Who is protecting them? What resources are we offering them? What lessons are we teaching?” – Palesa Radebe
A simple walk down the streets of many townships presents a monotonous picture: one with an atmosphere that sometimes lacks the much-needed vibrancy. The number of young men who have been left to their own devices is worrisome with detrimental ramifications. With that group of them huddled somewhere, is someone who’s been pushed outside the margins for too long with not enough intervention at their immediate disposal.
Our black communities run the risk of remaining in regression for as long as the young black man is as idle and out of meaningful work as he is right now. The heartbreaking consequences of unemployment in townships are vividly evident on our street corners, marred with hopelessness and despair. Anyone who cares enough about the emancipation of our neighbourhoods: keeping men( particularly the young) productively busy ought to be a priority. A perfect example would be the looting incidents we faced during the year, those probably wouldn’t have transpired had most men been at work but unfortunately, that’s not the case.
The effects of the current economic circumstances of this country: which is not a recent occurrence but it’s been gradually heading to this state even outside of a pandemic have infiltrated into every area of society especially how black men are socialized. The dignity of being one has been stripped away, especially by the lack of economic power. And obviously, the ripple effect of the country’s political history cannot be ignored, there’s just so much that needs to be fixed. This also leads me to the problematic use of substances by our brothers, that one on its own is a battle we’re just not making leeway on.
Within and beyond these pertinent conversations: the many of who are able to and want to, need to take up arms on behalf of these boys. Leaving them behind hinders everyone else on the grander scale of things. There’s a dire need for accountability as well on our side, what role have we and still continue to play in all of the dysfunctionality? Who do they have to look up to? Who is protecting them? What resources are we offering them? What lessons are we teaching?
If there’s a hill I am willing to die on, it is that ALL children deserve a fair chance in life. They are all deserving of support, protection, love, and most importantly guidance. This cannot be expected from anyone else but us. We need to have a sense of responsibility that will push us to try and reintegrate them back into society. We cannot afford to “other” them any further.
Palesa Radebe is a writer who formerly worked in child care, passionate about the protection and all-around development of children and their well-being. A believer in constantly unlearning and learning from experiences, then thriving to improve and do better.
Photography: Adrian McDonald Photography