The Windhoek Observer sent its intern reporters to Grove Mall in Windhoek to get public views on the issue of racism in Namibia.
Racism remains a key issue in this country whether it is individual (“Hey you baboon!”) or institutional (whites only patronizing businesses owned by other whites, schools built by white communities, effectively for their kids only) and on the eve of a free Namibia’s 29th birthday, the battle against bias continues. Some may have thought that racism was gone once apartheid and colonial laws were abolished, but that is not the case. Changing the laws, cannot change the hearts of some citizens.
One would think that younger whites and blacks Born Free in these decades after independence would be more liberal on the race issue. In this ICT age where we all are equal on smart phones and using social media and global online information, people ought to be less race conscious. But, it seems the ‘all people are not equal’ way of thinking has not died out. Perhaps some younger people are repeating the lessons of race lessons learned at home or in their private schools and in their self-segregated communities, churches and cultural organizations.
But all is not hopeless on this issue. Thankfully, there are clear-headed white and black people everywhere who just want to live and let live. And that is the kind of thinking Namibian needs now more than ever.
Speaking to the public on the matter, one mall pedestrian, Janet Coetzee, stated that, racism is a complete nonsense. “There is no other way I can say it. The world is covered with so many unlike cultures, and each is curious and amazingly fascinating. The people of the world are of different skin colour according to the climate where they live. How in the hell can you hate someone just because, out of several multimillion people, one of that group looks or acts different from you? Racism is ignorance.”
Jameson Gorge says, racism is bad no matter who it is against. “Why take up the time of your life and be dedicated to hate when you can do great things? Why should someone who is of a different colour as you be treated differently? Why put your life, and others life down the drain because of hate, why kill or push people down. Why ignore racism towards one group but point out racism from another group’’.
He added that racism is something that defines somebody’s capacity of thinking, “Whoever is racist, has a limited mind-set of not valuing other racial groups”.
Charl Dreyer, computer salesman/photographer said, racism is still alive in Namibia and it shouldn’t be. “I had multiple friends of different colour and people from my race questioned me, why am I a friend to some of the people that are not of my race. But, I feel that life is too short to waste your time hating anyone. To me racism is not a good thing; I’m not a racist, so I don’t judge people according to their skin colours, we are all equal on this earth”.
Another person, who prefers to be anonymous, who was also against racism, says all races are equal and people must be judged on what they do, not the colour of their skin or their ethnic background. “You can have a Damara wife, white friend, Chinese soulmate, whatever…it doesn't matter. We should respect each other not because of skin colour, but because of what we carry in our hearts”.
“In soccer, racism is heavily looked down and frowned upon, and rightly so. Many teams have many different national players playing for one club. When their fans make racist chants and noises during games, there is a heavy penalty for this because the message is clear – racism is wrong. This is the same with work environments. Everyone comes to work together to achieve one goal, and if people despise one another due to racism, how can we ever be a productive country?”
It is disappointing that during our assignment for this article of collecting comments from mainly white visitors to the mall, we encountered several people who were racist towards us! They treated us disrespectfully, looked down at us as if we were inferior and had generally immoral attitudes in how they treated us, “Go away!” one woman shouted.
Another lady grabbed her handbag in fear when she saw us approach and attempt to greet her respectfully and introduce ourselves.
We also approached couples. In one case, the woman wanted to give her opinions but her husband stopped her from saying what she wanted to say. “No you cannot give your opinions to such a topic,” he told her as he hustled her away from us.