By Marius Redelinghuys
Neanderthal Malema attacks whites
I have often heard many an “unreconstructed racist” hasten to add that they have many black friends. In the minds of these people it is clear that your racism or lack thereof, is proportional to the number of friends you have in race groups other than your own.
The subject of race and racism has always been and continues to be a sensitive one in South Africa, this despite our president’s attempts to suppress any discussion and debate on the topic. Recent events have further firmly entrenched in my mind the necessity of a truly broad-based, representative, honest and critical discussion on the state of race and race relations in the country. These have included most prominently the recent debates on national hero and icon Caster Semenya.
Standing in front of a class of white Afrikaans-speaking first years in comparative politics yesterday, I was intrigued to hear debates on this issue emanate from the students before the class commenced. The debate was interesting, supportive, and for me, encouraging. What struck me the most was the observation from a male student arguing that for the first time since apartheid, South Africans across the racial divide were fighting a common “enemy” — misconception and discrimination emanating from ignorance and sexism. South Africa was abuzz with discussion and debate expressing disgust over the treatment of and support for Caster.
Anyone following the blogosphere, rants on Facebook, Twitter and discussions in offices, kitchens and living rooms across the country would have been amazed at the level of national consensus on the issue. Sure, there are always lunatic fringes who spew and perpetuate ignorance, but they are generally quite out of touch with the rest of society and thankfully a very small minority. Naturally I was incredibly excited, optimistic and in high spirits over the unity that this unfortunate and unnecessary incident had brought about!
The euphoria was short-lived, sadly. What goes up, must come down, and nobody can crash a party and dash hopes quite as well as Comrade Julius. Not only did his “pointed observation” about the lack of white people at the airport welcoming taint an otherwise good article about the extent of anger among South Africans in the NYTimes; it also confirmed and demonstrated to me that — as much as Zuma may claim he and his ANC are non-racial — Comrade Julius is trapped in and held hostage by an acute racial gaze. It’s sad, almost sick, that someone can stand in a crowd of people in support of a humiliated and unfairly treated athlete and not express gratitude for the level of support but rather survey the demographics of the turnout.
Firstly, I would assume that most people at that time of day would be in on the job. Unless you’re a “professional politician”, you’d probably be in an office or in front of a tutorial class full of first years. Secondly, I don’t know what Julius wanted to see when looking into the crowd. If it was proportional representation — 79.3% black people, 9.1% white people, 9% coloured people and 2.6% Indian — then I would like to know who had conducted a mini and on-the-spot census for him. Thirdly, with Julius probably being chauffeured to the airport in party property, I wonder whether he has ever pondered the difficulty in getting to the airport kilometres outside of Johannesburg and Pretoria. The traffic on the R21 in the morning is — as excited as I am about Caster’s victory — enough to dissuade me from awaiting her arrival. Even more so when considering that all other spectators — apart from the “professional politicians” of course — are treated like normal people at the very busy, very discomforting OR Tambo.
Apart from these logistical issues, I find it disgusting and hypocritical of Julius’s organisation to pack the crowd and then point fingers at how the crowd is packed. Not only, as is true ANC style these days, was “much of the crowd at the airport bussed in by affiliates of the governing African National Congress” but Julius — based on his limited observations — fails to acknowledge the fact that “other political parties sent smaller contingents” (perhaps, again, proportional to their organisational and financial muscle). Julius’s observation therefore clearly reflected a case of ANC crowd mismanagement.
Perhaps this has all just been a huge mistake and the buses full of white people never arrived (see note about R21 traffic above) or all the white folk are still just waiting for the bus. You can’t expect white folk to get on board if you don’t send the bus.
I recommend the ANC revisit their approach to bussing in crowds to ensure that it reflects the gender and racial realities of South African society — a commission of some sort might be helpful. It would surely lead to better crowd management, greater representation of white people and negate the need for Julius to waste so much of his precious time to an on-the-spot census. More worrying is the clear departure from a solid ANC tradition of non-racialism by bussing in more black people than white people, it is truly sad to see a party that has never looked at people in terms of race fail so dismally in bussing in an adequately representative sample of our diverse society.
It is sad that the potential something as unfortunate as the Semenya saga has for exposing and confronting prejudice and ignorance about sex and gender has been hi-jacked and turned into a race issue specifically to castigate white South Africans. Julius, how many white friends do you have?
Saturday, August 29, 2009
By Marius Redelinghuys