Contrary to popular perceptions, we are all in the same boat
Remember the book Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, the white American journalist from the deep South who created quite a sensation with his best-seller, later made into a film?
Griffin was so disgusted at how African-Americans were being mistreated in the racially divided South that he decided the best way to expose the inequities was to get under the skin of those being oppressed.
So he underwent a series of skin treatments that temporarily transformed him - on the outside, at least - into a black man, so he could see first-hand how he was perceived by whites.
No, I’m not expecting you to rush out and subject yourself to some risky skin-lightening or darkening treatment to understand how others perceive you. Our courts and Chapter Nine institutions are doing a fairly good job exposing racism, hate speech and racial rhetoric.
Just this week, there was a story about a man who referred to Indians as “low-caste rubbish with no morals” and was strongly sanctioned by the Equality Court.
Edward Zuma, the son of former president Jacob Zuma, found himself in hot water with the Equality Court in Durban, which fined him R60 000 for hate speech and ordered him to apologise for his despicably offensive remarks about cabinet ministers Pravin Gordhan and Derek Hanekom.
What’s wrong with South Africans? I was beginning to despair until I came across a recent study by the Institute of Race Relations.
Contrary to a common perception, relations between people of different races in the country are mainly positive, with an overwhelming majority believing we’re all in the same boat. In fact, 77% of black respondents said they had not personally experienced racism.
The same percentage believed that, with better education and more jobs, the differences between the races would disappear. What surprised me most, though, was that two-thirds of respondents agreed that politicians were exaggerating the problems posed by racism and colonialism to excuse their own shortcomings.
These are hopeful signs, but this is little reason to become complacent. Who knows, this could well be the start of the much-vaunted new dawn for South Africa - if we can improve business confidence, increase growth and get rid of corrupt scumbags looting our coffers.
The Sunday Independent