White Policeman: We are going to arrest everyone. Young Girls (White Policeman): It's Fine. Take us. (We are going to). All of us. They are going to arrest us, guys. They are going to arrest us.
On the 28th of August, 2016, at Pretoria High School for Girls, in Pretoria, South Africa, black students at the school have had enough of the racism that they have constantly been receiving for years. Racism that is targeted at the texture of their hair. So, according to a student at the school writing for The Daily Vox, the students have had enough of the status quo of having their bodies & voices "seen, but not heard", while their complaints are brushed off as 'we will look through it' and swept under the rug. Left with little options, the black girls of PHSG "mobilized", they " decided that during the school’s annual spring fair, we as black students would meet at the netball courts to hold hands and walk to the front of the school. No shouting, no dancing, no struggle songs. A silent walk of sisters, hand in hand".
The 12th grade pupil, Malaika Eyoh, continued to write on how the events of the day unfolded: "Before the group could get a head start, the security guards shut the gates, forcefully pushing girls backwards and reporting the procession as a “snaakse groep (funny group)”. When the gates re-opened, attention was on us. Girls proceeded to walk to the front of the school and upon their arrival were met with a police car, extra security force and members of the governing body threatening to arrest girls as young as 14. All the while raffle tickets continued to be sold in the background."
That sad tale of events, is a classic example of how white supremacy & its culture of fear and oppression continue to this day in former apartheid states of South Africa & Namibia.
Watching that video of a white police officer threatening to arrest 14 year old girls for holding a peaceful demonstration in a country which constitution reads that "everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions" is indeed shameful. And the fact that these police officers answered the call of the school to shut down a peaceful protest when South Africa's Regulation of Gatherings Act says “every person has the right to assemble with other persons and to express his views on any matter freely in public and to enjoy the protection of the State while doing so”, is a disgust. Not only to law enforcement in the country, but also to the ruling African National Congress government. 22 years after apartheid, things ought to be much different than this.
But maybe after so many years of oppression, and tactics of fearmongering, 22 years (in South Africa's case) or 26 years (in Namibia's case) is not enough time to overturn hundreds of years of psychological warfare. And for that reason, it's refreshing to see these young black women, and many more take that power back and stand up to white supremacy.
See us. Hear us.
Our hair textures are different. We wear our hair differently. And those differences are not a measure of our characters, they are a mere figment of your imagination and what & who you think I am. We are not here to embrace us, no! We are here to let you know that yesterdays norms are no longer today's norms - there have been a few changes, maybe a lot, whatever. We are here to let you know that you need to get with the program and accept these changes. We, too, are a part of the human race.
Edward-Mekondjo Nailenge is African by birth, but a citizen of the world by choice. He is an opinion writer at aKoma. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org