‘Talk white and we’ll be friends’
Cape Town - Friendships at UCT don’t easily cross the racial and social divide, PhD researcher Buhle Zuma has found.
“We have this ideal of the rainbow nation. There’s this romanticism about post-apartheid South Africa. What I wanted to do was show there are obstacles to achieving that.”
Zuma, 30, said his thesis showed that students could be friends when there was racial diversity, if they were from the same class background.
Although much research about these relationships had been done in the US, the relationships were more complicated in South Africa.
Zuma, who graduated from UCT recently, looked at psychological and social factors which influenced the formation of racially homogeneous first-year university friendship groups.
He found that socio-economic status, racial identity and ethnic identity, language and accent were important contributing factors in the formation of racially homogeneous friendships.
Zuma found that students used middle-class English accents typical of private and former Model C schools as a proxy for socio-economic status and a social status marker.
He had used UCT as an example of how a typical middle-class English accent was set as a benchmark for acceptance into particular friendship groups.
Zuma said there was an unacknowledged behaviour of black students “performing whiteness”. “People want to behave in a particular way which has historically been seen as white behaviour.”
He had seen this as students owning certain brands or frequenting certain restaurants which had historically been associated with white culture.
His research concluded that social differences and boundaries were not readily transcended at UCT, but were often reinstated in racial and class terms.
Zuma holds a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Social Work, a Bachelor of Social Science honours degree in Social Policy and Management, and a Masters in Diversity Studies, all from UCT.
He has recently joined UCT’s Psychology Department as a lecturer. - Cape Times