Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Let's Celebrate All Pretoria Girls High Heroines And Not 'Celebritise' Individuals

There is an inherent bias or prejudice that motivates the media and the public in general to single out heroes in a fight of many. It makes for good optics and yes 'glamourizies' the story. Zulaikha was not the only girl or the first to be disciplined at Pretoria Girls High for her hair. Well... Rosa Parks was not the first woman nor the instigator of the Montgomery Bus Protest.

The name Claudette Colvin has all but been forgotten by history. Though she was actually the first black woman to be arrested in the boycott that sparked the 1950s civil rights movement. BUT for many years, Montgomery's black leaders did not publicize Colvin's pioneering effort because she was a teenager who was pregnant by a married man at the time of her heroic stand.

Dishearteningly, Colvin was reportedly described as "feisty", "mouthy", and "emotional" by the very black people she helped fight for. Thus much like the white oppressors erased most of black history, the blacks erased one of their own with the same impunity. Oh the irony!

The same conflict of moral paradigm can be found in our own apartheid history. Many fought the fight for our liberation but they did not fit the mould of the charismatic-suit-the-optics mould of a leader. They too we shoved to the sidelines.

The sad reality is that this singling out of people as heroes of a movement simply based on their looks feeds into the very same prejudice we claim to fight against from the oppressor. There is a reason history's heroes are often thin, handsome, or lightskinned.


We dealing with kids here so I don't wanna go too deep and have this take away from the poignancy of the girls' bravery to stand for their rights.

I raise this because I was disturbed by the comments the other girl received when she pointed out that this is not about one girl. My view on this is that we have the opportunity to write our history properly.

Furthermore, Zulaikha is just 13 years old. We also have to be careful not to disrupt her life by throwing the spotlight on her and isolate her from broader conversation because that could have dire ramifications. She is still in her formative years and while her conviction is commendable, she is still a child and still needs to develop her own character.

The spotlight is not always a good place for a child. It can create all sort of problems because we are impressionable at that age and many things can go wrong. Let's acknowledge and encourage her activism but with some sense of limit. She is an amazing young woman let this not be an episode that tarnishes the bright future she likely has ahead. 

Can we not perpetuate the nonsense from the past that separated us on the basis of superficiality?. Can we celebrate the Pretoria Girls as a unit and not single out one girl as if she alone deserves praise.


Call it jealousy or whatever, these are kids and are entitled to be. We as adults ... as black adults... let's be cognizant of the girls' feelings and pride. Let's instil a better sense of worthiness in these kids that says you are noticed regardless of the shade of skin color, your body shape or voice tone.

We all know why one girls' pictures are readily shared over others'. We can pretend we don't but we do. Let's be above the superficiality of the media and societal pressure. Let's celebrate all our women's amazing power to say NO MORE and stop dividing them according to who will look better in the optics.

Let's be better than the blacks before us who failed people like Claudette Colvin. Our black heroines do not have to fit a mould or societal pressure of acceptability.

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