By Tafi Mhaka
Who needs another disheartening racist story to ponder in 2017? We could all do with more positivity and magnanimity. A little more love and less anger and harshness would be welcome. It is time to stop the blacklisting of diners in restaurants in Cape Town. It is time to stop placing black women in cages. It is time to stop running over black men in Limpopo. It is time to stop the labelling of white people in Johannesburg. It is time to stop calling white people all manner of names in Durban.
It is time to drop the derogatory jokes about Indian or coloured people. It is time to stop mimicking accents for a wicked laugh or two at lunchtime.
People are not commodities or brands you could define in an elaborate marketing brief. South Africa is so diverse and complicated in reality. You cannot paint a picture of oneness at the stroke of a brush and say I told you so all the time.
Let us put a halt to the commercialisation of humanity for political or other ends: The majority of South Africans do not represent a stereotype of hate or racial negativity; or subscribe to the wholesale characterisation of themselves by persons unknown to them.
Not everybody has the resolve to speak aloud and say this or that about race. But not everybody hates the other person or race.
With all my fears, my long-held wishes, my dear hopes and dreams for an amazing life in the future I could be you. I could be you, wherever you are, hoping for a bright 2017 as well. I could be you as I sit here wondering whether my children will have a great future ahead.
I could be you as I drive home on the M1 in Woodmead or Centurion wondering whether South Africa will give me room, a little space, you know, where I can carve a niche for myself without intruding on other people’s spaces and dreams.
I could be you as I look forward to the little things that make life so good; like a walk in the park with my family or a day out fishing at Hartbeespoort Dam. I could be you as I hope to catch the latest blockbuster movie to hit town. I could be you as I go all out to book a table at a distinguished restaurant so my friends and I can have a wonderful night on Saturday.
I could be you. You could be me. I could be you in any colour. Let us work hard on changing our attitudes.
There should be no unending guilt in faltering sometimes when it comes to the matters of race.
You and I will make mistakes and do or say the kind of things that both you and I may look back on with regret. But that is not the issue. It is how you work on it that is important. Changing a mindset is not simple. But if you try hard enough you will begin to see past so much.
If you and I do try as much as we can, we will begin to see beyond the collective safety and anonymity of a set racial identity.
So try seeing through the pessimism and disregard race for a minute. Test yourself for a day or more and take people as they are and for what they are. You do not have to get along with people because they look like you. You do not have to agree with someone because they share a surname with you.
You do not have to like someone or excuse their bad behaviour because they have the same skin colour as you. You do not have to fraternise with certain people just because they speak the same language as you.
Try getting along with people who share the same ideals as you do: South Africans who hold dear the kind of values that can lift South Africa and let it soar.
Try that this year and let us see what happens.