Welcome to Day 82 of the South African lockdown. It’s both freezing-cold and raining in Joburg — a very rare occurrence. It’s also Youth Day, a South African public holiday commemorating the 1976 student uprising in Soweto.
For the last couple of weeks I have been thinking constantly about racism. Soon after I woke up this morning, I found myself having a bit of a mental meltdown over it.
I’m not sure why (probably because there’s not much else to do on a dark, freezing-cold, rainy public holiday during a pandemic), but after I woke up I scrolled deeper than usual into my Facebook feed. I was appalled by the number of racist posts — some subtle, some flat-out hateful — that I came across, today of all days.
In a recent blog post, I said I want to use my platforms to speak out against racism and racial injustice. I am still committed to doing this, but I also can’t help thinking: What’s the point? Speaking out on racism in South Africa — or America, for that matter — feels like screaming into a gale-force wind. Institutionalized racism is woven so deeply into the fabric of our societies.
It’s all very depressing. But as the day wore on, I thought of one thing I could do to lift my own spirits and contribute to the movement in a small way.
In recognition of this day 44 years ago — when 20,000 South African students marched in a movement against racism and oppression, and at least 176 (probably more) died in a violent display of police brutality — I thought I’d share a selection of images from Soweto.
Wow, I’ve taken a lot of photos in Soweto. I’m going to stop now because otherwise I’ll be sitting at this computer all night.
Racial Justice Resources
Yesterday I watched a talk about white fragility by Robin DiAngelo, who literally wrote the book on White Fragility. If you are white and wondering what all this sudden talk about racism has to do with you, I highly recommend watching this. (It’s long, but worth it.) It made me think — a lot.
Today I read The Case for Reparations, a now-famous 2014 Atlantic essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’ve known about Coates’ work for years, but embarrassingly had never read any of it until now. I also wasn’t aware until two days ago that he and I are the same age and went to high school about five miles apart in Baltimore. The essay explains the history and impact of black economic oppression in America, in astonishing detail. It also gave me a lot to think about.
Happy Youth Day.