Hate Speech, South Africa (Country), Heritage Day, Democracy, White Supremacy, Freedom, Violence, Trauma, Cape Town, Apartheid

Hate Speech, South Africa (Country)

SA has a legacy of trauma

Transforming the symbols of apartheid violence is not the endpoint of addressing our heritage

21.9.2019

OPINION: Since the dawn of our democracy the public discourse about our cultural heritage mostly focused on the removal of those visible symbols that remind many South Africans of the oppression suffered under a white supremacist regime.

Transforming the symbols of apartheid violence is not the endpoint of addressing our heritage

Since the dawn of our democracy the public discourse about our cultural heritage mostly focused on the removal of those visible symbols that remind many South Africans of the oppression suffered under a white supremacist regime.

This contradiction between the continuations of past forms of violence, together with a message of freedom, is a confusing burden that represents a more challenging aspect of our heritage. Recent research from the Historical Trauma and Transformation Unit at Stellenbosch University demonstrates this, for example, in the following words of a young South African from Langa who was interviewed as part of the Trauma, Memory and Representations of the Past project:

Many young people who carry the burden of this heritage have begun to question the negotiated settlement that was reached in their name. Today, they are still waiting to taste the fruits of their parents’ and grandparents’ struggles for a democratic South Africa. Instead, they face unemployment, poverty, inequality and a lack of opportunities for upwards social mobility.

As we celebrate Heritage Day on September 24, the question we should ask ourselves is: What would it mean to address the deeper significance of these heritage symbols at the level of our transgenerational legacies of trauma? This question has been asked in other historical contexts with histories of mass violence. For example, important strides have been made in the post-Holocaust context, which highlights the desire and responsibility that the second generation of Holocaust survivors feel to keep alive the memory of their parents’ suffering. The difference, however, for countries with histories of slavery, colonialism and apartheid is that the violence being remembered continues to structure the lived experience of the generations that come after the transition.

Dr Kim Wale is a postdoctoral fellow at the Historical Trauma and Transformation Initiative at Stellenbosch University. Dr Alec Basson works in the university’s communication division

Read more: Mail & Guardian

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