Racial bias, intolerance and prejudice are unfortunate facts of life that will probably never fade.
The insidious beast that lurks beneath our society will always pervade it.
Lest we forget, just a little more than two decades ago, there wasn’t even the remotest possibility of a black person being allowed anywhere near a high office except with a broom.
We couldn’t vote, we couldn’t attend the same schools, let alone sit and enjoy a meal in the same restaurants.
Indeed, we have come a long way.
And knowing who we are and where we come from goes a long way in weakening that ogre of racism.
The truth is that racism is not a “white” problem or a “black” problem.
It is a human problem, and each one of us, regardless of colour, is capable of being the victim and the victimiser.
The sooner we realise this, the sooner we will cease blaming others for being guilty of what we could very likely be guilty of ourselves.
As Human Rights Day and International Day Against Racism on March 21 (Tuesday) approaches, segregation and discrimination are woven into all aspects of life, including education.
So what is the way forward?
Education is vital in nursing tolerance, reducing discrimination and violence, and helping us to learn to live together, especially for children and young people during their formative years.
We need to teach our children at home and at school to recognise racism and understand that it is unfair.
One of the good things about children is that they don’t like unfairness, and by teaching them that racism is unjust at a young age, they can begin to be aware of it and talk against it.
The most important thing about racism is to start talking about it early on.
Of course, some parents struggle to address racial behaviours when these incidents occur in front of their children.
As parents, we should set an example by speaking out against racism and showing that such comments and behaviours aren’t acceptable.
We need to tell our children that racism exists and explain what it is. We should never underestimate the likelihood of our kids being victims of racial slurs.
Exposing our children to people of many backgrounds is critical in creating open minds.
Real experiences, real knowledge of people is the only thing that breaks down those stereotypes.
Most of all, we need to be honest with our children.
We cannot be afraid of talking about the dangers of racial bigotry.
Fear of talking about the folly of racial prejudice creates ignorance, and that’s no way to live.
As government, we are working hard to building a cohesive, inclusive and just society.
We believe in equality of opportunity and equal protection for people of different ethnic backgrounds.
We are working to increase awareness and respect for ethnic and cultural diversity, and to promote good relations and mutual respect, so that everyone feels valued.
Indeed, while the scars remain within us, so does an abundance of hope, communication, listening and speaking with honesty and effort.
The hope lies in our ability to understand and our constant attempts to be understood.
Participating actively in endeavours to break down racism’s
ugly structure is far superior to passively watching relationships crumble.
I honestly believe that there is hope in our own self-search, coming to terms with our imperfections and challenging ourselves every day to live above them.
Of course, I said earlier that racism is difficult to eradicate, but it is not impossible!
We can use our minds to think past the natural tendency of our brains to categorise people.
We can keep in mind that people may have different physical characteristics, but beneath the surface we are all very much alike.
We all have the same needs, the same values, and the same desires.
Indeed, racism has always kept this country divided. As with all enemies, it cannot be defeated until we unite.
Indeed, we will never be a colour-blind nation.
We can, however, through honest confrontation with racism, lower the negative valence attached to social constructions of race and physical characteristics.
In doing so, we will take a major step forward to becoming a nation of diverse cultures who along the way construct new dominant values about the social individual and the social role of the state in public life.
Phumulo Masualle is premier of the Eastern Cape. His Twitter handle is @EC_premier