When young students use racism as a weapon against their fellow students as has been reported as commonplace in the Deutsche Höhere Privatschule (DHPS) in Windhoek, it means that the families of those offending students are racist.
White people don’t like being called racist and always believe that their two black friends or the fact that they give their second-hand clothes to their black maid is a badge of non-racism. This year of George Floyd and COVID and economic disaster has been a golden opportunity for all people to introspect. We must find a way to live together or shrivel up as we force ourselves to live apart. Whites must see their prejudices reflected in the actions of their children as a wake-up call.
Children learn what they live. Parents, if your kids spout offensive racist words to black kids that is on them. But, it is also on YOU. Where did they learn that such things are ok? They learned it at home.
If a young teen uses the N-word or the K-word to maliciously hurt black students that means that their homes are full of adults who use those words. The administration and teachers at DHPS must be held accountable for racist bullying in their school. But, the families of the racist bullies must not be let off the hook.
Reports that the student victims of the racist remarks went to teachers to report the behaviour only to have their pain belittled, is an outrage. Such reactions by white teachers are not surprising. Whites always give other whites the benefit of the doubt, consciously or not.
The protests and demonstrations around the world against racism, apply to whites in Namibia as well. Could it be that the vast majority of parents are not teaching their children to believe that all people are created equal? Are they teaching that being white is being ‘better’?
We live in an internet, social media world. Things are more volatile amongst young people than adults think. The victims of racist bullying will stew in silence and simmer with anger. DHPS had better understand that no one will docilely accept having someone’s foot on their neck indefinitely. Sooner or later, an explosion will occur. It will not be pretty.
Forcing a pre-teen to fight alone for his/her dignity adds another obstacle to their progress towards academic achievement. White students don’t have that additional burden to bear. The playing field is not even when racism is quicksand waiting for students of colour.
DHPS and others out there – Stop forcing Black students to ‘accept’ your beliefs on how THEY should manage racist insults. You must deal with THEIR points of view on how those insults impact them; not YOUR point of view on it.
Impressionable pre-teens and teens are searching to discover many things about themselves. Peer, teacher, sibling, and friend approval are their lifeblood. Negativity from any of those corners can damage a fragile ego. These kids are searching for self-identification and struggling with self-worth issues. Racism must not be allowed to steal their joy.
The student victims of racism at DHPS, their wide community of supporters and parents must organize. Letters of Complaint must be made polite, clear and legal (no wild accusations) and posted online. The credible witnesses and victims of events of overt racist bullying must write about their pain. Create #downwithracistbullies.
These credible letters must be sent to local educational authorities and even directly to President Hage Geingob. It is a good civics lesson in governance and democracy. The offending parties must be held accountable and the racist bullying must stop!
DHPS receives funding from the German government. Money talks. Well-presented allegations must be sent to the German Ministerium für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten directly. The German authorities must be called out. Why are they giving taxpayer money to institutions in Namibia that are ineffective in stamping out racism in their midst?
Privileged whites who quietly believe that white is always right, don’t ‘get’ this seriousness of their kids using racist words as weapons. They never will. But, their children have a chance to be exposed to the beauty of broader thinking and make a choice.
DHPS teachers, administrators, parents, and students have a unique opportunity to live the change. This is the new normal. DHPS must make nice public statements abhorring racism, but must be forced to back it up with tangible, identifiable ACTION. We are watching.