Since the publishing of David Bullard’s “controversial” column: Uncolonised Africa wouldn’t know what it was missing, much has surfaced in terms of debate concerning the message the piece sends. Many have called the piece racist and offensive, and others have found it to be satiric.
After lengthy discussions with media students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg campus, I have discovered that David Bullard has hit a nerve. It is not the insult or racist nerve that has been widely discussed; but the innate prejudice that lies within every human being that he has exposed. For you see, it is not that David Bullard criticised African heritage, but that he forced South Africans to think about their past and possibly where their future is headed if things carry on in this downward spiral.
The simple question of why can’t we just get along, pops into my head. Mondli Makhanya’s response makes mention of resentment, why is there resentment in South Africa? Surely the answer cannot be the infamous past? This might be too complex for my young brain to grasp, but I should think that at some point the present should have to take responsibility for itself? Yes, the past was a ghastly and vindictive contraption, but surely it cannot always stand as a scapegoat for the errors of today?
What I found rather disturbing in my discussions with students, was their belief that the piece was acceptable in other African countries because they have not suffered the same violent racist past South Africa has endured. Okay, maybe other African countries wouldn’t have a their knickers in twist about it, because let’s face it, they’ve got more important things on their minds, but the fact that their democracies are much older than South Africa’s does not make it any less violent or race driven.
The Bullard debate has given way for old prejudices to rear its ugly head, stopping just short of one group shouting at the other: “Oh just forget it, you can’t understand what we suffered”, but in a far more academic and eloquent way.
What the country needs is not the firing of a satirist like David Bullard, but an education on simple things, like letting go and moving on because as childlike as it may sound, what harm could it really do? Bullard may have insulted the culture of a great number of South Africans, which I don’t condone, but what is worse? Thirty years from now, when the now 22-year-old black man from my lecture, tell his son that he did not get a job because of that 35-year-old white man on the interview board? Likewise, the now 22-year-old white man who tells his son in thirty years time that the reason the economy is ravaged and the country is overrun by crime is the fault of the 40-year-old black man that just happens to work for the government.
All these people were born in the new democracy and are blamed for things they know nothing of. So what’s worse, one offensive satiric piece by David Bullard that would have gone unnoticed if attention wasn’t drawn to it, or generations of South Africans bred in hatred and resentment for their fellow man?