Today is youth day. It is an important and groundbreaking date in the history of transformation in South Africa. On this day in 1976 black youths took part in a peaceful protest in Sharpeville. The purpose was to make their voices known against limiting educational opportunities for black learners like being forced to receive tuition in Afrikaans. Unfortunately, their protest was not acknowledged by the authorities and halted by violent police action.

We all have a lesson to learn from that tragic event. In order to build a united South Africa black and white need to join hands and become a peaceful racially integrated society. There is currently still far too much racial division. Tragic.

An important question is how can we as ordinary citizens can play a part in alleviating racial tension within the environments we daily occupy? I have a few suggestions to apply every day and which can make small contributions towards the goal of unity? They are:

  • Learn something about different cultures every day. Honour differences without judgement.
  • Try to learn five African language words every week. Attempting to learn another’s language is a sign of respect. It is also very good for brain development.
  • Make sure your children are familiar with the struggle history of South Africa. I started this process by showing my grandchildren the movie “Sarafina”.
  • Get to know the personal challenges individuals of other races in your immediate environment face. Show a genuine interest. Not many of us, for instance, realize the extent of the difficulties Zimbabwean citizens in South Africa are currently facing in terms of the dollar exchange rate.
  • Stop generalizing and resist the temptation to make statements like “All government officials are corrupt”. This is simply not true.
  • Take a firm stand when other members of your culture make derogatory racist statements.
  • If you are able to, take responsibility for empowering those around you by giving them opportunities for self-development such as learning new skills such as obtaining a driving license or completing Grade 12.

Something small can make a big difference!