Letters to the editor: April 29 to May 5 2016

Rudin is not blind to colour

Assistant professor Marzia Milazzo’s letter titled Writers blind to colour in racist SA today displays a serious misunderstanding of Jeff Rudin’s article Race reinvented for post-apartheid South Africa. An opinion piece on the “reinvention of race” hardly squares with being “blind to colour”.

Milazzo reads Rudin as “concealing” the “central role that structural racism” plays in post-apartheid South Africa.

The very opposite is the case. Rudin seeks to go beyond the mere description of “structural racism” – typically understood as poverty having a black face – to an analytic understanding of it and how black poverty serves to conceal the black wealth that is being accumulated.

The “implicit class project” of creating a black elite, Rudin argues, is “explicitly and entirely predicated on the basis of colour”. The “salience of class”, according to him, is the simultaneous production and reproduction of poverty that “remains permanently black”, whereas wealth is increasingly deracialised.

Structural racism allows poverty to be condemned, but only “for being black”, thereby providing the perfect and permanent rationale for the promotion of black wealth.


One does not need to agree with Rudin’s analysis. But disagreeing is very different from claiming that he “conceals” race. – Ed Wethli, Cape Town

? I am always amazed at the lies that can flow so easily from the pen of so-called learned folk. Rudin writes: “Whites, less than 9% of the population, own more than 80% of the land and economy.”

But, as Leon Louw said in the Business Day of August 26 2015: “It is hard to think of anything more bizarre than S[outh] A[frica]’s transformation denialism and black-on-black racism …

“Despite the fact that there has been a spectacular amount of transformation, the established consensus is that little has changed and that whites still own everything … There has not been a ‘slow pace of transformation’; it has been astounding …

“Almost everything you ever read or hear about what share of something blacks or whites have is false …

“The number of black people earning more than R400 000 a year grew 1 000% from 120 000 to 1.2-million between 2000 and last year; 90% are in the private sector. The black middle class grew 333% from 1.8-million to six million.

“Between 1996 and 2011 total black disposable income grew 370% from R161-million to R756-million, and personal income grew 300%. There are more middle-class blacks in formerly white suburbs than the entire white population …

“Blacks in top management, and blacks with cars, doubled [between 2000 and 2012]. Black phone ownership increased 223% (90% of households have cellphones) …

“Blacks are approaching or have surpassed 50% in almost everything: share ownership, new companies, medical aid membership, insurance policies, car sales, credit cards, and so on.” – Malinda Nel, Groot Brakrivier


The real meaning of the immaculate conception

In his piece Biblical myths in the time of Mammon, Darryl Accone, quoting Jane Rosenthal, appears to agree with her misunderstanding (increasingly common) of what is meant by the dogma of the immaculate conception, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

This Marian doctrine does not refer to the virgin birth of Christ but, rather, to the belief that, in order to bear the son of God, Mary had to have been exempt from the stain of original sin. This stain is believed to be the legacy of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. The soul of the human being is marked by original sin in the moment of zygote formation. Mary had to be immaculate from the instant of her conception.

The mistranslation in the second verse of the Christmas carol Adeste Fidelis has it that “Lo! He abhors not the virgin’s womb”, and this, along with the dogma of the immaculate conception, tells us a lot about the tricky balance between misogynistic teachings and the Christian need for Christ to have had a human mother. – Dr Ann Smith, McGill University, Montreal


Why replace SA words with American ones?

Your April 15 edition runs an article by Ra’eesa Pather, Othering SA languages stops here, to which the editor adds the response: “The M&G has taken a decision to stop italicising words and phrases in South African languages.”

But the last time the Mail & Guardian published an article by me it censored the word “dagga” and replaced it by the American “marijuana” every time. I also note South African newspapers in general no longer publish the word “panga”, instead using the American “machete”.

Why are a few foreign readers more important than the majority of South African readers, especially when the foreigners have recourse to Google?

Can you please expand your style decision to re-employ “dagga” and “panga”? – Keith Gottschalk


Expletives kill the impact

The article by Rebecca Davis, Sorry man, Julius, but your plan is pretty kak caused me some distress, starting from its toilet-bowl title. And, ironically, this was despite the fact that Julius Malema’s recent demographic-engineering exhortations have been uniformly rejected by all, including me.

Impactful writing need not disgust. If it does, its message is diluted, as happened here. More unfortunately, Davis was not content to disgust us with the expletive in her title; she felt a need, in the article’s body, to use its superlative, “super-kak”.

As a regular reader of the Mail & Guardian, I take issue with the editor for allowing this substandard article print space. Because my faith in the standard of M&G articles remains strong, I have chosen to send this complaint to you rather than to the Press Council, in the hope that such slips will not be repeated. – Thabo Seseane, Johannesburg

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