Friday, July 17, 2009

Raising the bar

I read Steven Friedman’s most recent column with growing incredulity (Whites wait on the touchline to label the next black buffoon, July 15). He seems to argue that all whites who criticise buffoonery and/or incompetence on the part of people of colour do so because of the racist stereotypes they subscribe to.

This may well be so in certain cases — chauvinism is a fact of life, and it is not only a black-white phenomenon. As a white Afrikaner I too sometimes get the distinct impression that Anglo-Saxons don’t take me as seriously as one of their own. But to imply that all criticism of black public figures is motivated by racism is pure poppycock. I regard the likes of Julius Malema or Peter de Villiers as buffoons not because of who they are, but of what they say and do. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it probably is a duck.

Offence is taken, not given. I would argue that the crux of the matter is not a superiority complex on the part of the critics, but rather an inferiority complex on the part of the criticised, and misplaced political correctness on the part of their apologists. SA will never achieve its full potential as long as we suffer fools and crooks out of “patriotism” or guilt .

Excellence requires raising the bar, not lowering it. Constructive criticism should be encouraged, not stigmatised . It is therefore equally important for (mostly) white critics to be fair, and for the (mostly) black objects of criticism not to react with instinctive defensiveness.

Written by a reader, Louis Rossouw of Faerie Glen in Business Day

1 Opinion(s):

Viking said...

Friedman refers to "the white judge who implied recently that, as an inheritor of English tradition, he honoured his work obligations whatever the state of his health — and that, by implication, Africans book themselves off at the slightest excuse."
The judge's statement carried no such implication- unless someone chose to take it that way. For example, someone with an inferiority complex or someone for whom the 'implication' rang true.
The author's point in this article is entirely lost on me. As an 'outsider' I would point out that particularly in Britain and Ireland, most figures of authority are routinely ridiculed as buffoons - and many of them are. It may be a cheap shot, but the ridiculing of the (self-)important is part of democracy and is no less so in South Africa. Friedman is utterly and completely wrong in his analysis.
Perhaps his final question should be rewritten as follows:
"And which sort of racial prejudice should worry us more — that of black professionals and politicians who react to bigotry in selfserving ways or those of journalists who believe that their blackness should insulate such authority figures from any criticism of their performance"