After Mandela, the world needs to try harder

While we celebrate Mandela’s life, the world needs fully realise his dream of true racial reconciliation.

I am a black African. I was born on this continent. I went to school and university in Africa. I have never lived or studied abroad. Africa is where I first learnt to walk and talk as a child. This is where I got my first kiss and got my heart broken.

Growing up here helped shape my perspective of the world, and made me who I am today.

Nelson Mandela’s death affected all of us differently. Where and how you grew up helped form your opinion about the former South African president and anti-apartheid hero.

Mandela is one of many leaders who moulded me – taught me to be proud to be black.

Black people experience some things differently from white people. It’s a fact of life. There is nothing wrong with that.

Being black in Africa has its advantages. But it also has its many disadvantages. The black majority are the poorest, many are jobless and most feel they don’t really own their countries. Former colonial powers still control our economies and own vast chunks of the land – often helped by some of our political leaders who make deals so they can line their own pockets.

And yes, as black people we still experience racism. We are sometimes subtly reminded that we are not yet good enough.

For instance, a friend of mine went to a job interview at a company where blacks were in the minority. She holds a master’s degree and has years of experience. She was turned down. She was told that the company is concerned that the clients “won’t be able to hear” when she speaks.

The person meant her accent was not quite what they were looking for.

When Nelson Mandela died it reminded me of all the work he did to end racism and promote equality. Now that he is gone people of all races have to finish what he started.

It’s good to see many mixed couples outside Mandela’s home in Houghton, Johannesburg. They, like hundreds of other people, are leaving flowers and cards paying tribute to a great man.

Later on in the day I met Gugu and Andrew Norgate – newlyweds. Gugu is a black South African and Andrew is white.

During apartheid, inter-racial relationships would have been illegal. Today, couples like Gugu and Andrew don’t have to hide their relationship.

But being in a mixed-race couple in South Africa still has its challenges.

“People have accepted that we’ve kind of merged. But not this close,” says Gugu.  “It’s ok to work with someone of a different colour and have coffee with them. But if it gets this close, this personal, marrying, then it becomes weird. That’s what I think some people are struggling to deal with.”

I have met people who really believe racism is no longer a problem. They tend not to be black though.

Nelson Mandela changed so many lives and taught the world that it is possible to co-exist.

While we celebrate Nelson Mandela’s life and his achievements, the whole world now needs to work harder to fully realise Madiba’s dream of a world of true racial reconciliation and integration.