Sat Oct 22 21:51:53 CAT 2016

talkshops won't end racism

By unknown | Apr 23, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Dorothy Khosa

Dorothy Khosa

The Free State University video has alerted South Africa to important dynamics in the raging debate on racism.

It revealed in a glaring way how, despite South Africa's world-renowned human rights Constitution, this discrimination based on biological attributes thrives in leaps and bounds.

The use of force and other forms of coercion in naked racism have become old fashioned and belong to Swartruggens and similar rural towns.

Today's racism employs the notion of "willing participants" in both subtle and overt actions.

The five university employees thus willingly took part in the planned activities, which caused uneasy chuckles from some corners in the country.

A clean job requires trust; one has to get his subjects to believe that it is in their interests that such actions are mooted.

Deception and lies are essential tools in the trade. When interviewed, the women said they were made to believe that the abhorrent project was for a worthy cause. As such, racism rests on how it is internalised by its subjects.

The superiority of the white race should not and cannot be questioned. The white man has for centuries known what is good for blacks and they can therefore be asked to perform bizarre, ridiculous actions without any protest. This is the only assumption when challenged that makes even the most liberal of whites spit venom as they take umbrage.

The willing participant principle gets sophisticated in some organisational processes. An educated person with little or no insight into that organisation's culture and issues gets to be recruited into its leadership. This can only be a variation of the old slavery approach; slave masters never caught slaves by themselves. They tasked other, better slaves to do the assignment. The induction stint thereafter consists mainly of inflating the insatiable ego.

These individuals will subsequently go to any lengths to vehemently justify and defend sick inequitable policies. They in that mode will hardly recognise foreign voices in their heads.

It is the echoes of hilarious laughter and hurried footsteps to the bank that suddenly awaken them to this reality. The impact of the racism sting always leaves fellow black employees confused, angry and helpless.

Numerous affirmative action plans and programmes got shelved by many organisations as soon as it was realised that Nelson Mandela, on his release and tenure as president, extended a hand of friendship, forgiveness, and put emphasis on reconciliation for the country to forge ahead. For many, redress did not sound like a serious matter after all.

The media currently under heavy public scrutiny regarding transformation, so are other public institutions. It is perhaps an opportunity also for the hundreds of non governmental organisations (NGOs) to come to the party, those that purport to be the voices of the vulnerable and marginalised. Their silence is deafening. Is there a particular reason why it is only the Human Rights Commission loudly raising and attending to the issue?

It will be important to know how these organisations are treating their own employees, those who are critical in obtaining valuable information. Whose voices get to be heard in the daily running of office affairs? Who believes who? More fundamentally in matters of the pocket, who is paid more for less work? Is there an explanation why in some of these organisations there are unwritten quotas?

It is unheard of for white employees to start work as field workers; they would rather be offered junior research positions, even without acceptable writing skills.

Is there justification therefore for fellow black employees to prove impeccable writing skills in a second language before there is any appropriate acknowledgement? Why are they experiencing an exodus of black talent and increasingly being dragged into the CCMA and labour courts?

Basil Manning of Caras Ditshwanelo Trust has had over the years the unenviable task of teaching and preaching about diversity and racism to "converted" activists.

A breakthrough has been difficult to achieve as all efforts continue to stop at the level of talk. Reports and plans have and will always decorate files and cabinets.

The answer and hope to end racism in this country is not in endless talkshops and diversity training that never get implemented. It starts with the spirit and courage that has been modelled by the actions of two South African women.

The one, a white woman from the Eastern Cape, decided many years ago to take a black boy into her home, and raise him, after his mother was involved in a car accident. Today the country knows Sipho, a fine actor, who plays the role of Ajax in the daily soapie Generations.

The other, a black woman from the dusty Alexandra township fought the Department of Social Development tooth and nail to keep an abandoned white child in her home.

One is convinced that in building bridges, it is personalities like these who can champion the cause of the voiceless.

This country needs to read, hear and emulate more of these stories and less of David Bullard, the Reitz men's residence, Swartruggens and other talkshops that bear no fruit.

lDorothy Khosa is a consultant on youth violence prevention.


Login OR Join up TO COMMENT