Retrospective

A little while ago, I was party to a discussion regarding apartheid. What effect does it have on us? The 20-somethings of South Africa.

The apartheid government merely confirmed pre-existing practises by enacting legislation. Segregation was not something new, however the laws oppressing non-whites were like concrete over grass, prohibiting its growth.

The discussion had put things in perceptive – different perspectives. Where the white minority had ALL the benefits, the majority of blacks had little room for growth or success. I use the term “blacks” to describe Black, Indian, Coloured and Asian. So 21 years later, how has this impacted us? BBBEE now makes provision for the black majority, the previously disadvantaged, to have equal economic opportunities. But white youth, are at a disadvantage because now they are not an employer’s first choice. This can feel almost unfair and immoral, especially if you are a hardworking dedicated person who deserves to be the first choice.

A white friend said something that resonates with me – although BBBEE makes finding employment a little harder for him, he still has a better chance of employment and a better quality of life than the blacks who are living in the rural areas, or those who simply cannot afford tertiary education.

Another point that stuck with me is that when a white person gets a new job, he/she has little expense or obligations. His or her hard earned money is theirs – to invest in a car, house or travel. When a black person receives his/her salary, money is “sent home” and used to pay loans or assist family out of necessity before he/she can think about investing in a car, house or travel. I am not implying that white people do not have loans to pay, but the number is much higher with non-whites, and generally any financial assistance to the family is “just to help out” and not because it’s necessary for their wellbeing. A person need not have suffered during apartheid to have been effected by it. Black parents and grandparents did not have access to the same quality of resources and now, 21 years later, when their children and grandchildren are working and earning money, that money is used to slowly lift their families out of poverty or give them a better quality of life. The talk is about government grants and not retirement annuities.

I have been fortunate to grow up in a household where both my parents graduated from university and have good jobs. But the reality of what could have transpired is all too real when I found out just how difficult it was for my parents to get an education – from loans to family support to having to work numerous jobs. We take it for granted that after high school, university is the obvious step. But I am more grateful than ever.

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