By Susan Davis
And now the other side of the AA coin...a reader of iAfrica on why Affirmative Action gives her ulcers.
Related: End Affirmative Action Now
Here is a sample of the emails that my (white) husband and (white) father have received, in the past month, from employment agents in South Africa:
- “We know that (Company X) are looking for Cobol people but they must be African females.”
- “Thanks for the email but unfortunately this position is strictly EE, meaning the client will only look at Indian, Colored or Black candidates.”
- “The reason I am asking the consultant to review your CV to see if you are a fit, is not that we are doubting your years of experience, I just need to ensure that you fit the other requirements there may be such as race, gender, culture etc”.
- “We are finding it extremely hard to find challenging management positions for white males and females.”
If you were white, unable to find employment and on the receiving end of emails like this, would you honestly say to yourself, “Black people have suffered in the past, so this is fair. I need to remember how privileged I am and stop being selfish.”? Or would you feel angry and resentful about the fact that you are being discriminated against?
Affirmative action is an attempt correct a past injustice in an unjust manner. It is a racist response to the impact of racism and is therefore a continuation of the race war in South Africa. The Afrikaners tried this discriminatory approach against the English, who were better qualified and wealthier than them, and the result of their efforts was increased division and hatred between the English and the Afrikaner and the reinforcement the generalisation that Afrikaners are “unintelligent and rural, not fit for the business world”. The Afrikaner knows better than anyone that there is no such thing as "positive discrimination” because, while some people appear to benefit in the short term, in the long term discrimination (no matter what the justification) will only create more victims, more justified anger.
When I spoke out against apartheid during the 1980ies, many apartheid supporters responded, “If you love the blacks so much, then why don’t you go and live in a black township and attend a black school?” Now that I am speaking out against AA, many supporters of AA ask, “If you were against apartheid, then why did you continue to enjoy the benefits of it, like living in a white neighbourhood and attending white schools?”. My response to both the supporters of apartheid and affirmative action is this: I was never opposed to the fact that white children were given a good education and that white people had decent standards of living. I was opposed to the fact that black children were being given a poor education and that black people were living in sub-standard conditions. I wanted black people to be raised up to the same level as white people; I did not want white people to be pushed down to the same level as black people. It therefore would have been illogical for me to subject myself to an education and living standard that I was opposed to.
Accessory to a crime
Many people say that white South Africans should not deny that they were beneficiaries of the apartheid system and were therefore essentially an “accessory to a crime”, like a person knowingly purchases a stolen item. They argue that it is therefore only fair that white South Africans should have to suffer a fraction of the amount that black people were made to suffer during apartheid. But at the heart of these attempts to justify the fact that many black people have become exactly like their enemy (the Nats and those who voted them into power) is the human tendency to generalise their anger to all people who fall into their perceived aggressors’ category. People are particularly susceptible to this type of response when they cannot identify or reach their aggressor, as in the case of the black South African who is unable to identify which white South Africans voted for the Nats. In this way, the victim has become the aggressor, who victimises others.
I have heard the argument that affirmative action will force those who were “previously advantaged” to spend time with and appreciate the talents and skills of the “previously disadvantaged”, which will reduce their tendency to discriminate. In my opinion, categorising South Africans into "previously disadvantaged" and "previously advantaged" sweeps those whites who did not vote for the Nats, are liberal-minded and want to see ALL South Africans succeed, into a category of people who must be punished for apartheid crimes. The result of this is that many of these liberal white South Africans are joining ranks with the people that they have always fought against: the racists who claimed that black people are barbaric monsters who hate whites and want to drive them out of Africa. The ANC is making these racists look clever, as though they knew something about black people that the liberals did not. This human tendency to hate others because “they” hate “us” continues, as many previously liberal whites make the same mistake as the ANC is making, in the face of their racist policies.
Affirmative action has been hailed as the only truly effective way to help poor South Africans overcome the injustices of the past. But if the ANC wanted to help POOR South Africans (no matter what race they are) to help themselves, then they would be surprised to know that there were millions of people who genuinely wanted to get involved but were looking for leadership. Black South Africans would have benefitted far more if the ANC had facilitated a system that enabled privileged people to help poor people, without making it impossible for them to ensure their own survival at the same time. Specifically, they could have organised opportunities for students to help other struggling students, for qualified teachers to train new teachers, for experienced businessmen to mentor aspiring businessmen, for the wealthy to give support to promising new companies and initiatives etc etc. This would have taken a lot of creative thinking, effort, dedication and managerial skills on the part of the ANC but, if they had been prepared to put their egos aside, they would have been shocked at the number of whites who would have given their time and dedication to offering GENUINE empowerment (not handouts) to black people out of FREE WILL.
All whites are racist and selfish
Instead, the ANC assumed that all whites are racist and selfish and used legislation and government policy to force white teachers and other public servants to retire and be replaced by black people, force Universities to admit and graduate black students, force companies to hire black graduates, force share holders to surrender their shares to black investors at discounted prices, force banks to lend money to investors to pay for these shares, etc etc. This is not genuine empowerment and it is no different to apartheid, except that the beneficiary has changed colour, and so has the victim. By not giving white people the opportunity to show their commitment to the new South Africa and by adopting the attitude that whites are “just lucky that they are not being sent back to Europe”, the ANC has ensured that most whites are resentful and angry, not in the mood for giving. In this way, they have reinforced their own stereotype about whites being “racist and selfish”, in the same way that the Nats reinforced their stereotype about black people being “intellectually inferior” by not educating them.
The greatest contradiction of AA is that is an indication of the lack of faith that the ANC has in the ability of black people to start their own businesses and compete on an equal footing with white people. Is it possible that, in the corner of their minds, many black people have allowed the Nats to convince them that they can not succeed on their own, even if they are given equal educational opportunities and access to capital? Many people will say that the ANC can not afford to provide equal education and loans for new businesses but in that case, how could they afford to spend R600m on Mbeki’s presidential jet? Where did they find R30-billion to spend on arms in 1999?
In my opinion, the ANC's tendency to use force (in the form of quotas, affirmative action, black nationalism / BEE), instead of encouraging and facilitating genuine empowerment, is a symptom of the anger and aggression that many of the ANC leaders feel towards whites in general, as a result of the suffering that they endured during apartheid. While this anger is understandable, it is not excusable, and ultimately an inherently discriminatory concept like affirmative action will be brought to its knees and will hurt the very people who were supposed to benefit from it. The ANC may have been good freedom fighters against the Old South Africa but in my opinion, they are a liability to the New South Africa – and so is apartheid, I mean, affirmative action.