When I was in Ghana I went to a Slave Castle and learned about how the Dutch were instrumental in sending slaves to the states (https://sahzu.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/eyes-wide-open/). They were horrible rulers who destroyed so many people. I walked through that Castle feeling so much shame.
Now I am in South Africa which also has a Dutch influence. The more I learn, the more shame I feel about my ancestry. What in the world was going on with the Dutch back in the day! They were pretty horrible people. South Africa is abbreviated as ZA. I asked about this and learned that Z is for Zuid which means South. My name, Zuidema, which means “from the South”. I thought that was pretty cool. But that is about it.
What I have learned in the few days of being here is the effects of Apartheid. How the Dutch had a “Secret Society” called the Band of Brothers who were pretty evil. They instigated Apartheid and for years kept the black people completely separate and without opportunity. Each city has some sort of barrier that kept the blacks and whites separate. In Bloemfontain there are railroad tracks and black people needed to have special paperwork to go across the tracks. Other cities are divided by rivers or highways. Now that Apartheid is over there is more “mingling” but there is still a divide.
In Botshebelo, where we are working this week, there are only black people. During Apartheid, they had to move black people out of town due to space. So they set up townships and sent black people out to them. These townships are still very poor. Almost totally black and very lacking in resources. There really were no resources there, it was just an empty barren land.
And all of this because of the Dutch. One of our friends here, who has been working in ZA for many years, compares it to how immigrants took over and sent the Native Americans packing. And over the years the Native Americans became more marginalized and placed in reservations.
But what happened in ZA is that the native people fought back. (Nelson Mandela is the MAN!) and Apartheid ended and although it is still a work in progress it is a powerful think that happened. Think what many have changed in the States if the Native Americans had fought back and received the rights and privileges that they deserved.
The white people in ZA (called Afrikaans) are still very present here, but they are not in charge and do not have the full power as they did before. We were told people would assume we are Afrikaans because we are white. English is spoken here by all professionals, but I like to have a few “local” words to use (hello, thank you etc). I asked about this and was told, you do not want Afrikaans words because you do not want to be known as an Afrikaans. But here’s the thing, I am Afrikaans. That is my history, by ethnicity, my heritage. I know all people did horrible things in the past, the British, the Spanish, the Greek… but we don’t often hear about Dutch history. I live in a Dutch community where it is celebrated by wooden shoes and tulips. And there is no mention of Slave trading and Apartheid.
How in the world can we recover and heal from all of this? How can we make up for the horrors of our past? How can we prevent them in the future? Cause we still are pretty crummy people. We still see war and genocide and terrorism. We can look back and understand how horrible slavery was and we still have slaves. When are we going to learn our lesson?