/ 18 June 2008

Subliminal racism still a challenge, says Pityana

Although headline-grabbing incidents of racism show that a pathology of racism still exists, it is not the predominant form of racism in South Africa, University of South Africa (Unisa) principal and vice-chancellor Barney Pityana said on Wednesday.

Opening a colloquium held at Unisa on race and racism in the country, Pityana said subliminal racism — conscious and unconscious — has become the predominant form of discrimination in the country.

”It is important that when you talk about racism you realise that those things that reinforce racism are our culture that is untouched by the new South Africa and its values [and] the things we take for granted.”

He said this includes the still largely intact apartheid neighbourhoods, with white rich and middle-income people living in suburbs while the majority of black still live in townships.

He said racism is further being perpetuated by the very institutions that should fight against it. ”It is reinforced by our churches, by our culture, by our academic life, by our media.”

He said higher-education institutions have particularly failed to combat subliminal racism.

”Whatever we do at our universities doesn’t seem to touch the very core of individuals’ humanity and human relationships that one would assume our intellectual development cultivates and enables people to live in a new South Africa.

”Clearly we have not done enough about cultivating a new man, a new breed of South African,” he said. — Sapa