Let’s start by accepting that voters are emotional beings*.
Our votes are cast almost exclusively on the basis of emotional drivers: anxiety, fear for some; suspicion and anger, perhaps, for others.
There is no such thing as a rational voter who makes their choice upon the dispassionate assessment of the relative pros and cons of each party.
Second, there is no such thing as a ‘race band-wagon’. Race is a real and pervasive issue in this country. You might feel peeved about it to the point where you buy into the idea that the DA has jumped onto the ‘band-wagon’ but you are in the wrong position to be saying so.
Us whites too easily forget that the momentum of opportunity theft that Apartheid instituted against blacks is still crippling. To make it worse, despite BEE and similar policies, the momentum of white and minority advantage is still very strong. That’s not an opinion it’s a fact: look at income growth by race group since 1994.
The unfortunate reality 20+ years on, is that the structural legacy the evil system bequeathed us is still alive and well. Black South Africans are largely still poor and short on opportunity, and thus understandably frustrated and angry.
Against this backdrop, incidents of white on black racism are incendiary. I’d go as far as to say that there isn’t such a thing as reverse racism, and that black on white ‘racism’ is more like hatred than racism – because racism as we know it has that special aspect of racial superiority weaved into it. When Sparrow made her comments, she wasn’t just saying ‘I hate you’, she was saying loudly, ‘You are less human than me.’ That’ll make a person furious.
In a country with as much frustration as we have, people need somewhere to direct their outrage – Sparrow et al were good for frustrated blacks, and President Zuma is the old favorite of frustrated whites.
So, Mmusi Maimane is not jumping on any band-wagon. We have a problem in this country that is not being made any better by the gross mis-management of the ANC-led government.
Unfortunately that same problem creates circumstances ripe for blaming all via race on whites (and minorities), and stoking racial tensions for political ends. Until we face this issue head on, South Africa will not be able to turn the corner and start moving forward again.
Mmusi Maimane is doing what few South African political leaders ever do – he is leading. He is leading his party, and he is trying to lead South Africans.
We have some way to travel as a nation to get past the drag anchor of race and the impact that it has on the vitality of our democracy. I have a renewed sense of optimism about our future knowing Maimane is leading us on that journey.
So, you really have two choices as a white voter:
- If you are an unrepentant racist, then find a conservative, backwater party like the FF- who will accommodate your views. They will never get big enough to make a difference, and you will end up on the wrong side of history.
- Accept that the only way is forward, confront your feelings and beliefs about race, consider them in the context of you and your children – try to empathise: how would I feel if me or my children were spoken to like that, or how would I feel if I had to live in those conditions every day of my life? Then, cast your vote for a party who you believe will most effectively tackle the challenges that confront our nation.
* This is not opinion either, but solid neuroscience. The best resource for understanding this better is “The Political Brain” by Drew Westen.