I do not mean to suggest that there were not many amazing people who did speak out before 1991, in fact, I wish to suggest that these people were even more amazing for their bravery in doing so.
imho, the 16-bit Colour generation is made up of anyone who was young and impressionable and in a multi-racial institute of learning in South Africa in 1991, and who had been in a segregated institution of learning in 1990.
They are distinguished, by virtue of this experience, from what I choose to term the Black & White generations (segregated education only) and the Rainbow generations (multi-racial education only).
The 16-bit Colour generation was blessed with being able to define their personal moral fibre at a time when those around them were questioning the authorities and the authorities found themselves needing to give answers.
The Black & White generations had to formulate their personal moral fibre when the climate for doing so was sterile. They were taught to wear the white uniform, or be doused in bleach until they died or came out clean and white and in uniform.
The Rainbow generations are blessed with not fully understanding what it was really like before 1991. But now that they're formulating their personal moral fibre, all the good questions have been asked and answered.
The 16-bit Colour generation tested their insights, shouting them out from the rooftops, and was not silenced. They weren't silenced because the nation was still reeling from what was happening. Some were stunned by the sudden change, others were stunned by the eventual change.
Either way, when the 16-bit Colour generation spoke its mind, it learned that it could say what it wanted and nobody would stop it. It learned that you could ask, and you might get an answer, and you might like the answer. The 16-bit Colour generation got to ask questions about peoples' rights. They were asking their questions while the Constitution was being drawn up.
The Black & White generations stood by and watched the Constitution being drawn up, just as they had watched the Group Areas Act, the Mixed Marriages Act, the Bantu Education Act.
The Rainbow generations have missed the Constitution. It's already there. They get to ask questions about crime, AIDS, unemployment. And they will learn that you can ask questions, and you probably will get answers, but those answers might be "I don't know", or less appealing.
Many of their questions were always there, but the Black & White generations learned not to ask them and the 16-bit Colour generation had cooler, deeper, more exciting questions to ask. The Rainbow generations will not only have to ask these questions, the Rainbow generations will also have to answer them.
The 16-bit Colour generation could also be the Affirmative Action generation. Many will benefit from Affirmative Action, through the opportunities it has awarded them. But many will suffer because of it because their privileged education will no longer be enough, and many of them will be embittered.
A few quotes from some 16-bit Colour generation members:
I don't see the point of trying not to die. I try to live.
~ Mark Shuttleworth, on going into space
And the father should know
that the farther they walk
the harder they talk
the darker the sky becomes
~ Art Matthews, Just Jinger on Father & Farther
There's one thing that you know
That we got the power
Moving mountains that
Get in your way
Thank you to the people
who fight for our rights
~ Speedy B, Firing Squad, guesting on Nine's Revolution
They're gonna grow you up slowly
Chain you to steel
~ Arno Caarstens, Springbok Nude Girls on Blue Eyes
They tried to take our roots
Force of habit gains momentum all the time
~ Farrel Adams, Nine on Revolution
Close your eyes
open up your mind
Let the colours take control
~ Dave Owens, Lithium on Soul Trip (hang on, maybe this one's about drugs...)
It may make more sense to know that South Africa is often referred to as The Rainbow Nation, in celebration of it's ethinic diversity.
I felt the need to write this because in my time living outside of South Africa, I have learned that nobody can understand what it is like to have grown up in an oppressive environment unless they themselves grew up in one. I have also learned that many people do not understand how effective the Apartheid government was at it's goals.