THERE is a disturbing trend in South Africa. It involves blanket-blaming a group of persons, defined by race and class, in this case privilege squared with apartheid-era race classification. The negation of the idea of non-racialism and economic redress by intellectually closing down any possibility of escaping the alleged racism of ones ancestors, results in a powerful recipe for intolerance, scapegoating and racially-charged witch-hunts. The bluntness of the new discourse, its targets, and victims, (Gareth Cliff and the #ZumaMustFall campaign) is alarming.
The elevation of those on the side of the indictment, persons such as Gillian Schutte, to media guru status, merely compounds matters of apartheid denial and historical revisionism. Schutte went so far as stating, early last year that all whites are racist. To which she added, “Some may not practice racism and many may be anti-racist. Others may mistakenly believe that we live in a non-racist epoch. Some may be left wing and others may be moderate or right wing — but the bottom line is that to be white is to be racist.
Accepting this is the first step to recovery.”
Schutte’s open call for political re-education, (salvation can only come via her own pen) was soon followed by a hard hitting retort attacking non-racial critics of racism and their opposition to race classification as mere “liberalism”
If anything, it is Schutte and her intellectual cronies, who have resurrected scientific racism in the project to make all white persons so classified, accept guilt. A cross that everyone cast under the spotlight is expected to bear, as melanin-deficient people today are forced to atone for doing what exactly? Being alive or being cast out like pariahs? South Africans ‘black and white’ have not “returned race supremacists to power” year after year. There is a ‘black majority’ government in power. The Population Registration Act institutionalising race classification was abolished in 1991, despite this, our government continues to deploy such demographic data.
Privilege should be dealt with by the numbers, via wealth redistribution and taxation, a social wage, creating an economy which removes poverty, not through inculpation and probation of all and sundry according to racial criteria. The Rainbow Nation is about the colour of ones rights, not the colour of ones skin.
Racial categorisation is really an affront to our nation’s freedom struggle, from which was birthed the movement for non-racialism articulated by the late Nelson Mandela, and also the Unity movement which saw all “races” as being essentially part of the same stream of humanity. United because of our common humanity. It is easy to attack the nation’s founder now that he is no longer around to defend himself.
I personally, as an individual once classified white and then reclassified several times, endured several bannings, (all a result of organisations of which I was a member being banned). Forceably assimilated into the coloured community, I am now cast as an absurdity by our legal system. I did not join the freedom struggle to absolve the likes of Schutte nor Gareth Cliff, so that we could live in a country where scientific racism is the norm, I joined the struggle against racism in all its forms, and however so defined.
The Schutte saga has appeared to prefigure the latest round of mudslinging, such as Philip Dexter’s Only whites can be racist , and a piece commissioned by the Independent Group rehashing Schutte’s “Epistle to Whiteness”. But as Andile Mngxitama’s 2009 polemic piece “Blacks can’t be racist”and Sobantu Mzwakali’s recent precis, Black people can’t be racist, demonstrates, the idea consistent with scientific racism, that black people are distinct from white folk and vice versa, has been doing the rounds for some time. One need not look any further than Penny Sparrow’s own descent into the Origin of the Species, to see why the belief in inferiority or sub-humanism is offensive.
The terms used by all of the above persons are anachronistic, they are not based upon science but are mere fictions and a bad fiction at that. The lesson of apartheid is that race is not immutable. Nations are not races. Adaptive traits such as hair and skin colour are not indicative of a separation of the species. The struggle between the haves and have-nots is not about race, it is about poverty, inequality and discrimination based upon the self-same criteria that self-confessed and rehabilitated racists like Schutte deploy on a daily basis, it is nothing less than a defunct and moribund ideology.
Published in Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) 24 January, under title Avoid Race to the Bottom