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15 Apr 2015 10:45
Racism is not just the attitudes and actions by whites towards blacks, it is also the accepting by blacks of the notion that we deserve to be viewed as having lower social value. (Reuters)
by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the production of the position paper has
not come at a better time.
I generally agree
with the analysis of the paper, especially regarding what was done to try and
make South Africa a more equitable country in all aspects – now we need to focus
on what is to be done to transform the country.
It is difficult to come up with a wholesale
solution; it is difficult to try to reconcile while uplifting; to change things
for one group of people while keeping them the same for another group of
people; keeping whites feeling comfortable, and their lives remaining the same,
while transforming to empower the majority that is black.
Sparking dialogue is of course important. A
recent example happened at the University of Cape Town where dialogue led to the unanimous agreement
that the statue of Cecil John Rhodes must go.
change South Africa, it is important to let those resisting or those uncomfortable
with change know why things are changing.
South Africa needs to transform, not just reconcile. Transformation is profound, fundamental change,
altering the very nature of something. Transformational change is both radical
and sustainable. Something that is transformed can never go back to exactly
what it was before.
conquest and domination of Africans by Europeans and their descendents was not
just physical and economic, it was also mental and spiritual.
But the time for
pity parties, blaming and seeking apologies is over. We need action that will transform.
Equality in resources must translate to
seeing ourselves and the other as equal human beings regardless of differences
in race, culture, gender, religion and so on.
Racism is not just the attitudes and actions
of whites towards blacks. It is also the
accepting by blacks of the notion that we deserve to be viewed as having lower
A lot of
things about South Africa have changed and much more needs to change. I am of the generation that is impatient for
change and does not want a single further generation to find things as they are
I believe that we need to be
critical about our past and passionate about our future.
This does not mean forgetting history – to
the contrary, it means knowing and understanding history for what it is and the
resulting circumstances we have today. It
means not being defined or arrested by history, but instead being passionate
and emotional about the possibilities of tomorrow, about the South Africa we
want, and being busy getting there.
action in many little and big ways, and one of those ways I would like to
suggest is for government to make it compulsory that all schools that are “white”, in that the majority of teaching staff is white, be changed.
All of these schools, public and private,
should have at least 50% black teachers. And where there is an excess of white teachers they should be employed
in black schools.
Carter G Woodson, in his book
The Mis-Education of the Negro, which analyses the education
systems in Europe and America and their impact on “the Negro”, says “so-called
modern education, with all its defects, however, does others so much more good
than it does the Negro, because it has been worked out in conformity to the
needs of those who have enslaved and oppressed weaker peoples”.
This is also the case in South Africa.
young age white and black children who go to suburban schools mostly encounter
white teachers. This defines power
relations from a young age, with whites being seen as leaders and generators of
ideas and knowledge.
At home, the majority
of white children have black maids and garden helpers.
On television, white and black children are
exposed to white definitions of beauty – most shows on the MNet channel are
white, as are most popular American series on public channels.
Adverts by big department stores such as Truworths – like the one currently airing – have mostly white models, when the
majority of people buying there are black.
Examples are countless.
a generation of white children thinking they are superior and black children
who work for recognition by whites. Still
in 2015 media, schools and business communicate the idea that blacks are of
lower social value.
won’t change this narrative.
year I was in a workshop with management of a major South African bank, which
has a wide presence on the continent.
When I asked the management why it is so white, and so male for that
matter, the response was that they don’t look at race or gender when hiring,
they want the best, they are a meritocracy.
The implication is that black people just aren’t smart enough – clear-cut
The same is said when questions
about why rugby and cricket are so white are raised.
Racist philosophy has infiltrated so much of
our lives that at times people don’t even know they are racist.
history of human development is defined and littered by conquest, competition
and war. Like other members of the
animal kingdom, this trait to overcome others is displayed in the sports we
play, in the reward systems at schools and in the workplace, right through to
the awarding of global prizes such as the Nobel.
As intelligent beings this aspect of nature has assisted us in
progressing and developing amazing things such as this laptop I am typing
It is the other aspect of competition,
our need to be superior to “others” and the need we have for affirmation, that
creates schisms that give way to different forms of hatred such as racism.
not important to go into depth about the history of racism and how it was
developed as an idea, philosophy and science. But as an example, some of the exalted thinkers of Europe’s
Enlightenment period contributed to the widespread understanding and belief by
Europeans and their descendents that “the civilized nation [Europe] is
conscious that the rights of the barbarians [Africans] are unequal to its own”, as written by Hegel in his Philosophy of
The construct of the modern
global political economy is based on the philosophies of Hegel, Hume, Kant and
Marx that present and justify the colonisation and exploitation of “black
savages” and their lands of gold.
not in the best interests of South Africa for us to replicate this
trajectory. It is important to have dialogues,
but because some are comfortable with the status quo – because the major shift
and transformation that was expected post-1994 never came – reaching consensus
will be difficult.
It is time to serve
the interests of the majority.
We need the
dialogues to inspire action.
We need civic
education reaching every South African so that this work on transforming the
country isn’t about what government, business or civil society thinks, but
about what we all think.
people need to be educated so that they can exercise their citizenship.
So as we bring down statues and reclaim
history, we need to educate, to re-engineer especially the awareness of black
South Africans to appreciate that citizenship doesn’t begin and end with voting;
so that we bring up a generation of young people who are self-assured and firm
about pursuing what is right at all times.
We need to break the social and political culture that existed during
our colonisation and domination and that still persists today, and become
actors that transform the current economic and social structures and systems.
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