I have always seen myself as a South African. I do not see myself as an Afrikaner or a Boer and definitely not as part of the "Boer Volk". I am a white person born on African (South African to be precise) soil and am part of a multiracial, multicultural and multilingual newborn nation that, I hope, will grow into the South African nation that it has the potential to be, despite our collective mistakes that brought us to this unparalleled place in history.
Because of where I work, I am in constant contact and communication with the other cultures, especially the blacks and coloureds. It is a very complicated situation as in the different cultures there exists various sub-cultures. For instance you have Afrikaans speaking whites and you have English speaking whites, not to even mention the many Jewish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, etc., people who are also called white, with their own habits and eccentricities. Amongst the Coloureds you will find those from the Cape, the West Coast, the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, etc., all differing in their outlooks and customs. Then we have the different black nations, the Zulu, Xhosa, Venda, Sotho, Ndebele, etc., people once again with their own unique ethos and lifestyle. We must also remember the many Asians in our communities.
We will not even touch on religion but as every religion imaginable is practiced in South Africa, you can just imagine the load this puts on the back of this particular camel.
Now I know, so many cultures, customs and languages is the perfect recipe for confusion on the scale of Babel of the Bible, BUT, remember, no matter what our language, our race, our culture, our history, our religion or whatever, we are all human. We all share the same hopes, the same fears, and the same dreams. We all share a basic need for nourishment, shelter, clothing, happiness, acceptance and all the other requirements to lead a comfortable, contented life. I believe that if we could just recognise this truth and accept that every person, no matter who or what he or she is, deserves the same respect as us, this country can, and will grow into a South Africa to be proud of.
Once we recognise one another's uniqueness, we will realise that we have much to learn from one another and to share with one another. By burrowing our heads into the historical anthill and denying that we are all South Africans with the same problems and opportunities, we are in fact holding back the great future that awaits this country and its people.
We are a young country, as I said in my opening paragraph, a newborn country, and I know that I will not see all my dreams for this country come true in my time, but that does not stop me from working towards those dreams. I admit, I also fail sometimes. I become irritated when, for instance, I am busy doing business with a black person and suddenly he ignores me and starts a conversation in a language I do not understand, with someone else. At that moment the fact that I know how socially orientated the black people are, does not help one little bit. Then again I am sure he or she also becomes irritated with me for always being in a hurry, a certain trait of the European descended South Africans.
Fifteen years ago, when apartheid was at last thrown out and the organisation I work for began its integration process, I admit, I was scared witless. I could not see how we would be able to cope and yes, it was and sometimes still is, difficult as we all still carry a huge bundle of baggage from our collective past with us every day, but I can feel this bundle getting lighter and lighter every year. The young people who come into our organisation now, did not really experience the harshness of apartheid and it is so encouraging to see how the cultural boundaries amongst them in their work situation is becoming fainter and fainter. I am sure that when they go home, they will each practice their own unique culture, and that is good, but when they are at work the mistrust of the past is not quite as noticeable any longer and there is an openess that has never been there before.
It would be so good for this country if we could all bury the past, put up a worthy tombstone that we can visit every now and again to remind us not to repeat out mistakes, and to move on with our life. We should all begin to recognise the possibilities that our diversity holds and start to take the best out of every culture and apply it to build the future of our country.