I often wonder how it was for you. I wondered then, and I wonder now… writes Ilze Lee.

I know it must have been painful. Demeaning. Hard. I imagine that it was filled with many days of fear.

So often, I see black people comment that white people have not apologised for what happened. We are all still carrying so heavy on that cross of apartheid. You, me, our families..?

I realise what you mean when you say we have not apologised. Many of us might have thought we did, in our way. An apology should be heard though, and we have been too quiet.

Although I can not speak on behalf of a nation, I can speak for me.

I am sorry.

I am sorry for what you have been put through. I am sorry that you were treated so wrong. I am sorry that we can not go back and change it. I am so sorry.

Please forgive me for not speaking up. I was scared.

I am not sure whether you have any interest in how it was for me.. for many of us. But just in case, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t comfortable. Seeing someone being treated unfairly, never is.

Many a times I wished I could change it. A few times I had the courage to start speaking up, but it didn’t last long. My heart ached for you more than you’ll ever know. And yes, of course I know that is not in any way, shape or form comparable to what you went through. I still just wanted to say that there are many more of us who hoped for change than what you might have realised. Forgive us for not being stronger, for not doing more.

A few words on a page is not going to change anything. It won’t erase what happened. It won’t change the opinion of many people who still hold on for dear life to the hate which divides our country. Holding on to the thought that the other race are made up of one dimensional characters.

Maybe, if it is meant to be, it could start a conversation though. Maybe you could tell me things from your perspective. Maybe our conversation can start other conversations, and we can all learn from each other. Maybe, once we start speaking, we can see each other as human beings, not as black or white, or enemies.

Maybe the conversations we have can change one or two people’s opinions. Who in turn, can change another one or two people’s opinions. There is a slight possibility that it might change the way they act. Become aware of their impact on other people around them.

Thank you for giving me your time just reading this, or if you consider having that conversation. Thank you if you can find it in you to forgive, to look forward, to move on.

I believe we can make a change. It doesn’t matter how small we start. I love South Africa. I know you do too. I love the richness of our culture, the diversity of our people. I love South Africans and the insatiable sense of humour, the warmth, the innovativeness and the tenacity of all our people.

Together we can make a difference. Please, could you step up and BE that difference with me?


If you would like to take part in this important conversation and share your perspective, how things were for you (anonymously if you prefer)… please feel free to write to: