While the racial orders of South Africa’s pasts might have been buried formally, those pasts are far from done with us. Race is still a critical faultline in South Africa’s social landscape, a faultline separating people and cleaving the hearts of individuals. Truth be told, generations of South Africans are profoundly damaged around race. Centuries of racial politics have hurt us, as have the experiences of transition and transformation, in ways that we are not always aware of.
Public discourses on race, in our view, are dominated by expressions of denial, alienation, hatred and self-hatred. These are spurred on and influenced by issues of class, wealth, culture and religion. Listen to the spiteful chattering on radio talk-shows, in postings on social media and at dinner parties. Listen to the often laborious constructions and deconstructions of the academy. Listen to the platitudes of politicians and bureaucrats either papering over or playing fast and loose with the pain and confusion of daily experience.
And all the while separations and cleavages deepen.
Among an elite of both veterans and born-frees, perhaps, there is an experience of what could be called the post-apartheid, but for most South Africans race is a chasm and apartheid is not dead.
We need to question what this means for South Africa’s democracy and for the legacy of Nelson Mandela? Are we not talking about a powder-keg waiting to explode? How do we say the things that are unsayable while creating space for finding sustainable solutions?
These are the questions the Nelson Mandela Foundation wishes to interrogate in a dialogue forum which brings together thought leaders across generations and communities.