In an issue as big as the decolonisation of a university – and this is a big issue – it is difficult for one individual to come up with an answer that is all-encompassing, mature, inoffensive and objective. However, in the Information Age, where transformation is a fire burning bright, fueled by the passions of the previously disadvantaged, this is a challenge that needs to be tackled, however difficult.
There are many opinions of what I, and others who oftentimes think like me, like to call the “Extreme Leftist” that base most of their ideals upon an unrealistic, Utopian society. For instance, there is the argument being made by many individuals and societies that we should move beyond the ‘oppressive’ system of classifying people based on so-called unchangeable facts of reality; things like race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. This, at face value, sounds not only just and equitable, but also realistic; I say it is not.
The implicit argument being made here is that classifying people is wrong. “Our ‘colonialist, racist, white, Apartheid overlords’ classified us according to race, and we see where that led. Therefore, we should remove the system of using race in any way whatsoever when it comes to students at SU.” I think that this is not only illogical, but counter-productive to the decolonisation effort. The classification of students according to race, for instance, is nothing more than raw data. Data itself can neither be moral nor immoral; it cannot be oppressive. What one makes with that data can be judged to be moral or immoral. I see the decolonisation of SU as taking into account the race of the student – as well as their gender, family status, age, socio-economic backgrounds, and all such relevant information – and using that data to attempt to correct previous injustices. Many social correction movements (many of whom I would classify either wholly or partially as ‘Extreme Leftists’) make the claim that should the university abolish using race in their placement policy, for instance, they should instead only use the academic merit of the individual as an indicator of ‘worthiness’ of acceptance into an academic institution like SU. This is unfair, in my opinion. A black student, for instance, from a school in a township – a school that does not have facilities like high-end labs and sports fields – who achieves a 70% for Maths despite having no after-school tuition, or even help from their parent(s)/guardian(s), is, I would think, an achievement on par with or even greater than that of a white student in a private school with the best teachers, state-of-the-art facilities, private tuition and parent(s)/guardian(s) who are educated enough to help them with homework who achieves 90% for Maths. So, to correct the system, to try and mend the injustices of the past, we must take into account all of these factors which are indicative of an ‘underprivileged’ life, a life that was forcibly made theirs by an immoral, racist government. To decolonise SU is to acknowledge that we are different, and to embrace our differences, but also to realise that our differences in race, for instance, led to a difference in privilege and opportunity, and we should do everything in our power to attempt to right these wrongs, instead of trying so hard to forget the past that we run blindly into a ‘bright’ future like a moth flies into a flame.