Hi, it is the 27th of April again. This is the 22nd year since South Africa had the first ever democratic election – hence the holiday. So I decided to blog about the concept of freedom as I know it…
After having had been a South Africa for only 20 years, mine should be a story of true freedom and liberation. After all, is that not what I am promised in the Bill of Rights?
I won’t begin to vent about the suppression I feel when I am asked to share my truth, lest someone or something gets offended by my words. I won’t even start on the restrictions I feel when I walk around a heavily guarded campus where, just a couple of weeks ago, I was shot at for trying to voice out my long silenced grievances… the very same campus where a friend was poured with urine and then told not to regard it as a racial attack, now this was only two weeks ago. Let me not even get started on venting, I will keep this as sound minded as possible. I don’t want to be charged with inciting violence or defamation of character. I just wanna to share my thoughts on freedom.
Let me just clarify something before I begin (if it’s not too late) to sound like a “spoiled born free who doesn’t know what she’s talking about”. I do not nullify or disregard the progress made with regard to the freedom of Black South Africans since 1994 (please note, I refer to Black South Africans because that is what I am and have experienced, feel free to include yourself in the category or contextualize this piece as you so desire). The actual fact that I am sitting in my single room at a previously White Afrikaaner University in a previously White Afrikaaner Residence means that we have made progress. That progress, however, should not be equated to the freedom of all Black South Africans. This is merely because statistics show that only 3% of Grade 1 learners graduate with a university degree. That is, of every 100 Grade 1 learners, only 3 will graduate. Looking at the country’s schooling systems, who are the three learners who are likely to make it through university? I will let you answer that for yourself, trusting that your answer will be objective to the most part. This then is why I say my privileges cannot be used to measure the freedom of my people. I myself cannot really say I am free. I am afforded the privilege to study, while I am said to have the right to an education. This then makes me wonder, why should there be a criteria to afford only 3% of all Grade 1 learners a university degree when each of them is said to have an equal right to education? Well, I assume that factors such as inaccessibility of resources, lack of infrastructure, shortage of stuff, poverty, poor living conditions, lack of funds and an overcrowding in classrooms form part of the reasons why 97% of these learners do not make to or through university. As much as there has been progress made, we cannot still be fighting the same battle as the youth of 1976 in 2016 and call ourselves ‘born-frees’.
Now if you are black and poor, you cannot afford to be ignorant to the fact that your having a scholarship, bursary or loan is a privilege. Celebrate and be grateful for that but do not let it blind you from seeing the injustices and oppression of people who are similar to you. The mentality that says “we come from the same place, we were afforded the same opportunities, I just chose to work harder for my success” may be true to the most part you do not know what hurdles the imbalances of the past have put in front of the other person to prevent them from getting to where you are. Yes we have a nicely written constitution and a bunch of right that no one takes responsibility for but we are still not free. In fact, we are far from freedom. We are perishing because we have so much information but lack knowledge.
I believe in God, in fact I know that the only reason I am where I am is grace. God says that Christ is our Freedom. Christ is the Word, He is knowledge. You cannot justify your ignorance through Him (I just had to throw that out there). You cannot sit with blind faith and wait for heaven, it is your responsibility to at least acquire the knowledge that will free you and your mindset. The thought patterns we are taught are further binding us. As much as we try to decolonise institutions and emancipate people from systematic oppression, the real battle field is and will remain in the mind. No one but you can free your mind. I am not forcing you to see things through my eyes, I am pleading with you to open yours to what is right in front of you. Just look around without your educated spectacles so that you can actually learn from those who have more wisdom than what textbooks and good English can afford you. See the world for what it is. Acknowledge the problem so that you can, in solidarity with others, work towards the solving thereof
In the words of my Chair Person (check out her blog at guesswhofinallystartedabog.blogpost.co.za) “we are all not free if not all of us are free”. Freedom is not a privilege, it is a right. Therefore, if only 3 out of a 100 people enjoy the ‘right’ then it defies the purpose of being called a right. Do not mistake your privileges for freedom. Free your mind from such bondage! As Bob Marley so gracefully sang, kindly do yourself a favour and emancipate yourself from mental slavery for only you can free your mind. Again I say, Free Your Mind!
If you can embark on a knowledge seeking journey between now and the 27th of April 2017, may then I will say ‘Happy Freedom Day”.