Since I have left home, every time I hear a South African song or see the flag I become super excited and happy. I wear my South African traditional attire with pride, and I can spend hours telling people about South Africa.
Before coming to South Korea I didn’t know much about the Korean war, I knew enough to know that North and South Korea do not get along. So, when the opportunity came for me to visit the United Nations Cemetery, I was very excited to go there and learn more about the Korean history (Who gets excited about seeing graves?). I had no background knowledge of the countries that assisted South Korea during the Korean war; I thought the country (South Korea) fought their war on their own (no jokes).
I arrived at the cemetery and watched a short video about the Korean war. I cannot adequately express the pride I felt when I heard that South Africa as one of the combatants who assisted South Korea during the war. After watching the video, I went to look for the graves of the South African soldiers who fought during the war. I must have been so excited that I didn’t listen carefully to the video because I went there expecting to see hundreds of graves, but there were only eleven graves. I proceeded to read the names hoping to come across a ‘Dlamini” or something, but there were only English and Afrikaners. I still stood there and took pictures of our flag and the graves anyways because I am proud of my country. While I was standing there, a friend came to me and gave me a little talk but enough for me to see beyond what meets the eye. Why was I standing there? Why was I proud of these men?
See the countries that backed South Korea during the Korean war were United Nations (UN) countries and South Africa was one of the founding members of the UN in 1945; an organization whose primary mission is “peacekeeping.” So, what “peacekeeping” did then South African government at that time have in mind when three years later they put in place a system that killed and oppressed black people physically and mentally to this day? South Africa or should I say “The Union of South Africa” was willing and kind enough to deploy soldiers to assist South Korea while back home they made sure that every black person lived in agony. They passed acts to made sure our parents and grandparents would be impoverished and enslaved for the rest of their lives. Many of us grew up wishing we were lighter, wishing our hair was silkier and unconsciously taught that being white is better. Through their treatment and belittlement of black people, I now have two names; one of which I could never say out loud and be proud because it was given to me so that a white person who doesn’t want to make an effort and call me “Nolusindiso” would have something to fall back on.
I cannot feel pride, loss nor grief for people whose efforts were a result of double standards. I cannot say that they were racist as the majority of white people during that era, nor cannot I separate them from the actions of their government but the cruel treatment of blacks by apartheid government overshadowed their sacrifice. They did not come from the South Africa that I’m proud of (most of the time) they came from a South Africa that saw white people as superior and black people as objects. They came from a South Africa that spilled the blood of many blacks like it was nothing yet were busy helping other countries protect their territories. They originated from a South Africa that made us feel to be heard or taken seriously, even by other black people, we needed to be white. They came from a South Africa that still, has every township corner poverty stricken. They came from South Africa that needed to fix itself before helping others. They came from a South Africa full of hypocrisy.