The politics of Black parenthood.

Author:Motswatswa, Kelebogile

Apartheid so distorted normal human reactions among the Black population that parenting today cannot deliver the healthy relationships children need to grow up straight and true. Healing the wounds is critical.

The unfortunate reality about Black existence in South Africa is that suffering is inhered in it, and this suffering has impacted the way most Black parents view their roles and responsibilities.

The shards of inequality, poverty, violence, and injustice have nestled in the backs of our parents; they lie on them every night and wake up every morning to toil for a system that has taken from them more than it has given, and it continues to demand more.

Whether one's parent is a distinguished medical doctor or a vendor who sells the proverbial South African seven-colour meal at a corner in Sandton (one of Jo'burg's richest suburbs), many of us can relate to the frustration of being told the following: "I fed you, educated you and there was a roof over your head; what more do you want from me?" We seem to want more than our parents deem it necessary to give.

I have had many conversations with friends, acquaintances and strangers about the difficult relationships we have with our parents. The intensity of the difficulties ranges from person to person; for some, the strain is manageable and for others, it calls for estrangement.

As one who is estranged from her parents, I think a lot about Black parenthood, especially in the context of South Africa, where apartheid infantilised and dehumanised our parents, and denied them access to opportunities that would enable them to fully explore and express their potential as human beings. Due to the fact apartheid forced upon our parents a life of suffering, they had to make it against violent and oppressive odds to provide for their families.

Lack of healthy relationships

In 1994, apartheid may have ended as a system of governance but even as South Africa ushered in a new democracy, Black parents stepped into the new dispensation with wounds and the belief that to be Black is to suffer, and that's just how it is.

So, when doors that were hitherto closed opened, the focus was on sending their children to the schools they had little to no access to and ensuring the houses they built for their children were more than just shelter.

In their essay, 'Parenting, Poverty and Young People in South Africa', included in the South Africa Child Gauge 2015, produced by the University of Cape Town, researchers...

To continue reading

Request your trial