Racism is part of SA society: IJR

By Carla Bernardo Time of article published Jan 5, 2016

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 Cape Town - Recent racist rantings on social media by three South Africans – Penny Sparrow, Justin van Vuuren, and Chris Hart – were unsurprising, this according to the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) who weighed in on the discussion on Tuesday.

“It’s not surprising at all,” said the IJR’s Carolin Gomulia. “It’s been a part of South African society for a long time but now it’s bubbling out more than ever before.”

Gomulia, part of the IJR – a non-profit whose vision is to build “fair, democratic and inclusive societies in Africa” – said the outbursts were cases of racist South Africans finally showing their “true colours” and being caught out on social media.

Gomulia said utterances of racism were recurring in South Africa but the key difference was that a few years ago social media was not there to document every slur. She added that although it could be seen as counter to the ideals of democracy, one could also interpret it positively.

“It could mean that because we are now more open when talking about racism, the racists are being challenged and being forced to come out and respond.”

Gomulia’s colleague, Stanley Henkeman – the head of the IJR programme “Building an Inclusive Society” – agreed that the remarks were unsurprising. These included Sparrow calling black South Africans monkeys, Van Vuuren referring to them as the scum of the nation, and Hart claiming in a tweet that victims of Apartheid had a sense of entitlement.

“People who hold these views will always hold them,” said Henkeman.

He said that when it came to suspended Standard Bank economist Hart, there had always been a “nagging feeling”.

“Chris Hart has always been very conservative,” said Henkeman. “He has also been very critical of government which in itself is not a problem but it is the way you do it and in an unguarded moment, this came out.”

In responding to racism, Henkeman said individuals needed to be held accountable and consistently so.

“You can’t stop people from holding views,” he said. “But we must throw the law at them and we must call it out every time.”

Both Henkeman and Gomulia gave their suggestions on how South Africans could move forward.

Henkeman said that it was disingenuous to question reconciliation every time the country experienced racism.

“Reconciliation should not be the casualty every time this happens,” he said. “It’s a hard process and by making it a casualty every time is to do ourselves and the country a disservice.”

Instead, said Henkeman, South Africans were to make conscious decisions to show they were against racism, such as aligning themselves with anti-racist campaigns.

Gomulia said that although in many instances white South Africans had not embraced reconciliation, they still had time to do so – if they chose to.

She added that South Africans should also be honest and admit that racism comes from across the board.

“This is however not to diminish what has been said,” Gomulia added.

Furthermore, the divisiveness of inequality had led many to become despondent to ideas of reconciliation and non-racialism and in order to counter this, Gomulia said all stakeholders needed to take it seriously – business, civil society, and government.

“However, it doesn’t seem to be high on their agenda,” she said.


African News Agency

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