If it is one thing that we can appreciate Covid-19 for is sort of changing the pace of our normal life and giving rooming for us to think about critical social issues that activists have been raising and fighting for (for years).
When we speak of a new normal, I think we can all agree that we are going into a world where one needs to be in touch with the social injustices that exist in our peripheries and the world at large.
This year’s BLM emphasised that spreading awareness is no longer enough. We all have to show up and actively participate in making the world a place that is inclusive of marginalised people and prioritises equality and equity across race, gender, sexuality, etc.
The world is growing to be intolerant of any phobias and -isms that continue to oppress and deprive people of the freedom to just be.
I have always been someone that generally shied away from having any critical political discourse because I was tired. To be frank, I have been tired. I spent most of my school life trying to find my space in a very white world. Where did I belong in terms of my race in historically Afrikaans schools? Then there was the shying away from my sexuality because the way I would perform my sexuality would be policed. If it is not racism. It is homophobia. At times these two worlds intersect and as a humanities student, I am always unpacking.
So when I got to university, I told myself that I was here to relax and figure out who I was in a space that seemed to be very inclusive and safe enough for me to practice whatever blackness I saw fit and eventually my queerness was something I could explore freely in a city that is said to be the gay capital of Africa. But it’s been interesting how even safe spaces can be tricky places to navigate.
I don’t have the healthiest ways of dealing with trauma. I bury most of my traumatic experiences so that they don’t take away from the joys of now. This is mostly why I shied away from conversations that matter. But during this lockdown, I have had to deal. It’s been a heavy few months. I feel different because I got to process somethings while just trying to be.
The years of racism that I faced in Model C schools. Then the memory of once being in a household that had occasional outbursts of domestic violence. Growing up in one of the most dangerous townships in Port Elizabeth, the reality of hearing about women (whom I knew) dying at the hands of their partners and even local gangsters. The past few months just took me back to memories that I had buried. I mean the past few months have been a lot. For many people the past few months has been time to protest while also trying to show up to everyday life.
For the first time, life was still enough for me to be able to say that I can no longer live a life that is detached from the reality that we live in a world full of injustice. In the past few months, political discourse has become a day-to-day thing.
There has been no way of escaping the interrogation of our -isms and -phobias. There is no room for intolerance. There is a need to be politically aware. This should have always been the case, but privilege afforded many of us the luxury of just being able to be. Living freely with a few inconveniences here and there, but comfortable. The past few months for me at least has been a time to really do the work.
The world has agreed that silence is compliance. We can no longer have platforms that are reserved for just sports, beauty, and lifestyle. Even within these industries, the dialogue on race, gender, and sexuality is very necessary to ensure that boardrooms and content are inclusive and diverse. Diversity and representation no longer mean having people of colour at the frontlines and none at the executive or leadership levels.
The world is slowly moving towards a new normal. Black people are tired of racial profiling that leads to their deaths at the hands of people who are meant to be protecting them. Queer people are exhausted of countering and teaching cisheterosexuals about their lives. Every person is or should be invested in doing the work to be more politically and socially conscious.
Covid-19’s perceived stillness has enabled social media to be platforms for critical debate, mobilising people for protest, and calling out people who continue to spew problematic views. This has called for many of us to look into our problematic posts from the past (and delete). But I wonder if it made us really understand the implications that those views had on some people’s lives. I think it is not enough to fear being called out and cancelled. Taking time to reflect on past views should have prompted us to interrogate and make necessary changes.
Outside of just babysitting and just dealing with my mgowo. I found myself interrogating a lot of my problematic views and I found that some are disguised as preference. It is in the little things. It doesn’t have to be a tweet or old Facebook post that makes you say ‘I have unlearnt and I am doing better’. At this point, we should all be actively putting in the work to be better informed and doing better for those around us.
In 2020, you should not be arguing that prejudice or bias is ‘informed’ by lack of access to [insert group of people]. Read, immerse yourself in the culture of that group, and just have an open mind. Now more than ever, there is a need for all of us to be politically aware.