South Africa: Racism by every other name August 31, 2006Posted by C.A.R.D in Black, Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Discrimination, government, Racial, Racism, Racist, South Africa, White.
The word “racism” should be used with caution in South Africa, advises the Institute for Race Relations.
Institute vice-president Professor Lawrence Schlemmer said in an interview with the Cape Argus: “Rather call it what it is. Identify all the issues that are causing problems and see whether or not we can do something about it. We are creating more racism by calling a problem caused by other things, racism.
“The first thing is to make sure to call it what it is, competition for scarce resources, a shortage of resources, bad roads, shortage of houses, lack of performance by government. We should not use the word racism in South Africa. There are so few things that are genuinely racial antipathy.”
President Thabo Mbeki said at the weekend that building a non-racial society was one of South Africa’s greatest challenges and nowhere was it more challenging than in the Western Cape. But Schlemmer said the government should stop making promises on which it could not deliver.
“That is the first rule, which is equally applicable to George Bush, Jacques Chirac and President Thabo Mbeki.”
He said race was a bigger challenge in the Western Cape simply because there are two categories of people that had been told over and over they are formerly disadvantaged, and they therefore were entitled to empowerment and assistance from government.
“These people are Africans and coloureds. When you have a situation where government creates expectations by saying we are here to overcome the legacy of apartheid and then struggles to deliver to either of the two groups election after election, you repeat the promise and raise expectations. Obviously, you will pitch those groups against each other.
“If any category of people gets housing, the one immediately complains. The government has, in fact, with perfectly good intention, created a situation where it cannot win. If you raise expectations, you have problems.”
Racial tension was usually a barometer of socio-economic tension and class tension. “All the tension around class sharpens competitiveness between groups. As a result, there are tensions.”
This “very complex topic” of ethnicity and racial tension was found all over the world.
“In Britain, a new commission has just been appointed because of concern that there is such a fear of Muslim fundamentalists. The same thing is happening in France, Holland and Germany.
“White people feel very unsafe if they see strange black people walking down the streets – not because they are black, but because there are so many robberies.
“It might be because many blacks are involved in robberies, but it is not racism. Those people will get on perfectly well together at work. It is a reaction of fear of crime. Crime is aggravating feelings of mistrust between races; so is housing.
“I think we should be open with people. We must try and talk about racism where it really applies in a particular case.”