Again, as South Africans we landed into a situation where we are hurling insults at each other, resorting to violent actions to show our unhappiness and disapproval and moving further away from that once revered dream of being a rainbow nation. The Click’s hair debacle proved again how quickly common ground is disappearing amongst us as a country. Yes, the hair issue warrants a response and points to the need to change the race-based and stereotypical lenses through which we look at others in creating a home for all. Our inability to have a constructive dialogue about this issue clearly shows the fault lines in our society and that we are tethering on the brink of destroying the little bit of social cohesion that still holds us together.
If we want to live in a country where our rights and core essence as human beings are recognized and respected, we must urgently and with haste return to a space of constructive dialogue. Dialogue emphasizes the centrality of people and the relationships between them. By establishing a space and a process through which people listen to each other, feel heard by each other, and learn from each other, dialogues can change relationships. Engaging in constructive dialogue will give South Africans the chance to hear and understand perspectives that are different from their own. The sharing of perspectives and exploring these perspectives, can lead to changes in the hearts and minds of people and create a stronger common ground to build a more cohesive society.
As South Africans, we are confronted with so many issues that pull us in different directions. Our landscape is littered with political, moral, and financial questionable actions and decisions that create a high degree of polarisation and enmity amongst its citizens. If we are not able to engage these issues through effective dialogue in safe spaces, I foresee a social revolution very soon in our country.
“We often hate each other, because we fear each other; we fear each other, because we don’t know each other; we don’t know each other, because we cannot communicate; we cannot communicate because we are separated.” Martin Luther King.
It is time that we strengthen our dialogues and dialogue processes on issues of race, gender, and ethnicity. We need to address it more deeply, consciously, and intentionally. We need to consistently look at the broader context and systemic issues. South Africa averted a blood bath through the CODESA conversations that culminated in our democracy. Let us learn from the lessons of the past and not enter into conversations with shields wanting to protect ourselves and demonize others.
In this current Clicks/hair situation that we have just experienced, let’s engage in constructive dialogue processes that can turn issues into new relationships, explore common ground through giving and sharing information and contribute to developing spaces of engagement that satisfy people on all levels.