Everyone must reject prejudice in all forms to get along

Everyone must reject prejudice in all forms to get along.
Everyone must reject prejudice in all forms to get along.
Image: THINKSTOCK

Something which comes up during my diversity training sessions, and frequently in discussions among people of colour, is the perception that white people are invariably racist. Some believe Afrikaans white people are worse than the English speakers.

It would seem that this perception is based on how black people are treated. Just a look is often all it takes to cause so much pain and be highly offensive. This is to say nothing of gestures, speech and other actions. Racism can go in different directions, but people of colour are indeed often on the receiving end (Mabuza, 2017).

However, I feel that perception and reality are not necessarily the same. It would be naive to think everything white people say and do is racially motivated, but racism happens often enough for many South Africans to feel that way.

So, what is really happening in white culture? Whatever it is, at least some of it is offensive to people of colour. Are they all either outright or closeted racists? The answer is certainly no.

What we can say is that all white people, often from a young age, are exposed to racist and biased views from parents, friends, colleagues, etc. What they do with these opinions is up to them. Upbringing determines much of our behaviour, but when we come of age, we are able to make up our own minds.

For example, the rape of women and children is not something the victims can bring an end to. It is up to men to correct one another so women and children begin to feel safe around men.

So too, it is up to white people to refrain from and reject racist behaviour, speech and thoughts. It is up to white parents to raise their children in a non-racist way. These aren't the only means to overcome racism, but could be the most effective. It seems strange, but there's sometimes little we can do to end problems such as rape culture and racism.

While not all whites are racist, all of them have a choice in this regard. Some expressed that choice in a national whites-only referendum people seem to have forgotten about. In March 1992, ex-president FW de Klerk announced the results of the vote: 68.6% of whites voted in favour of reform. South African History Online (2015) explains, "Surprisingly, the majority of Afrikaans-speaking whites gave their approval. The results of the referendum were hailed worldwide and signalled the end of apartheid..."

This referendum is still comparatively one of the best voter turnouts. Based on this, we can certainly say it is not only white youths of today who are glad apartheid is over. Sometimes it is the quiet people among us whose views really should count the most, but they don't get heard.

Why are we so obsessed with the Vicki Mombergs of this world? It's true that what such people do is terrible. But does the older Afrikaans person - who treats everyone fairly, and quietly cast their vote in 1992 - not count because they don't make headlines? There are more of the latter and fewer of the former than we think.

Recently, SA's Institute of Race Relations commissioned a study which found that "72% of South Africans reported no personal experience of racism in their daily lives" (Mabuza, 2017). These results are better than many would assume. Across the country, people of all kinds are getting along; people are making friends and cooperating.

Not because they have something to gain, but because it's the decent thing to do. Most South Africans, I believe, want to get along and end discrimination. What we must do to reach this goal is to find the courage to speak up against prejudice in all its forms.

 

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