Greetings Freshers and welcome to UCT: The University of Consciousness and Truth! If you were previously unaware, I would like to inform you that your next few years here will be far from ordinary. This institution is changing from a conveyor belt for factory-made graduates into a “school of life” where ignorance will land you swiftly on the DPR list for Transformation1000W. So to help you avoid exclusion, I would like to serve as your tutor for this course of history.
There is only one prerequisite for this course: “stepping out of your bubble.” This may be exceptionally uncomfortable for a vast majority of you, but it is mandatory. If you are not willing to step out of said bubble, one of your classmates will happily extract you from it. Furthermore, if the sound of rubber bullets and stun grenades has not already prompted you, I’d like to announce that you will be required to engage with the reality of the fragmented Rainbow Nation which UCT represents.
For example, if you are a white individual, you are inherently in a position of privilege. Before you raise your hand to object I’d like to remind you that despite your well-off or impoverished background, the colour of your skin still places you at the top of the pecking order. No one points out that you “speak well” or follows you around like you're a petty thief when you enter a clothing store. More importantly, you are not forced to assimilate to a foreign culture to validate yourself to society.
A large part of “engaging” involves talking about race. If you’re rolling your eyes then unfortunately you’re still stuck in your bubble. There is nothing that will exclude you faster than choosing to remain silent. Speak to people who are different from you, ask questions, make statements, get into arguments, have healthy conversations, whatever it may be, just ENGAGE. But as much as you speak, remember to listen, whether you’re Biko black or white. Remember everyone has a chapter to add to this history book.
If you’re looking to get a first, then be quick to analyse and slow to criticise or condemn. Everything you read in the media is not fact and everything you see and hear first-hand is not always truth. Your personal lens is clouded by bias, preconceptions and your positionality. If you’re angered by burning paintings, yet are indifferent to the university funding crisis, then you’ve missed the mark. Furthermore, if you’re annoyed by shacks on residence road but are completely comfortable with the plight of your classmate who can’t afford groceries then you’ve seriously missed the mark.
And yes, a surefire way to land yourself on academic probation is to exercise arrogance. Arrogance is expecting a people who have been oppressed for centuries based on the colour of their skin to simply get over something like apartheid. Arrogance is fighting to maintain the clearly problematic status-quo because it suits your lifestyle. Arrogance is saying ignorant things like “no offence but, you know that black guy…” as if his blackness is something offensive.
And most shockingly, arrogance is trying to police the revolution by sharing Facebook posts which read “Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. But she didn’t trash the bus. Big difference.” People’s pain cannot be policed. It is arrogance to believe that you know what the appropriate conduct is for a people who have been beaten, shot at, called monkeys and stripped of their dignity for longer than history cares to account for.
If you have any questions, feel free to attend any of the talks, seminars, protests or rallies on campus (they’ll definitely bump up your credits). Remember, there is no excuse for ignorance, so do yourself a favour and step out of your bubble. Include yourself in the revolution and you’ll fly in the school of life.