“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcom X
On the 15th of April the South African Washington International Programme Gauteng team of 2017 went on an excursion at Freedom Park. The lessons that I drew from Freedom Park are underpinned by appreciating diversity and unpacking the neglected narrative of diversity in the current political, social and economic discourse.
Freedom Park is a site which encompasses the narrative from the past to the present. In that it helps to express the diverse backgrounds which from part of modern South Africa. The truth which the site reflects on is that freedom of the African people was never free and such required for the blood of young black men such as Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu, Andrew Zondo and Onkgopotse Tiro amongst many others. Today such a narrative is the backdrop of the idea of diversity and this goes on to prove that South Africa comes from a dark past and as to whether we are in a sunny present and heading for a bright future remains a mystery.
The above, in a nutshell seeks to allude to the appreciation of diversity in modern South Africa and it is with such sites such as Freedom Park that we can be able to better define what is diversity rather than adopting diversity as defined by a few elites who just want to preserve their wealth. Walking past the wall of names I was reminded of my identity as a young black person living in a white dominant space promulgating capitalism. The site further reminded me of the struggle of the working class in South Africa. The rise of the current so called economic hub of Africa, Johannesburg was driven by black labourers and migrant labourers from countries such as China. This saw them being exploited by evil white men who saw in them nothing but labourers and natives who deserve nothing close to a decent wage and working conditions. The latter can be linked to Marikana, where miners were killed for fighting for a decent wage because an elite and now government official had business interests.
The inherent tension between labour and capital continues to play a huge role in modern South Africa and sites such as the Freedom Park become our fountain of knowledge when we need a historical account of such a struggle. This is us appreciating diversity.
What remains a problem in the current scheme of things is the unpacking of the neglected narrative of diversity in South Africa. Diversity has been a rhetoric used by both politicians and academics as a tool to downplay pertinent issues which are in their nature a time ticking bomb waiting to explode.
The truth behind diversity is that it remains a shadow of itself for as long as it does not encompass the truth. Appreciating diversity comes in two layers, the first being understanding the social background of a particular group that being race, language, gender, etc and the second being understanding the economic status quo of a particular group and its historical circumstances. In most instances attention is given to one layer that being social diversity and that subsequently nullifies such an appreciation.
Diversity which continues to perpetuate supremacy of another over the other is not diversity, it is modified oppression. What informs diversity should be truth and abovementioned the two layered approach. The open secret that majority of South Africans are poor is put under the carpet in order to speak about diversity and that is where the plot is lost. Freedom Park as a memorial site should serve as a guiding tool and manual towards the realisation of a society free from any form of prejudice, The journey I took with the rest of my colleagues and now brothers and sisters around the Freedom Park site was not only informative but it was a moment of reflection of where are we going as a nation.
“Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of whole humanity. Those who clearly recognise the voice of the their own conscience usually recognise also the voice of justice” – Alexander Solhenitsyn