I had an additional, entirely noteworthy food experience yesterday.
But first, a quick moment to reflect back on Soweto.
During our afternoon in Soweto, we learned about a black South African boy named Hector Pieterson. He was shot and killed by police when he was 12 years old.
He was murdered in his home town of Soweto, a black township that was one of the designated areas in South Africa where black people were forced by law to live, and where the schools were being forced by law to teach black children in Afrikaans – the language of the oppressive white regime.
An image of Pieterson’s limp body being carried by a fellow student was circulated around the world. The photographer who took that iconic photograph, Sam Nzima, died only a few weeks ago.
The unrest that followed Pieterson’s death and the image that went “viral” (in the 20th century sense) led to more protests, and more black people being killed by police and security forces. This was known as the Soweto uprising of 1976 – a turning point for the anti-apartheid movement.
I wonder, what would Hector Pieterson want us to walk away with understanding from his memorial and museum?
What is the difficult work adults today are avoiding for which the next generations will be left to face the consequences?
What can we do to listen to the young people more sincerely, deeply and consistently?
This is the kind of event that makes me wonder about what reconciliation means, its goals, where it makes sense and where it does not.
People in our group have shared stories of incredible acts of forgiveness from individuals who have been deeply wronged, both here in the U.S. But is it fair to expect forgiveness out of everyone who has been wronged?
And if individuals don’t forgive, what does that mean for the fate of reconciliation at a broader, more political level? Can different groups within a community move on, be reconciled with one another, without forgiving? What of justice?
I think this gets at some of the frustration we have heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s shortcomings. The weight of the story of young Pieterson’s murder brought home for me the devastation and atrocity that apartheid and oppression wreaked on human beings – all the way to the youngest, most innocent individuals. It opened my eyes to how truly difficult and ambitious it is to aim for something like “reconciliation.”