We have to unlearn racism

Steve Biko's intentions were clearly that black people should stand up for themselves. (John McCann, MG)

Steve Biko's intentions were clearly that black people should stand up for themselves. (John McCann, MG)

The article, "There's no unlearning whiteness, despite what anti-racists say", by Andile Mngxitama and Athi-Nangamso Esther Nkopo (January 11 to 17), is very disturbing.

These black consciousness activists are reversing everything good and positive about the work done to combat racism. They are also confusing consciousness with skin colour.

Steve Biko's intentions were clearly that black people should stand up for themselves and know themselves in their full power as participants in the world, but he would never have ­advocated an "Armageddon" between black and white.

I feel very deeply for young blacks in our country, in their joblessness and lack of education. As a coloured, I know the whole degradation of being excluded and discriminated against, and growing up in poverty and with a lack of self-esteem – but we can never give up the struggle to overcome our differences.

This is work we must do to win our full humanity and interdependence. Our behaviour can and must be changed to "unlearn" any negative patterns we may have, including racism.

There is no such thing as the "essence of white being" and "its intrinsic link to domination" – there have been inumerable kingdoms and empires ruled by blacks.

This would have been true of the Chinese empire of Genghis Kahn or in ancient Egypt, where rulers were black. A very famous pharaoh was the Nubian Kashta, who united Upper and Lower Egypt into a vast empire more than 2000 years ago.

The point is that these rulers held dominion and privilege over their subjects, so there is no "intrinsic link" between black or white skins when it comes to domination.

Mngxitama and Nkopo, never doubt your power as individuals. You wrote your article and I am responding, so we are interacting in a mutually respectful manner; there is no violence and no apocalypse  because we have God's greatest gift to humanity: the power of speech.

In Disgrace, JM Coetzee used the written word to show that both white and black men can be patriarchal and abuse women.

As a consummate artist, Coetzee has every right to seek an environment in which he can comfortably ply his craft without being insulted by people who make hasty judgments about his work.

The entire modern world has to live with a "legacy of brutality and racism", not only white South Africans. That was how states competed with each other for power in the past.

What about Shaka, the Zulu king, and the bloody Mfecane he unleashed across southeast  and central Africa? What about Robert Mugabe's murder of 20000 Matabele?

Today, we are in a new era, with a higher consciousness that has nothing to do with skin colour. We meet in the consciousness of sharing one planet and doing everything we can to meet one another halfway and make the planet work. – Irma Liberty, Rondebosch

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