We are sitting around the table when a colleague makes a remark about how diverse we are as a group and how this is indicative of how far we have come as a country. I go from calm to fire breathing dragon in a matter of seconds. I’m not sure why I reacted the way I did, or why this comment angered me so vehemently but maybe we should look at the facts before I go any further. The race best represented by the group was White, with a Coloured and Indian minority. Males outnumbered females but by a small margin so maybe I should concede a point there? Sure, we had some sort of mix but how was this group meant to be representative of “how far we’ve come as a country” if it excluded 80% of our population? According to the most recent Statistics SA report, in South Africa, women outnumber men, just over 8% of our population is White and nearly 81% is Black. I am incredulous until I find my words and then I am foaming at the mouth when I start to speak. How can we be so ignorant and so blithe about how underrepresented the majority of our population was in that group? And how could we merrily pat ourselves on the back and talk about how far we’ve come when this group whether purposeful or not, had excluded the race best representative of our country?
Now, I’m not writing this to illustrate the doom and gloom in our country, we have come far since the dark, crippling days of the apartheid. We have moved forward, but just not far forward enough. What’s enough? Enough to me talks to of representation that matches the makeup of our country, enough talks to me about us knowing our past and being cognisant of it, instead of trying to make excuses for a lack of transformation. Enough is when we stop thinking that skills and ability are limited to the 8% of our population. Enough is when we stop using the words “BEE appointment” when what we really mean is inadequate, when what we really mean is that that job would have been better suited to a White person but hey we’d be penalised if we didn’t hire the right colour. I’ve heard time and time again the words “But you know this is just going to be a BEE appointment” in such a negative, condescending manner that I wonder myself if the people saying these things are even aware of the fact that they are the ones deepening the myth of the skills deficit in people of colour by setting these token appointments up to fail. I have seen the poisonous roots of racial prejudice flourish and deepen, catalysed by a token hire of the “right colour” who has no power or voice.
We have come far, but we will continue to crawl along if we refuse to see things as they really are. I know that this may be my daily rant and that I really should not have gotten so angry with a comment about diversity but part of this thinking, part of this continuous exclusion just sickens me.