It was one of those easy and relaxed days over the weekend.

I was in a group of family and friends enjoying drinks, snacks and good company.

After all, we had been invited to hang out and just catch up.

I was aware that this was an exclusive black group in a so-called former white-only suburb in a now non-racial society but I was not going to have sleepless nights over it.

Frankly, I chose not to make it bother me.

It was when the whisky was getting deep down into the brain cells that one of the friends broached the subject of black children in white schools.

Of course, the entire group had children who attended expensive and exclusive schools where black pupils were outnumbered by their white counterparts.

I did not realise that this was now a non-issue among black parents: discussing racial numbers at schools or offices.

Ironically, many black parents would prefer their children to be a minority in a so-called white school.

They are not bothered that their children lose knowledge of their indigenous language or intuitive connection with authentic blackness, whatever that is.

Over the last 20 years blacks have somewhat dealt with their fear of losing touch with their blackness.

If not, then they have just decided to ignore it or treat it as a subject that is not worthy of serious attention.

In its own way, this subject of “who is black and who is not” is one of those that sink us into depression, confusion and bewilderment.

Our history may have given us a young Steve Biko who was a deep thinker on racial issues but not even he has provided a solution to this issue of “who is black and who is not”.

You will find that when this subject of colour is raised, people stand up to pour themselves more drinks.

If not, they break into silence or start some other conversation of a lighter note.

I am sure that this can, rightly, be read as a signal that black middle class and elites are moving away from obsession with “authentic blackness” and more towards “non-racialism.”

Of course, it remains a challenge to send black children to what are perceived to be “white schools” in an evolving non-racial society.

But most parents just hope and pray that their children will be fine.

It is good that blacks are holding their ground and insisting on sending their children to the best schools in the country.

Alas that they do not learn their indigenous language or may lose contact with black culture, whatever that is, now.

But it is a good thing that there is a determination on the part of black parents who can afford not to give a damn about racial politics of the past albeit done for wrong reasons of one-upmanship.

They are unwavering and not willing to be intimidated by those burdened by apartheid thinking and attitudes who continue to obsess with who is white and who is not black enough.

It may look like cheap escapist behaviour not to deal with the issue of racism or colour in our schools.

But this is not necessarily so.

When it comes to discussion of racism or colour among elite parents and their offspring of young South African children who are under 20 years of age, the subject dies a natural death.

In fact, it should.

It is now our collective responsibility to not only build but make sure that our children live in a non-racial society.

The threat to nation-building and nurturing a new spirit of unity is our unwillingness to make a clean break with the past.

Perhaps in the 1960s and 1970s when Biko was still alive, it was relevant to make race a central issue.

That was the era of white racism and black people’s quest for a society where no one will be judged by the colour of … er, their eyes and skin or hair texture.

It was a divided society.

But 20 years into a non-racial society, it is time that we all sneer at the convention of perpetuating obsession with race.

How will our children learn to live and grow up in a non-racial society when we parents and adults continue to look at things in terms of black and white?

Our children are the heirs of this country’s constitutional ideals and principle: non-racism, non-sexism and national unity.

They must be left to forge a new and brighter future for themselves.

It is a significant achievement that the impulse to obsess with race or defining schools and neighborhoods as black or white is beginning to fade away.

This is a giant step in the long walk to a truly non-racial society.

I wonder how whites deal with the issue of race in their families and communities. After all, they brought racism into the South African picture.


Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic, columnist and civil servant. He lives in Midrand.

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