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  • Writer's picturegraeme

Lockdown Reflections Day 32

Today in South Africa we remember that glorious moment in 1994 when we stood side by side as a nation for the first time ever to cast our votes in the first properly democratic elections our country had ever held.

Back in 1994, at the age of 23, I had not a single black friend. I knew black people, of course, and interacted with them. But apartheid had done its job, and I was segregated and separated from my fellow citizens.

Today, I am reflecting on my friendship circle. It includes Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Venda, Shona and others. It includes Coloureds (some of whom are happy with that label, and some not), and Indians (most of whom still don’t support the Proteas, but we’ll leave that be for now), and Chinese. I mention these only because of the old apartheid classifications that are no more. I love the diversity of my friendship circle that represents multiple layers of difference, including language, economics, ethnicity, race, education and gender expressions.

As we remember our Freedom Day in these weird and unsettling circumstances, I take a moment to remind myself that apartheid was designed to keep us apart. And it worked. But we are better than that. And we will be even better when we build friendships and relationships with people who have vastly different life experiences to us. We can only call ourselves a nation if we build connections across the divides that used to separate us. Diversity makes us better and stronger.

And let us never forget that each of us are truly free only when all of us are truly free. And that hasn’t happened yet. Happy freedom day.

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