perhaps from Congo or Niger? But ultimately Homo sapiens evolved in Africa. We are all African children. Ultimately, my point is where we came from and when we came from is irrelevant. Calling me one of the children of Hitler is like calling you a child of Charles Taylor, this is simply wrong. I could go on endlessly with such arguments. Ultimately, we are South African as our culture exists nowhere else.

I have traveled around southern Africa where I have learned from different cultures. I have learned the importance of respecting my elders, very broken Zulu, how to shake somebodies hand respectfully and how to give and receive to name a few. I agree with you that not enough white people have learned indigenous languages. When I was in school I learned Afrikaans and Zulu. Again, do not be so quick to chastise French and German, did you know that Africa is actually the number one French speaking continent on the planet? When you learn another language you learn another culture and that promotes tolerance. I agree that this is important and as a nation we should focus on this more.

My understanding of Heritage Day is to celebrate what makes us uniquely South African. Not what makes us black (unless of course you are black). If I choose to have a braai because that is how my family has cooked for 200 years then what is wrong with that? If you prefer to do something different I have no objections. I should be allowed to celebrate my heritage and express what it means for me to be South African. I believe that is the essence of Heritage Day.

Even King Shaka is now hailed as a military genius but, if I am correct, invented the stabbing spear (‘iklwa’) and expanded the Zulu empire in a very similar fashion to that of the Europeans in Africa. By expanding, killing and conquering only to unify later. I mean no disrespect but he essentially revolutionized warfare at the time through his ingenuity and leadership. The main difference was that his expansion was smaller, an issue of scale. But now, King Shaka is regarded as a South African hero and we all learned about him while we were in school. Perhaps our history books are different but they share similar patterns. My point is we are really not so different and I do have respect for King Shaka as he is part of my own South African identity.

Rather than castigate white people, Heritage Day should be an opportunity for the sharing of cultures. We should not be separated with white people braaing and black people celebrating the Kings and Queens from the past as you put it. Your message offers no constructive criticisms or anything. You make me feel that because my heritage is different to yours that I am incorrect. That is incorrect and unfair.

Rather than point fingers we should be moving towards a society where views such as these are expressed without so much underlying resentment. By pointing the finger at white people for calling it ‘Braai Day’ you insult them because you are targeting their heritage. Trust me, when you insult somebodies culture that will never go down well.

If I was invited somewhere where I could learn more about the heritage of other South Africans on such a day I would accept. And when I arrived I would bring some wors with me and share it. Perhaps we could go to Phoenix and Verulam in Durban and learn about the history of the Indians in this country and share a breyani? Maybe we should explore Cape Town for a traditional Cape Malay meal? The country is not polarized into white and black, and within white and black there is so much more diversity. Heritage Day should be a day where South Africans can express what makes themselves South African. That is how we celebrate our diversity. That is what the Rainbow Nation is.

Heritage Day is not about race, it is about culture. I have the right do to what I like on such a day and you have no right to criticize me for it. All I can offer is dialogue so that one day we can achieve a more encompassing paradigm of Heritage Day so that you no longer feel the way you do. I too believe that we should celebrate what makes us African, but what makes us African is far larger than what you have covered in your message.

My fellow South African, I hope that you consider what I have said.

Thank you for reading.

Original post: http://ntsikimazwai.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/dear-white-south-africans/

111 thoughts on “A Response to ‘’Dear White South Africans”

  1. I too sent a response but it was not included so I’m happy to comment here. Braai’ing is not exclusive…we all braai…there is more to it though – it’s a time where we gather around an open African fire (not gas), share food, laughter and engage each other, its quite symbolic actually…in my case, I have two gorgeous nephews who’s mom is white and dad is black and there is much sharing and enjoyment….I’m an African and proud of it, its in my blood and I won’t feel any less African because someone says I’m not?!!

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    • I am a naturalized Canadian and we have people from all walks of life who are allowed to celebrate their own cultures and holidays, religions the way they want. On Canada day most people put out flags and many have barbecues with invited guests. If I lived in SA I would not know how to celebrate cause I don’t have a so called heritage. I am a person of colour with a background of Dutch, Irish, Malaysian and who knows what. I don’t think the non white race knows where the hell they came from. Why is this issue just with whites and black, do the non whites not fit Into this equation? Lol. It’s crazy that one has to be told how to celebrate a holiday. I do agree that some folks are still racists. Hell, my dad was the biggest bigot you could find. So glad I left that country in the sixties cause I have a broader outlook on life now.

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  2. Dear Ntsiki

    Your post saddens me. I can’t help but wonder – who and what you would like to emulate if you were given a choice – the spirit of Nelson Mandela or the threats of someone like Julius Malema?

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  3. Maybe I should start by saying im a young black female. I am sooo proud of your response! Well written, thought provoking and mindfull. I truly do hope that sis Ntsiki can understand the dynamic and heterogenous nature of this country and continent. And hopefully one day learn to appreciate and celebrate it.

    Well done!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Wonderful response. I did not have the energy to even try to leave a comment on the original post because when someone tries to polarize SA into White ‘Europeans’ & Black ‘Africans’ it completely disenfranchises someone like me – of cape malay/ griqua/javanese & various ‘european’ descent. I call myself African & South African because my culture is tied to this land. And i do not want to ‘choose a side’ because my heritage is a mix that is uniquely South African and it has informed my culture and experience. I am a descendant of the slave owner & the slave, of the indigenous people and the colonialists. I am fully & uniquely African.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Well said. You are a scholar and a gentleman.

    I find it quite ironic in one of her other posts she ended it off with :

    “Racism is not welcome in south Africa and a time has come for us to engage the root cause. Clearly racists are not even aware that they are being racist.”

    Touché.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Labelling can be such a dangerous thing, whether it is putting a name to another race or to a holiday. I think that the names Heritage Day or Braai Day are both misnomers because for me, what we are actually celebrating on 24 September is our future as a country, by looking back at all of our backrounds, heritages and legacies. And it is that diversity which makes 24 September so difficult to label, because being a South African is not about how long you have spent in the country, it is about embracing the values that make us South African. Nailing that down is quite difficult, but in my mind, it is the best of every culture that sort of melts together and makes us this Rainbow Nation. I struggle to put words to this South Africanness, but they are the things that are the product of coming together for a meal, sharing laughter, friendship, family and hopefully community. As a high school teacher in South Africa, I see the hope of our nation every day. The lines of race are blurred because the boys I teach cannot change whether the generations that came before them were the oppressors or the oppressed, they just want to make us a better country, regardless. Isn’t that what Heritage Day is all about?

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  7. A well thought out response, well done and also thanks to all who commented here without being racist . Maybe we should rename the 24th as South Africa day or SA day and celebrate our uniqueness.

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  8. While I agree with the points that you make about South African heritage being unique for everyone, I feel that you misunderstood what Ntsiki Mazwai was saying…

    Her post may have been charged with anger but the point she was making was that heritage day should not be marketed and advertised as braai day. She is correct.

    I myself am a white first generation south African and as much as I feel that I am truly south African, braaiing has nothing to do with my heritage either yet every 24th of September, every radio or TV station calls it braai day.

    This is why Mazwai was angry. Essentially, heritage day has been branded as Afrikaaner day. She is not saying that you should not celebrate your heritage, instead she is commenting on the incorrect branding of the holiday.

    Personally I do not think that being so hateful was the correct way to express her feelings but I do not blame her because the afrikaans people have taken so much from black Africans in the past, and now, although it may not necessarily be afrikaans people who have branded heritage day as braai day, can you blame her for being resentful, in light of this countries past?

    I agree, we should all move on and reconcile but healing takes time and as long as the black born frees still have grandmothers who are domestic workers or living in shacks and in poverty, we as born free privileged white people cannot expect our black counterparts to just forgive and forget because many of them face the past everyday when they go home to their families.

    Time is the only healer…

    Ps
    If it is of any significance, my ancestors had nothing to do with apartheid even though recent evidence shows that they reached cape town before the Dutch, sooo… I probably don’t really understand the dynamics of this situation but it’s just an opinion:)…. and my post refers to all the previously oppressed people, not just black people.

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    • Dear Sarah

      With regards to “incorrect branding” of a holiday, if everyone was forced to recognize it as ‘Braai Day’ i would agree with you, however, you have the choice to call it whatever you want – I personally still call it Heritage Day myself.
      That being said, I can’t think of a better way to spend quality time with friends than to have a braai/barbeque/food-cooking-over-an-open-flame-while-being-outside, specifically because of the process involved – cooking together as opposed to cooking your food at home, pitching up, eating and leaving again.
      If the fact that it has been ‘labelled as braai day’ is an issue, call it something that it of value to you – start something instead of complaining about something that has been started by others that actually really doesn’t affect you if you think about it.

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    • So then does one need to be Afrikaans to have a braai in this country?
      Where is the rule book around this… I would love a copy so that I don’t get it wrong again.

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    • “As a white South African you need to accept the responsibility to undo the evil work of your ancestors or else suffer the guilt (or lack of guilt) of forever contributing to the success of colonisation.”

      If I can trace your family history and prove that you are a descendent of Hitler, can I make you “suffer” guilt for the 6 million Jews that died during WW2? It only happened 70-ish years ago so it’s still nice and fresh in the memories of those that survived. Would you be willing to accept the “responsibility” of righting the wrongs committed by an evil man who you just happen to share some DNA with? Get real dude.

      Bad things happened all throughout history because that’s how the world was/is. The Egyptians, Aztecs, Maya, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Chinese, British, Russians….. they ALL built empires of one form or another and ruled over others. He who had the largest army/navy made the rules, that’s just how it was. To feel guilt or responsibility for what they did back then just because you’re a descendent of one of these nations is just stupid. Nothing you or I could change the way things went down… do you know why… BECAUSE WE DIDN’T EXIST!!!

      I will not feel guilt for being born white in SA and others were born black. I had no choice, I play the cards I’m dealt. That’s how this thing called LIFE works. I have to work hard every day like everyone else to put a roof over my head and food in my belly because nobody is going to do it for me, just like I won’t do it for anyone else… blacks, whites, browns, pinks, blues… doesn’t matter… their lives are NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wonder why nobody ever considers America or Australia?
        Do people forget that they did their best to obliterate the natives that lived there?
        There a handful of native Americans left.
        The Auzzies actually had a bounty out on the aborigines, slaughtering them like cattle,

        I’m NOT condoning Apartheid, but it was simply segregation. Strict rules and heavy punishment, sure, but no genocide.

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  9. I replied to her blog but my comment is still “awaiting moderation” for 3 days now… here is what I said:

    So by using your logic I should celebrate another cultures heritage and not my own? Don’t you think that there might be other cultures that find your celebration of your heritage offensive? Or are you and yours the centre of the universe? I have respect for all cultures and I enjoy seeing the diversity of people, my work affords me to travel all over the world and the first thing I do is mingle with the “common folk” of that country. It is always such a special occasion when other cultures share their way with me, just as I do in reciprocation and there is mutual respect. You find the fact that the concept of Braai Day has grown in popularity offensive and that brings out an ugly side of you, you find it offensive because deep down, due to you racially focused thoughts, the white man has won again. This is sad and I hope that one day you can throw of the shackles of slavery that you keep yourself bound with and truly be free! The cage is open, shake of your victim mentality and explore the world, it is a beautiful and diverse place and you are missing the best of it with being so narrow minded and hateful. Instead of lamenting about Braai Day, join one of them and show them your culture, that is how you bridge the divide, not by drawing a line in the sand and say that everyone should be on your side, you will end up old, lonely and bitter. You mentioned that all cultures have, and still do, use fire to cook, why not share it and show people how your culture did it? PS: My ancestors came from Prussia that don’t even exist anymore, I was born in South Africa so I see myself as an African and not European.

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  10. Brilliant.

    I’m afraid, though, that your cohesive arguments and rational points will be lost on her and the entrenched hatred for whites and basic ineptness to understand something as a whole rather than in isolation. Onward.

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. I’ve read both bloggs and I think there is an important element people are missing. What started the “talk” is that there has been a suggestion to change the actual title of the day. Instead of calling it Heritage day some ‘white’ people wanted it to be called braai day. I think this is where Ntsiki Mazwai’s discomfort begins. I don’t think she really gives a damn about what anybody does in their own homes but rather questions the need to change the name…why??? why should we NOT call it Heritage day?. I personally have my own reasons why we should NOT have a heritage day, but for me it is that we should not in AFRICA need to have a day to celebrate being AFRICAN it is your birthright to be AFRICAN ALL DAY EVERYDAY of your entire existence. Why have a special day to wear the clothes you are allowed to wear all the time? If you put aside one day to be yourself who are you all the other days? I digress. Can this question be answered though…why change the name?

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  13. Wasn’t Heritage day aka “Braai Day” originally called Braai Day because it is the “one language” all us South African’s understand? It is what unifies us as a nation due to the fact that no matter what race, gender or creed, we all do it, we all enjoy it. Hence finding a common ground that we can all come together and celebrate our diverse cultures? Africans, Europeans, Malay, Indian, Coloureds, Bushmen etc throughout History have “braaied” since man first discovered fire, why then should this be exempt to one culture and one race? Our country lost their identity for number of years and are now trying to put the pieces back together, If people are trying to cause issues out of things that have a positive comradery then it makes you wonder what their full intentions are, perhaps it is time for them to do some introspective work as to why they still feel a grudge and work on that. Surely if we are wanting to move forward as a country, we can’t cripple ourselves with separation we have to look for a common ground somewhere in order to heal.

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  15. It’s insanely funny how you say your ancestors “settled” here when infact they INVADED my country and did the most horrible crimes in the history of the human race to my people and to every person of color across the globe. Another I don’t get is, since when did you became “Afrikaners”? I can only remember the original group of people calling themselves the Afrikaners and they were Khoikhoi and San descendants and some were of mixed origin(so-called coloureds of today) – Oude Ram Afrikaner and his group. So where do you fit in?

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