The complexity of race and colour relations in modern society

Society & Culture | By Tatenda Kanengoni, Writer | 02 October 2015

Recently, my friends and I had a conversation about slavery. Imagine growing up in an era where you are saleable and consequently become someone’s property? Speaking as someone who never experienced this first hand, my rhetoric can be mistaken for mockery. No one is qualified to fathom the feelings of those who lived this reality. We spoke at length about the ripple effects of slavery and apartheid. How there appears to be new forms of separation in the present day. Don’t get me wrong; these atrocious inhumane practices were officially outlawed. This begs the question, was there a follow up lesson on equality and tolerance to counter the effects of what happened prior? Why do people still commit and get away with racially motivated hate crimes?

Nature Versus Nurture
They say we are born with love, but hate is learnt. Who taught us hate? Having experienced hate based on the colour of my skin from someone who grew up post-segregatory regimes, this was mind boggling. I realised that our generation is presented with a new set of problems, a new war - a mental one. This is dangerous because it is internal and institutionalised in a way, which increases the propensity with which it is transferred from generation to generation.  

How a child as young as eight knows that they are different from the next - forget the obvious visuals; how they speak of one creed being better than the other or that one does not belong, is scary to say the least. 

If we look back to the abode of all things oppressive, times where masters owned servants who were divided into classes consisting of those who lived closer to their masters and those who worked in the fields. The former were considered more privileged, almost in a satirical way. Does this ring a bell? Probably so, as it mirrors some of our everyday encounters. You can see traces of this in the way formerly marginalised populations behave in terms of association. 

Whilst dropping my son off at nursery school I was often asked, where is your son going to school next year? This asked with a premeditated reaction readying either a frown or smile depending on my response. Most black mothers spoke in favour of schools that had very few blacks. Not one historically black school was mentioned. Whilst one can argue affordability as a factor of choice, the idea of looking at racial minorities as a deciding factor ascribes to the school of separation. How do we move forward from this chain reaction?

Mind Over Matter
As a parent, raising your child to not associate with their own race, what kind of mentality are you instilling in your children? If you preach segregation in the hopes of protecting your child or affording them a better life, and then release them into a diverse world, how will they treat others? This is no different from a child who is told to hide their food in their bag and not share with others. They start to pile up food in their bag until it goes bad, then their 2 year old sibling gets hold of this bag and eats the food and gets food poisoning, essentially, applying formulas that backfire and affect your own.

I don’t think it is in all cases that hate is taught overtly, but by insinuating that you are better off if you associate with a certain type, you are effectively creating a divide of US versus THEM. Institutions of learning are also promoting separation; terms like All White schools, All Black this, Asian that, all sow division. It’s no wonder we are facing a lot of identity issues, offering unequal resources based on race. 

And you ask, who taught us hate? Our forefathers were forced to trade in a love they knew for submission. They walked away with a mirage survival toolkit and passed this on to their procreation, this consisting of insecurity that entails prioritising another by turning against their own. This vicious cycle will continue until we teach our children that variation exists and it is not about comparison or superiority. 


Is it hate or intolerance? An inability to move past a stereotype and a desire to eliminate all that does not match up with your faction. The question of why hate or racism exists does not have a simple answer; its complexity stems from multiple off springs, the mother being prejudice. Once prejudice is cleared we may have hope. On that day, I experienced hate due to the architecture of my being, I got home and thought to myself, I braved the cold today all I had was my smile, it shielded me, it soothed me, I felt warm within.