Racism in South Africa: An opinion and a response

I received this email (in bold) as a forward from a member of my staff (he did not write it). He asked me what I thought of it. I share it and my response with you below.

You call me Whiteboy, Famma, Maboeroe, Lekoa, Whitey, Settler, White Trash and that’s OK.
Well, no it’s not OK. It’s racist.

But when I call you, nigger, Kaffir, piksteel, houtkop, muntu, or Gook, you call me a racist.
Not only is this racist as above, but it is made worse by the legacy and depth of meaning behind some of those words. Call me a “Settler” and I’ll probably dismiss that and mark you in my book as a racist. But when someone is called a Kaffir, I’m sorry to say, there is a whole lot more meaning behind that then calling me a Settler; there’s 300 years of white supremacy and mistreatment of blacks.

You say that whites committed a lot of violence against you, so why are the ghettos, townships and Africa the most dangerous places to live?
They are violent because of their history. Why is it that black townships exist? Historically there is a reason going back to migrant labour and keeping the ‘black workers’ away from the white suburbs. This is why we have Soweto, Alexandra outside Johannesburg; Umlazi, Kwa Mashu outside Durban and so on. If you treat people like a lesser species; ensure they are poor and downtrodden and put them all in the same place, you can be sure that place will be a violent one.

You have bursaries for previously disadvantaged.
Ok? And the problem here? They are previously disadvantaged and we need to try and redress the imbalances created by our past. This is one means of achieving that.

You have Freedom Day.
WE have Freedom Day. I am a white South African and Freedom Day means as much to me as to any other South African. Freedom Day celebrates the day we as South Africans chose a change of direction in order for all South Africans to share equally in our country.

You have Youth Day.
WE celebrate the youth and we’re not the only country to. We’ve just celebrated the 31st Anniversary of the Soweto uprising, and while we should never celebrate violence as a means to solving problems, we should be proud of the Youth of 1976 who stood firm and told the Apartheid government that they had had enough.

You have Thabo Mbeki.
We have Thabo Mbeki. He is our President. He might not be popular, nor is this unusual for a centrist, but he has been good for South Africa. We could have an extremist instead; we don’t, we have President Mbeki and I am proud of our President.

You have affirmative action.
The Apartheid government created the South Africa we inherited in 1994. This is obvious. What was that South Africa? It was a country:

  • of whites who had been brought up and educated to believe that they were superior to blacks, and;
  • of blacks who had been limited in education and training, brought up to treat whites as better than them, limited in the jobs they could do and where they could travel and the list goes on.

So, in 1994 South Africa became another African country to have white minority rule replaced with a democratically elected majority ruler. Remember the ANC is not a black-only party. It goes without saying that the mandate of the new government would be to build a new South Africa that heals the wounds created in the past.

One of those wounds was limited black advancement. Ignoring the differences between blacks, coloureds and Indians in the eyes of the previous government, whites were reserved the best jobs while, in general, non-whites were limited. This imbalance had to be addressed in the new South Africa and one method of doing this is to enact an Affirmative Action policy until such time as it is no longer needed.

I am not saying I agree with AA, but I am saying it, or something like it is a necessary evil; an evil necessitated by the actions of our previous government.

You have Black Economic Empowerment.
As an extension of what I have said above, and over-simplified, another necessary evil is our BEE policy which seeks to increase black ownership of our economy. Our economy is the largest in Africa and in 1994 was owned almost entirely by whites. I hope it goes without saying that this too needed to be fixed. Again, this does not mean that I agree with the policy or the way it has been implemented, but it is BEE and it is making blacks rich. The fact that it is making a few black very rich instead of helping many more blacks secure ownership in the economy is a matter of implementation and will be infinitely debated and debatable.

You have Employment equity.
Ok, and? Employment Equity seeks to ensure that all South Africans not only participate in the workplace, but meaningfully as well. So from a base which saw the workplace dominated by white males and then white females, EE will seek to ensure that non-whites, and in particular blacks, the disabled and women in general get to participate meaningfully in the workplace. What does this mean? This means women in management, blacks on boards of directors, the disabled given equal opportunities to secure work – I see no problem with this policy.

You have BCM, PAC and Azapo.
We have the WAWATS Movement (We are White and therefore Superior – yes I made that up), we had Verwoed and the National Party. Look where that got us. How could we, as whites, hold it against the downtrodden that they have organisation and movements fighting for their identity and for their rights as human beings. This is a moot point.

You have people singing “kill the Boer, the famma”.
There are also whites who still believe they are superior beings and who still believes blacks exist to serve them. They are few and far between (I hope), but they exist. So what? “Kill the Boer”, just like “Kaffir” is recognised hate speech in this country. You say either of those things to someone and you could go to jail.

If we had WET – (White Entertainment Television) we’d be racists.
I don’t see a Black Entertainment Television? What’s the point? Besides, we have, say MK89, which I am pretty sure has a viewership comprising mostly Afrikaners and some English-speaking whites and maybe a sprinkling of the rest. Is that racist? No. Would the creators of the channel every intend it to be white only? No.

If we had a White Pride Day you would call us racists.
I am not sure we have Black Pride Day in South Africa. May the person who wrote list load of horseshite copied this from somewhere else.

If we had white history month, we’d be racists.
Holy moly. This is getting terribly contrived as we near the end. I have a book, published in South Africa called White Africans and which focuses on the contributions whites have made to the continent and it’s development. It was not banned and I see no reason is celebrating the GOOD that has been done by whites in Africa and more particularly in South Africa, especially when discussed in the context of white supremacy and the ills of Apartheid regime.

If we had an organization for only whites to “advance” our lives, we’d be racists or white supremacists.
You’re damn right they would. Historically whites have been on top. By further advancing whites on the basis of their race alone does nothing more than take us back to the bullshit that got us here in the first place. AA, EE and BEE are all necessary to redress the imbalances created by Apartheid. Apartheid and this bullshit legacy South Africa has to get itself out of was created because whites focused on “advancing” themselves to the exclusion of others.

If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships, you know we’d be racists. There are 100% Black colleges and universities in SA, yet if there were “Afrikaans universities” that would be a racist college.
There are? Really? You mean there is a University in South Africa that would tell me as a white that I am barred from entry because I am white? This is news to me perhaps someone could enlighten me. In the case that someone can’t, I’d just like to say HORSESHIT!

In the Soweto March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights. If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists.
In 1976 the Soweto youth marched for their (black) rights. That was totally acceptable in Apartheid South Africa. I marched for our rights on Saturday. Myself and, as it were, another 2000 people, mostly white. Nobody called us racists. If we had marched for our race on Saturday, I would have called us racists. Why? Because the South Africa we live in now affords all South Africans equal rights. (Don’t argue with me about BEE, EE and AA contradicting this).

You are proud to be black, and you’re not afraid to announce it. But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.
I am proud to be a white South African. Who the hell could call me racist for saying that, and on what grounds?

You rob us, murder us, rape us, hi-jack us, and shoot at us. But, when a white man shoots a black man, murderer or burglar posing a threat to society, you call him a racist.
Wild generalisation, however, one can understand how in a country with a history of white on black brutality, of San being hunted for sport, of white police murdering black political foes, nobody wants to hope that when a white man shoots a black man that it was not racially motivated. Just because that happens does not mean it was a racist killing. Oh, and rapes, murders, hi-jacks and shootings happen on a black on black basis as well – just so you know. (Whoever you are)

I am proud. But, you call me a racist. Why is it that only whites can be racists?
Who said only whites can be racist? You?

There is nothing improper about this email. Let’s see which of you are proud enough to forward it !!!!
Everything is improper about this email. I most certainly will not forward it. Not at least without my comments attached.

5 thoughts on “Racism in South Africa: An opinion and a response”

  1. Yesterday we received information that a certain member working for our company had stolen items. The same informant said that he was going to move the items to another premises.
    This man deserted his post and left twice yesterday.

    This morning he came in and provoked me and stuff his finger up my nose, i lost control and pushed him. He fell and then said I had assulted him.

    When he come back from the police station I was calm and he told me that the blacks in this country owns the country and that our white peoples should leave the country. He also said that he will kill me if he see me in Tembisa.

    Now I ask myself who is the racist. Not once in my life i have said something like that to any black man and I feel that this is my country just as it is his.

  2. Roelof – If that is what happened then it sounds to me like a case of plain old racism. Nobody here is suggesting that it is only whites who are capable of racism. All humans, regardless of their colour, have it in them to regard another race with contempt and treat them as such.

  3. I am a black female post-grad student at a historically white university and I am currently doing a paper on racism on these campuses. I would like to point out that it so easy for white people to complain about racism when black students have to live under the historical shadow that guarantee and asserts white privilege. As much as white “professionals” want to leave believe me I would rather leave but as much I would like to leave I am faced with the prospect of facing racial exclusion virtually everywhere and you think you have it bad. It’s increasingly clear that white people complain about a non-system that has been around for about 15 years when black people have to live under a systematic exclusion that has been around for over 500 years; white people have never had to deal with perpetual dehumanisation on a daily basis. Believe me your cry for racism is an indication of the powerlessness you feel from losing the blood tainted position your forefathers constructed. I would not expect you to understand the mental effects your privilege has had on generations of black people, as an upcoming black professional I have to prepare my future offspring for a world that labels me and them as inferior.

  4. the said truth is that its not about the colour, i really believe it all begins at our upbringing, the values that our parents instilled to us while we were growing up. i was born in the 80’s and both my parents taught me to respects elders, and i grew up with those kind of values that every parent is my mom or dad and i have to respect them. its really easy to blame each other on who started it and so on. but the fact is, its our past an we know white people did oppress our parents and forefathers etc, thats history, why not move on, teach our kids important values and kill this racist behaviour.lets focus on building a new brighter south africa teaching our kids respect and values that will build them.

  5. Very positive thinking. Slowly but surely we are transforming to a less racist society. Unfortunately though, the ANC needs to fuel racial hatred in order to stay in power and that holds us back:

    “Why is it that most current ANC leaders seek to entrench division rather than promote reconciliation? The answer is that this formula suits them well. All they have to do to keep winning elections, is to divide people on the basis of race, and keep them hating each other. It is the easiest recipe in politics for short-term power, and long-term disaster. And, as Nelson Mandela said: “We have to be better than that”. That is the most difficult challenge of politics.”

    — Helen Zille

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