Cape Argus - UCT’S weekly student newspaper Varsity has issued a formal apology for printing a survey polling the most attractive race.
The survey documented the dating preferences of 60 people – 10 whites, 10 coloureds, 10 Indians, 10 east Asians, 10 “biracial” people and 10 Africans – and concluded that white people were considered to be the most attractive. African people were considered to be the least desirable.
The accompanying article, by Qamran Tabo for the paper’s opinion page, was headlined: “Is love colour-blind?” It claimed that while all groups would date people outside of their own race, “African and Indian respondents are the only groups that found members of their own racial groups unattractive”.
The survey reportedly revealed that dating a white person was regarded as the ultimate status symbol and that “bagging” a white partner was considered to be an achievement.
Tabo finishes her piece: “Hopefully one day, when the world’s entire population becomes creolised, character will be the only deciding factor for who we want to date.”
Since the article was published on Tuesday, Twitter has seen a storm of outraged tweets, although the SA Institute of Race Relations (Sairr) described the survey as “a useful insight into a real issue”.
In an open letter to the editor of the paper, the university’s own Student Representative Council wrote that it could not condone the manner in which this sensitive issue had been approached.
The council’s president, Lorne Hallendorff, said that to draw conclusions from a poll of 60 people failed to meet any real statistical requirements.
In response to the outrage and various criticisms, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Alexandra Nagel apologised to offended readers on Thurs.
“I formally retract the title of the pie chart ‘UCT votes on the most attractive race’ as this was not a formal survey conducted by the university,” she said.
But she noted that it was important that people took the context of the chart into account, stressing that the graphic had to be read together with the accompanying article.
“I emphasise that the ‘survey’ conducted by the writer was for her personal insight and not that of a definitive, scholarly analysis. It was intended as a social commentary on the society in which she resides.
“I am aware of the controversy surrounding the sensitivity of race and I understand that the right of freedom of expression has its limits when unnecessarily used to discriminate against others. However, Varsity feels that the writer was not abusing this right, nor had any intention of issuing an attack on individual racial groups, but (was) pinpointing a matter that is still affecting the lives of South Africans.”
Young Communist League spokesman Khaya Xaba said he was not happy with what he called Nagel’s “half-hearted and hollow” apology.
On Thursday, the UCT branch of the league said it planned to lodge a formal complaint against the newspaper, demanding a full apology and the article’s retraction.
Sairr deputy CEO Frans Cronje said printing the survey was a positive move: “This isn’t a spoof survey, it is actually a useful insight into a real issue… If they didn’t print it, it would have the implication that black people aren’t mature enough to deal with these results - which is even more offensive.”
He said the survey was not unique in its findings – examples of these partner preferences were evident globally. He criticised Varsity News’s decision to apologise for printing the chart.
“Are they apologising for being outspoken and controversial?”
Institute research manager Lucy Holborn said she was surprised there was controversy around the printing of the article rather than the results.
“I think in this case they were fairly clear about their methodology,” she said. “The outcome wasn’t being endorsed by the writer.”
She the results were insightful because they created an interesting commentary on society.