Race and Ethnicity in South Africa Essay

The apartheid government believed that South Africa should be represented predominantly by the beliefs and cultures of the white race group, diminishing the others. Tutu’s speech directly challenges this by saying that the South African nation is a rainbow nation, with its national identity involving the different cultures, religions and beliefs of any and every group. This goes against the apartheid belief of a white supremacist state, saying that South Africa is a home to a diverse population, all of which share equal rights.

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It clearly states that, as a rainbow nation, South Africa embraces diversity in any form, whether it is racial, cultural, religious or ethnic. This means that anyone can be anything they desire and still be considered an equal citizen with equal rights. At the same time, however, it says that the countries people will rally together against any opposition, united by the common understanding that we are all South Africans. This one common plateau is what makes South Africa a unified nation, while at the same time celebrating its diversity in its people.

No, he says the something completely different. He clearly says that different cultural groups must exist, but that there must be a common and mutual tolerance and respect for each group. This differences in society need to remain, and a man’s views must stay intact, but people need to understand that we all fall under the title of South African, and it is this that will unite us and make us a peaceful and tolerant nation. If this understanding can be spread, according to Sparks, this is what will inspire our national identity.

‘Rainbow nation’ is the concept that South Africa accepts all races and beliefs, viewing them as equal under a legal constitution, thus making South Africa a nation of many colours, with the identity of a diverse country, i.e. a “rainbow” nation.

‘Mosaic society’ is a metaphor that compares the national identity of South Africa with a mosaic, a piece of art (usually a picture) made up of many differently shaped and coloured pieces of slate, slotted together. In the same way, each different culture, belief, religion, ethnicity, etc. must be accepted as part of society, but be separate from other groups (like the slate pieces).

‘Melting pot’ refers to the opposite of what is considered to be the national identity. It suggests that like a pot in which ingredients are melted together into one entity, so is the South African society brining in its diverse people to be “melted” together to become the same, with the same beliefs and understandings.

According to Source C, the hope was that a new South Africa would bring about racial integration and the enjoyment of wealth by all, as seen by looking at the image provided by the advertisement. This is clearly a false representation of reality, as today it is well known that those who were oppressed by apartheid (mainly black people, but also Indians and coloured people) found it hard to recover in terms of education and finance after apartheid ended, resulting in the persisting divides we see in this country today, in which the vast majority of wealthy people are white and therefore live separate from the economically underprivileged. This proves that the idea of a national identity provided by the source is completely artificial. Source D also explains to us an important fact; that the divides created by apartheid, across religion, race, ethnicity and gender, meant that people experienced very different ways of living during the apartheid era. These differences and divided experiences are not something that can be broken down over years, let alone over night, resulting in what has previously been explained as different groups preferring to exist in their own comfort zones of society, making the notion of a national identity almost absurd. Finally, Source E shows us that the concept of a national identity is one that belongs to the “starry-eyed idealists”, i.e. not something that could happen in reality. It also provides another take on this, by suggesting that South Africa was never really a unified country, but rather the product of hundreds of years of colonialism, meaning that because this land was influenced so drastically by the external imperial powers, that the groups and social divides created by this influence resulted in the present idea of a unified and nationalistic South Africa being non-existent.

A national symbol needs to be at least one of the following three things. Firstly, it must be created from the hearts of the people, from something that they feel strongly about and can therefore rally behind. Secondly, it needs to be created with regard to the experiences and suffering of those it will represent, as people who need to back this symbol must feel that it stands for everything they have gone through in order to make it possible to have such a symbol. Lastly, it must be something that people identify with, something easily recognisable and universally accepted so as to appeal to a diverse population.

I would support the third approach, which says that a national symbol should be something that every person can identify with fully, as this encompasses the other two approaches. In order for someone to identify with a representational symbol, they must accept it into their hearts, as it needs to be something that they feel close to and that reaches them on a emotional and personal level, while still standing for their political persuasion. As well as this, it needs to be something that represents the experiences and suffering that one has been through in order to insure the creation of the symbol itself. This means that it must reach them on an external, physical level, as well as a personal one. Therefore, we understand that in order for something to be identifiable to a person, it needs to encompass all the three approaches mentioned above, which are brought together by the third approach.

The fact that Thabo Mbeki implies that every group in our culturally diverse country stems from the same source and should therefore have the same belief and understanding of a national identity that represents every South African. This is most definitely not the case, and hence completely idealistic. To claim that every black man and women has the same interpretation of what it means to be South Africa as the average white South African is absurd, as the formative experiences of these different groups during both the apartheid and post-apartheid era’s are, the vast majority of the time, completely different. This idealistic and hyperbolic tone of the speech also emphasises its forced nature. It almost seems as if he is trying to convince both himself and others of his “preferred” reality rather than affirm what the true reality.

This speech was made during the creation of the South African Constitution, widely considered to be the best in the world on an idealistic level, while being difficult to uphold in practise. This means that the speech fits with the constitution in terms of the belief that all South Africans feel united by the common nationhood, but also falls in line with the constitution in terms of being unrealistic. In other words, the context of the speech emphasises the idealistic nature of the content.

It reveals that heritage is constructed from the history. While history is the historical fact of what happened and how it happened, heritage is not as straight. It is built on the basis of history, but on a more subjective and interpretive level. An example is given by the speech, by how Thabo Mbeki chose to use certain historical facts as a foundation for his construction of a so-called common South African heritage, also implying that heritage can be about choice, what you want to be and how you want it to be. Therefore, while history is about the compilation of factual events, heritage is about the creation of what we feel represents us from our past.

Source K suggests that the problem with the use of the term “African” as a form of national identity is that nobody seems to know what they it truly stands for, whether its blacks, people born in Africa or those committed to the African continent. This is a well identified problem, as it is not possible to use a term to unify a country when one cannot clearly define those who the term represents. It is not possible to allow anyone to create a definition, neither a person nor a government, as this may conflict with the definition of another person or group and it will be impossible to compromise. It therefore stands to reason that Source L should bring up the argument that those who choose to bestow Africanness on others are out of place and should first try to come to terms with what it means before labelling it as an honorary title and using it to create a national identity. It also brings up the fact that the continual use of the term as a means of national identification will only lead to further confusion of those who don’t understand its significance (if any).

If we look at the holidays celebrated during the apartheid year of 1986, we clearly see that they are predominantly white/Afrikaner, Christian holidays. There is nothing that celebrates any kind of equality or democracy, nothing to commemorate the anti-apartheid struggle. However, when we look at post-apartheid 1996, we immediately see the change. There are now days that celebrate human rights, freedom, workers, women, heritage, etc. and days such as 16 June that remember those who died to bring about the end of apartheid. Therefore, the types of holidays celebrated changed drastically over the decades, between 1986 and 1996.

The change in holidays shown between 1986 and 1996 also shows us the change in national identity in South Africa. The identity starts in 1986 being clearly white, Christian, Afrikaner, promoting only the beliefs that one would expect from such a person. This shows the narrow-mindedness of the apartheid identity, which neglects the cultures and rights of other racial, religious and cultural groups. Then in 1996, it changes to incorporate the celebration in women’s rights, freedom, human rights, workers rights, etc. therefore showing us a more diverse cultural, religious and political identity that fits closer with the post-apartheid South Africa.

The day that most resembles independence day from 1986 is Republic Day, as this celebrate the day South Africa became a republic and hence a independent country, and from 1996 is Freedom Day, a celebration of South Africa’s first non-racial elections and thus of a new kind of liberation and independence emerging, as well as a new South African identity. Therefore, we can say that the most important thing, the one aspect that has been preserved over the decade, is the feeling of independence from external forces, whether it is your own government or that of another country.

The eight episodes referenced refer to pivotal areas of South Africa’s history. They are all conflicts which shaped the nature of the future South Africa and as such need to be given a place in the celebrating of a “freedom” that is supposed to be at the core of modern South Africa. Their commonality is illustrated by the fact that each one of these events is characterised by violence stemming from injustice of one sort or another, be it racially charged as in Genocide and slavery or politically and nationalistically motivated as in the Anglo-Boer and world Wars. In each of these there is the fight for freedom from some threatened or real form of repression. They differ in the nature of their fights- some are internal fights for freedom dividing people within borders- Slavery, Wars of resistance, The struggle for liberation and some are external, usually uniting different people within the country against a common enemy as in the World Wars. Together they represent an opportunity to pull people together by inspiring a common sense of pride and identity by emphasising that the country as a whole has defeated so many forms of brutality and repression to ultimately gain it’s freedom and as such the freedom of each and every one of its citizens across all ethnic barriers.

The Freedom park was created for one specific purpose, as stated in the source: to help South Africans reconnect with the lost spirits that died in war, who fell for South Africa, in the way that their culture dictates, i.e. a ground for the mutual respect of the dead by all South Africans, regardless of cultural belief. Therefore, according to the logic provided by the source, it stands to reason that such a place would be perceived to play an important part in the restoration and rejuvenation of the indigenous, South African cultures that were diminished by the apartheid area, not to mention helping to rebuild the bridges between culture burnt away during the long years of apartheid separation.

The 2 sources discuss the purpose of Freedom Park, that is the need to create a place of remembrance which will allow people to remember the fallen, those that have shaped the country, and therefore inspire a deeper feeling of commitment to building it in the future. In doing this they show how invaluable it is to delve into the complex cultural belief systems of different groups within the country. If one honours these appropriately e.g. by fastidiously allowing the visiting of the places of death and carrying out relevant rituals and therefore ensuring the return of the spirits of dead combatants, the experience of the living is resolved and completed and their ability to have a positive outlook on a South African future restored. It is therefore vital that one have a deep understanding and sensitivity towards each different groups particular understanding and rituals surrounding death and remembrance, as if you validate and honour these individually you allow each group dignity and this will in turn foster respect of each other and a common wish to build a country where the future can be shared by all.

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