Grim reality is South Africans are becoming ‘more racist’

Thulani Ntuli speaking during the Race and Racism in Post-apartheid South Africa dialogue. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Thulani Ntuli speaking during the Race and Racism in Post-apartheid South Africa dialogue. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 20, 2023


Pretoria - Even though it has been close to 30 years since laws perpetuating racial discrimination and racism based on colour were abolished, extensive research continues to point towards the harsh reality that people in South Africa are becoming more racist.

Dr Gregory Houston, chief research specialist with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), speaking at a one-day dialogue session on Race and Racism in Post-apartheid South Africa held at the Ditsong Cultural Museum in Pretoria on Thursday, said they wanted to get more people to participate and talk about the issue of racism.

Houston said this was because they discovered, through research, that although people were becoming more “race conscious” 30 years into democracy, many people were, in fact, becoming more racist.

He said this could be evidenced by the repeated incidents of racism on social media and a lot of research they had done as the HSRC on social attitudes.

Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang during the Race and Racism Post-apartheid South Africa dialogue. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Houston said they took a look at the book entitled Paradise Lost and how it deals with race in a way that would make it irrelevant in communities.

“At the moment we are dealing with issues such as corruption, load shedding, and there’s this issue of race and racism which is a critical issue in the sense that we have not achieved something which is so important and serves as a social compact to say this is where we want to go.

“Whether we like it or not race is a major factor behind why we have not achieved the social compact we need to move forward and put the past behind us. We need to start looking at each other and deal with the issue of race as a starting point in order for us to move forward instead of looking at each other through the lens of colour.”

Houston said the reality was that while it couldn’t be denied that the country had a lot to deal with at the moment, race had been put on the back burner when it actually needed to be at the centre of everything.

“The purpose is to take an uncomfortable topic and start to deal with it every day. We need to feel uncomfortable until it becomes something we can talk comfortably about, because if we don’t talk it’s not going to be dealt with.

“One of the enduring legacies of apartheid is the way we look at and think about each other. Many of us who grew up in that era still have these racist beliefs and we pass it onto our children, which results in us continuing to live in racial enclaves and not integrating as a people.”

Naledi Marema, from Mamelodi, said as a young person she wanted to find out more about racism and how it could be abolished for good as it was still the lived experience for many youths albeit in subtle ways most times.

Marema said that even though she was born in the new dispensation she had experienced racism and preferential treatment when she visited certain provinces.

“We need love and respect and with that, we can replace the hate that racism thrives off. If we can start looking at each other as people instead of seeing colour first we can start moving to a just society we all can thrive under instead of one group of people.”

Thulani Ntuli said he felt that finding solutions to unite South Africans were needed, as racism was holding back the development and growth which the youth required to thrive.

Ntuli said new ways of dealing with racism were needed now more than ever as how it has been dealt with over the past few years wasn’t yielding any fruits.

“We need organisations, institutions, leaders and political groups to start roping in the youth in these discussions and hear how we feel about this issue and some of our ideas because this is not changing. We have a democracy but the economy is still segregated.”

Pretoria News