This morning a man passed me
with a T-shirt that says, “Praat Afrikaans of hou jou bek!” – “Speak Afrikaans
or shut up!” As I passed the man I
wondered what would motivate someone to proclaim something like that? This reminded me, once again, that
South Africans are diverse; that there are no monolithic definitions for the
different groupings in our country.
The man who passed me fits a
certain stereotype of Afrikaner men.
And maybe even that is not true – he might wear this T-shirt as a form
of sarcasm. In “Knowledge of the
blood” Jonathan Jansen points out that in South Africa,
“It would be a mistake,
however, to cast all whites (or for that matter all Afrikaners) as expressing a
monolithic response to defeat.
Among Afrikaners, there are at least three responses to history,
transition, and the future.”
happened – now get over it!
- Terrible things
The first group believes
that apartheid wasn’t bad. That it
was an experiment that had its good – and a few bad points. For this group, “What whites achieved was on the basis of
their own hard work in a barren land through superior skills” 
The second group knows that
something was bad about apartheid.
Yet, they think that the hype about it is exaggerated and therefore to
dwell on the past should stop.
This group, therefore, find it absolutely incomprehensible to revisit
the apartheid era’s stories. “Let
is just move on – democracy is here and the playing field is now level” is one
of the sentiments in this group.
The third group is
subdivided into another three groups.
Those who believe something terrible has happened can be described as
activists, gradualists and confessionalists.
The activists are those who actively opposed the apartheid regime. “In this group there is immediate
concession of privilege, that what they have is a direct result of being
treated differently as whites, and a consequence of the dispossession meted out
against blacks. This group of whites does not need to be told that something
happened; it readily owns up to a terrible past.”
The gradualists are those who, after 1994, came to the realization what
happened under the apartheid era.
“This is a group that does not want to speak about the past; its members
are quiet but acknowledging of the terrible past. They will often work determinedly to correct wrongs, advance
affirmative policies for the excluded, defend practices that include others,
and even demonstrate considerable sensitivity towards blacks as they grasp the
enormity of the terrible things that happened.”
The confessionalists are
those who can remember direct incidents of how their racism caused pain. This group “want to talk”, “they want
to talk, in order to confront the demons within themselves and settle and
reconcile with those whom they hurt and despised not long ago.” Adriaan Vlok is a prime example of
someone in the confessionalist group.
A few weeks ago, after a
particularly tough session in our interracial group, Jacques wrote a blog post
in which he verbalized some of his own frustrations of being cast into a
monolithic stereotype of an “Afrikaner”.
I don't want to be
stereotyped, dismissed, ignored, burdened with the tons of baggage simply
because I'm part of a particular group. In essence, and here's the kicker, I
don't want to be treated the way we have treated blacks for decades.
Jansen’s descriptions help to differentiate. I find this
helpful and hopeful. My question
for the day: “where do you think followers of Jesus should fall in the above
happened – so let’s get on?
terrible happened? (Activist, Gradualist, Confessionalist)?
- A combination?
- None of the
 Knowledge in
the blood, p.37
 ibid. p.39
 Ibid. p.41
 Ibid. p.42