Youth Month: In Conversation with my Munchkins

Youth Day 16 June 2020

Written by: Executive Director, Ms Gugulethu Ndebele

As I was reflecting on this year’s June 16, as I do every year, I thought it would be great to have a conversation with my munchkins on their views on Youth Day

Initially, I intended to have a conversation with my daughter, hereafter referred to as Sisi (you know the Conversations with my daughter thing), but the twin brother, hereafter referred to as Bhuti, was having none of it. He reminded me that firstly, they were twins and that he has a view…as always

As a person who grew up during Apartheid and who became an activist, by accident, I have always appreciated the role and impact of young people.  I have also endeavoured to talk to my children about the significance of these important days for our democracy.

We have been having ongoing conversations around COVID, schooling, social media etc. since the Lockdown started.  But two events parked this conversation. The first one was a WhatsApp message forwarded to Sisi about rape and why women were not supposed to complain about it etc.  Second were videos that had been circulating showing learners from both their schools allegedly making racist comments. I then thought it would be useful to initiate this conversation and understand their take on these events. 

What an interesting and eye opening conversation it was and continues to be.  On the rape matter, Sisi did not mince her words.  She was frustrated because she could not find a word that she felt would be harsher than ‘inappropriate’. Eventually she settled for ‘insulting’ and ‘demeaning’ to victims and women.  Bhuti wondered if whoever wrote the message understood that rape was painful. Both felt that statements like these should not be allowed on social media.  We had a long conversation about the good and the bad of social media.  That conversation will form part of a series of these conversations.

Then we discussed the racist videos.  Both were very disappointed that the alleged perpetrators were senior people at their schools (Prefect and Rugby Captain), people they respected and who were leaders.  What stopped me dead on my tracks was what Bhuti said.  He said, and I quote, ‘given that these are young people, I think they learnt this from their parents.  And this excuse that they were not there in the past is lame.  They need to know that the past affects your future’ close quote. I was floored. I was floored for two reasons, firstly he spoke to the responsibility of parents and how we ‘teach’ our children how to behave.  Secondly that he understood the role of the past in his current and future. But I also smiled.

This conversation continued with us discussing the power of words.  The munchkins felt that people need to understand how hurtful words can be.  They spoke about friends who became depressed and suicidal as a result of the words that were said to them. According to them, the violence we see is fuelled by hurtful words.  They made reference to the k-word, the n-word and how some of their white friends do not realise how hurtful these are.  Apparently there is even a thing called giving an N pass, which allows white people to use the N-word without consequence.  How sad.

I was enjoying the conversation, Sisi asked Bhuti to tell me about the best friends he blocked. Turns out, Bhuti wrote a status about Equality and respecting the rights of everyone including gays.  These friends told him he should be ashamed of himself because gays are disgusting.  He told them off and promptly blocked them.  When I asked him why, he said because they are human and have rights, so if anyone has bad things to say about gay people, they do not belong in his life.   I felt so proud.  Proud that I raised conscientious young people who stand for something.

I learnt a great deal from this conversation

    a. As parents, we need to understand the responsibility and power we have over our children.  How they behave is as a result of the template we have provided
    b. It is important to continue having conversations with our children.  They can teach us a lot about values and justice
    c. I am raising incredibly amazing young people and I cannot fail them by not standing up for what is right
We agreed that we will continue to explore these themes, one at a time, starting with Racism. Imagine if all of us could harness this demographic by starting with our own. What a beautiful world this could be (stolen from musician).

My wish for my children is that they continue to discover their mission and fulfil it. 

Youth Month

Look out for the second instalment of My Conversations with My Munchkins.