Gillian Schutte
Gillian Schutte

Dear White People

I have decided to start the New Year with a letter to you all. It is a letter that implores you to wake up and smell Africa with a fresh white nose.

Before you get angry and defensive, think of this letter as a crash course survival kit for navigating a new reality, and please be assured that if you take heed of the call in this letter your life will change in miraculous ways. Once the blinkers are off the world is a much more colourful and celebratory place to engage in.

Let me begin by wholeheartedly apologising for what my ancestors did to the people of South Africa and inviting you to do the same. I reject their legacy as much as is possible and, as you already know, have made it a life mission to deconstruct the phallocentric white view of ”white as right” and the misguided precept that white is central to all reality.

I reject the discourse of white domination but I acknowledge that I was brought up in this construct. Though my single-mother household was never economically privileged we were privileged by virtue of our skin colour and my mother was given assistance by the state that a woman of colour was denied.

I call on white people to reflect on what it means to be born into unearned privilege, to excavate our long history of racist exploitation and assumed superiority — to acknowledge that this is what we were taught and then to reject it wholly.

I call on white people to acknowledge that whiteness has become invisible to us and we no longer recognise it for a discourse that perpetuates the dehumanisation of black people in ways so subtle that they appear normal.

I call on white people to admit that the rainbow nation is a myth and until we truly are able to recognise the humanity of all people we cannot claim to be post-racist.

I call on white people to acknowledge how white supremacy continues to play out in the media — in representations of blackness — in the constant accusation that black people are racist when they speak their truth.

I call on white people to recognise the black-bashing trend of our media, which is largely white owned, and to put an end to this dehumanising and destructive infantile idiocy.

I call on white people to recognise that by jumping in on national debates that do not concern them they are usurping a platform for authentic black voices to air their grievances about our leadership. You may have noticed that the black voices we need and want to hear choose to disengage because they are skaam to share the podium with a lot of cacophonic white outrage about the same topic but from a white racist perspective.

White people please just shut up for once and listen. Not everything is about white people being accused of racism. Sometimes it is about the black middle class and whether or not they have adopted vile white practices.

I implore you, white people, to listen to black voices calmly and not to react defensively to every outrage a black voice presents.

I call on white people to accept that they are not the only race that is entitled to rage, to hurt, to pain, to anger.

I call on white people, to recognise that they fear the emotions of black people — that it is this fear that makes them shut down black voices and defend themselves from the suggestion that they are complicit in the continued oppression of black people.

I call on white people to recognise that we have all been taught (in varying degrees) that black people do not have the same emotions and psychology as us and that this fallacy is built upon the double-edged sword of domination and fear. To dehumanise a people is to exploit them with no guilt. To recognise their collective pain is to admit the guilt thereby see the humanity.

I call on white people to recognise how whiteness has unconsciously used blackness as a conduit for its own darkness and unacknowledged savagery.

I implore white people to get over their fear that black people are out to slaughter them in a wholesale genocide of revenge. It has not happened yet and there is so much evidence that it will never happen in a country that has built its economic policy on global standards that favour whiteness and rely on the middle class as a buffer zone between the people on the ground and the elite corporate and political class. Just get over yourselves. White people of middle class are still safer than people living in townships.

I call on white people to work on a strategy to lessen the growing gap between rich and poor because, white people, it is the poor who are really suffering in this country and it is the poor who are the wretched fall-out from a more than 360-year history of white domination, slavery, subjugation and theft of livelihood.

I call on white people to understand that poverty and unemployment are social conditions. By renaming them ”laziness”, ”lack of ambition” and ”stupidity” you are furthering your own illogical delusions that whiteness has nothing to do with the untenable conditions that most black people are forced to live in. These are not inherent traits of being black, as many of you are fond of saying. These are the social consequences of a brutal colonial history and current globalisation — coupled with weak anti-the-poor leadership.

And please white people, when you feel compelled to criticise Zuma, as we all do, please ensure that you are critiquing him for his favouring of white corporates and the white middle class over poverty issues — for his pro-capitalist stance and his failure to deliver to the poor — for his patriarchal utterances that threaten to usurp women’s rights — rather than obsessing over his penis, his wives, his second-language command of English and using him as a scapegoat for all your fears and negative unconscious stereotypes about all black folk.

Oh and one more thing … asseblief white people, from well-meaning liberals to white supremacists — just stop telling everyone who is not white how to behave, what to think and when to say what. By trying to control the public agenda you are participating in your own imagined oppression and avoiding the possibility that we are all human and can co-exist very nicely.

Be grateful that you are still welcome in a land that was stolen.

And stop bitching and telling black people to get over their history. Goddammit — if those things had happened to white people there would be an entire world domination film industry built upon the “legitimised suffering of white people” so why will you not understand that colonialism was a holocaust of epic proportions and it will take many, many more decades for the pain to subside.

Instead of defending your privileges by denying them and nursing your guilt through misguided outrage — why not get your hands dirty while helping to restore this country to a space of dignity and respect for all.

Try now to reconsider the possibility of the healing potential of apologising collectively and genuinely for the wrongs our history has perpetrated against the indigenous people of this land.

Oh ja … and white people, please try not to respond negatively and vilely to my letter because I will never stop pleading with you to get over yourselves and get with the current programme. It is as easy as the blink of an eye.

Yours sincerely,

Settler Sister

Tags: , , ,

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    • Neville

      I would love to hear what others (including the author) are doing to “just get down to it”-the creation a more “just” society. Where, in fact, is this change we wish to see in our unequal society? Is it being peddled by aid organisations that unwittingly reinforce a culture of dependency while claiming to “do good”? Is this elusive “change” found in the lowered requirements to pass matric and enter an unaccomodating, competitive, bifurcated workforce? Lead on, ye of faith, … People are listening (in their own ways) but need some hope.

    • Ayanda Duma

      Even more interesting is how all this affected the Christian community in the area, esp since the perpetrators of this injustice are prominent Christian leaders and the majority of Xhosa parents refuse to buy into the “white lie” (pun intended) that wickedly twists the Gospel of Grace into an intrument of racial prejudice and injustice. South Africa, back to God, in Him we will get our reconciliation.

    • Richard

      Remind me what the national debates are that do not concern me?

    • Phillip

      Dear Gillian

      Thank you for a thought provoking letter.

      There are a number of matters that I do not agree with in respect of your letter, but one very important aspect that I do agree with, namely: a change in the way we approach one another. Our leadership and government can be criticised on various levels and issues. They must be criticised by the public and the media, it is a very important check and balance of democracy, but the way in which this is attended to cannot be wrapped in cheap sensationalism. That defeats the very important role that critique should play.

      For as many issues I disagree with in your letter, I do agree that we need to mend our approach toward one another to be one based on respect and dignity, whether that respect is deserved or not, otherwise critique will be ignored and we will be captured in a never ending blame game, no matter which race or colour you are from.

    • Alan

      Dear Sister/white person. I wish I had written that. So glad you did. Can we work together in some way? I am a writer too but I’m wondering if I should become a soldier. Another white person.

    • Alan

      Another thing… you mentioned whites not getting on the bandwagon of black issues. Stay out of it, shut up you say and yes, hear hear. But to what degree must the white who brought these issues to Africa find solutions? Is it up to the black man alone to solve the problem if he didn’t create it? Or, do we stay out of it as the black man says: ‘don’t fight my war!’ Advice please, at yours, and Africa’s, service.

    • Alan
    • Steve van Niekerk

      This article raised the following questioninmy mind : how will the NDR and the current African Nationalism be judged by history as compared to white oppresion ?

    • Born this way….

      @ Hlubi,
      “murdered, oppressed, raped and dehumanized”
      The score is actually:
      Apartheid Security Apparatus: <100 people.
      ANC Death Camps almost 1,000 persons considered dissidents, most not guilty.

      I could give you some figures and eye witness accounts from both sides of the fence, but suspect it will be better if you go research it yourself.
      You will most likely remain blindly critical of everything “white” with your perception of the unrelenting evil it is, and will prefer to overlook the massive amount of good done by the same “evil whites”. But then again, who knows.

      Persons like yourself are simply perpetuating uninformed, uneducated propaganda, lies fed to the general populace as gospel to further the revolutionary agenda of self-enrichment.
      (My thanks to Juju for this jargon; I could not dream it up myself).

    • Alan

      Sorry Gillian, it appears that address is not working. Try [email protected]

    • Bernard K Hellberg

      I have to ask – Gillian – you’re not a sociology major, are you?

    • Kreef

      What a burden it is for hard working , caring and patriotic citizens to live in such a race obsessed country . Everthing under the sun that is bad is blamed on whites by the author . Blacks are shown as inoscent angels incapable of any wrong . If only reality was so simple we would have no problems in this country .

    • Mariano Castrillon

      I demand an apology from the Suevs, Vandals, Alans,Goths and Visigoths for destroying the Roman Empire and I demand an apology from the Ottoman Turks for destroying the Eastern Roman Empire, so there!.

    • Malan

      ja mevrou ons maak so

    • Kullid Dooshbag

      Ya – Good article – very good!

      Still doesnt rectify the past. still a start

    • Stuff

      Thanks Gillian. Good article. Not that this whitey agrees with it all, but I like your bold and forthright style.

    • Xoi San E

      Sis Tumi,

      I don’t need your thanks when defending our beautifull people. Clearly you live in the same republic as I where we are responsible and instrumental in designing communities where our children can live in racial harmony and negotiate and educate through dialogue from birth. I have a child born pre liberation and two born- freesand I expect them to engage with their peers to find balance in their thinking . They are black but fair sckinned, educated in ex model C schools and have read Gillians rants before. My kids read newspapers and listen to the radio every day. Their happy lives are filled with wonderful heroes and role models of all colours and classes and they are truly offended by this crazy talk. Gillian does not represent the world in which we live. I personally don’t want to be lectured by a person from the past, we have history books for that. I am sad that she lives in parallel universe which unfortunately is outdated it is sad that my south african is so futuristic that it is out of her reach.

    • Lennon

      @ ntozakhona: I never specified the location of the forest. However, my question stands.

    • Born this way….

      @ Pinky

      Thank you.


      Gross generalisations prevail. Sorry Gillian, the era that inspired this kind of polarised approach to dealing with the complex issue of our engineered social fabric in South Africa is both obsolete and counter-productive.

      Your letter, by implication, is incredibly patronising to both blacks and whites alike.

    • Pale Rider

      Good article. Things are getting better.

    • Ben

      Shoe…….i just don’t understand the part where you say that Africa belongs to black people. And you actually build your entire comments around this. I was really trying to understand this, because maybe you are right, but eeeehhh. No

    • Jacco

      While we keep focusing on racism we will remain divided and concurred. We need to relearn that our diversity is our strength and by standing together we will be empowered to protect ourselves against the bigger problem, imperialist exploitation.

      The day that middle class & poor black AND white South Africans (anybody who is not part of the elite minority) realize that our leaders have sold us out to those who plunder our resources without the masses truly benefitting, that day we will see how the racist agenda is one of the key strategies to keep us occupied, dumbed down and divided, preventing us from doing anything about the mass exploitation and corruption that is strangling our sad, beloved country.

    • Tiaan Boshoff

      Dear Settler Sister

      Even though I agree that what you are saying exists, I find it ignorant of you to imply that all ‘whites’ or all ‘blacks’ are the same. I might suggest that you start with getting to know your history. You might be surprised to find that it may be your own particular brand of ‘settlers’ that followed a path of annexation and warfare when others chose to trade for what they owned and fought only when they needed to. Perhaps you may find that not everyone is as racist and intolerant as you try try to make white and black people seem. Well done on all the sensation, you still seem to be an irresponsible journalist.

    • Andre

      bla bla bla; is what all that history sounds like to a hungry man ~ regardless their colour.

      Where you came from (your civilisational history) means nothing, if you are fighting for survival today. Which more than half of all South Africans are doing.

      I am white, yes I did benefit, I don’t any longer; and that education I got (that benefit) means nothing against my skin colour – so right back at you; get over yourself.

    • vathiswa

      Thank you Gillian

    • http://pindernogoduker/facebook pinder nogoduker

      i must congratulate you because all of these things are what frustrates people like me. White people feel entitled to things they dont own and ridicule a man (black man) who stands for his culture. I’m really enjoying the calmness of your arguement as it does not spark negativity rather the truth. Here’s something I think you would enjoy writing or investigating,are white people in this country African as they claim? If so why don’t they know atleast one indigenious language. You can’t belong to a place or land if you do not live and speak like the people of that particular area or country. Please investigate I’d love to see your angle on this.

    • http://[email protected] Thando Nebe

      I am not a racialist in any way, but thats because I can speak for myself under any given circumstances but there are those who cant and I commend this White Afrikaans woman for bieng so brave, I do feel that she should not have only addressed whites, but to your Indians and coloureds as well, cause in South Africa a black native country, it cool to be any other race but black, this is something that you see every where, people give you comments like….. at least youre not really black…… if my eyes where closed i would think you are white……… who runs the company, is it a black guy……….. please dont tell me that your ex is black….. and so it goes on. I think we should have more of these open debates around this issue, and stop skittering around it. In the same way that it was publisied and programed in peoples heads that to be black meant that you were scum, it must be publisied and de-programed…and to do this we must speak about it.

    • http://[email protected] Thando Nebe

      Having said the above, our black nation needs to stand up themselves and rebuild themselves again, the government has made a lot of avenues available, the A.N.C will build you a house, but don’t expect them to do the applications for you as well, education is free but you must do the studying yourselves, housing subsidies are easily available but you must go out there and do what ever it takes for you to qualify…….. sadly for as long as the older Generation is still around these painful ideologies will continue to be planted in the heads of whomever is willing to listen gladly society is changing and constantly challenging this so my 2pence piece of advise is that as an indivisual there will always be something in your life that you need to overcome, people who get hijacked and have car accidends dont stop driving cars, rape surviors still go on to marriage and having kids, the deaf have composed music, the disabled have won gold oympic medals, a son whos roots lie in a land where slaves where harvested is now the President of the U.S.A….who ever thought, stop blaming the past, it done and can not be changed, ignore racist comments and actions – re acting to them is not constructive…. AND TAKE WHAT YOU WANT FROM THE PRESENT SO YOU FUTURE CAN BE WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE. If you were born in a shack because of aparthied, my deepest apologies go out to you cause I know the hardships, but if you die in it because of your lazyness and lack of ambition, THEN SIS ON YOU…

    • Dillon

      I do not this Gillian speaks on behalf of anyone but herself. This is after all her opinion and she is entitled to it. I dont know why white people are getting so defensive and why black people are rejecting her cause she is speaking “on behalf” of them.

      She is a person that grew up in this racist country just like all of us and is simply also just trying to make sense of it all from her frame of reference.

    • Daymon

      Thank you for your thoughtful words. Please let me share an article with a more scientific and historic approach to this question.

      Death to Slavery: Ending the Myth of Race in the United States

      “Today, African Americans as a group are overrepresented in almost every social and health problem facing the American people. At the same time, the growing equality of unemployment and poverty is making possible a new class unity across racial or ethnic lines, that can create the change needed for all of humanity and the earth to thrive. For revolutionaries to play their role in this process, it’s important to understand how the ruling class uses race to attempt to divide the American people to prevent class consciousness and to justify poverty, oppression, and State violence against the working class. Today’s advanced technology makes it possible to organize a society where all of our needs are met. But the promise of a cooperative society will only be achieved when the American people become conscious of the cause of our problems and the solution.”

    • Geodev

      The article is well founded and thought provoking. I specifically appreciate the equivocation of the terms “colonialism” and “holocaust”. The writer is one of only a handful of enlightened people around the world who dares to do so. Keep up the GOOD WORK!!!

    • Vee Nkosi

      As a former columnist myself I think she is entitled to her opinion as to how she sees the world. Race will always be a sensitive issue for many South Africans.In my opinion there is no one contributing factor to the social ills faced by so many South Africans the majority being black. The fact is while some live in the lap of luxury many South Africans continue to suffer social injustices, when will it ever end?

    • ML Zwane

      Dear Settler Sister,

      In truth do not speak in generalisation because as always those that are convinced that they do not deserve this tongue-lashing will be defensive. I urge white people to talk so that black people will also know what concerns white people. Whether we like it or not since we live in this country our future is intertwined for a long haul.

      I admire when you say 360 years of colonialism will take long to correct nor forget (though you miscalculated it is more than that). White people were okay when everything was in their favour and for one to conclude that affirmative action is apartheid in reverse is pure ignorance because that never strips anyone of their dignity and human rights, it is just the tool to level the playing ground. I always ask the AfriForum guys why were they not visible when the black dude was beaten to a pulp by white policemen back in those dark days before his children and wife and made to feel useless? They must shut up!

      What this country needs is to rid itself of the fear factor that we are after white people. To be honest I will speak for myself and say black people want to build themselves up and we know for now who holds the resources. White people must actively participate in building this country willingly and refrain from folding their arms and watch black people battle to get them to take part. You are part of the problem of the current situation so be part of the solution.

    • Ozoneblue

      walter #

      Hi walter. How are Whites supposed “get their hands dirty”/” do something for the country” when they are decreasingly being sidelined by race-based affirmative action. I do not understand what it is that you expect them to do, every time we are reminded how whites are “over-represented” everywhere, so it appears to me as if whites should “contribute” by emigrating (if they can) or dropping out into white squatter camps to become Julius Malema’s domestic servant?

    • Ozoneblue

      correction… when they are increasingly being sidelined by race-based affirmative…

    • Ozoneblue

      Interesting stats here – Whites now only make up about 30% of the South African middle/upper classes. Yet the same rhetoric of 1994 of Whites being rich and privileged while Blacks are all poor are continually held up as fact.

      “Corrective policies are said to have helped change the all-white face of business in South Africa, after black people had been exluded for more than 60 years.

      In the past 18 years South Africa has produced 178 black millionaires — according to their shares listed on the JSE — and about 4-million black people are now considered middle class, living in households that earn R300,000 to R500,000 a year.”

    • WTF

      Gillian has allowed emotion to destroy the validity of some of her points. She also contradicts herself on more than one occasion, and has wriiten a piece that is inherently divisive.

      Gillian hates being white. Ashamed by White actions in Africa. But why do todays generation have to carry that burden? Many have shrugged it off and fully embraced Africa.

      How does blaming white people for black plight achieve anything? Gillian, you actually hate the fact the predominantly black government has not acted the way any of us would have hoped in the last 20 years. That cannot be the whites fault.

      How is it that in a country of 50 million people, a small minority are responsible for the suffering of the majority. After 20 years of democracy, blaming that white minority dooms the entire country to failure.

    • Pinky

      @Vee Nkosi, and how do you put all the blame on minority white SAn for what you suggest as socio economy? Does the president who takes public money for his personal use not prolong the suffering of the economically marginalised? For me personally and as black person, all I want is an honest and truthful debate on our national issues, this blame game is taking us nowhere more than it causes others to be defensive,destructive and resentful so what good can come out of this? what is worse many of these race card poker players are themselves guilty of same and in some cases they use their race cards for grandstanding, so how can I as a black person be proud to have someone like Mrs Schutte race carding to grandstand her white peers in my name? I did approve of that when Malema is doing it, so why does Mrs Shuttle think its acceptable when she does it? I count her amongst lazy SAn journos who are lazy to research holistically and honest the facts behind our socio economic woes and is now instead using an outdated debate of race to make herself relevant, she really must think that black SAns are thick, and that I object to very strongly, we need a constructive debate that will lead us amicable resolution not grandstanding one another using race card.

      Lastly, I wish white people like Mrs Shutte would refrain speaking on behalf of black people, we are quite capable to do that ourselves as we did till we talked our away into democracy in 1994.

    • Karabo (black chick)

      Two points

      1. This article insinuates that white people are the only ones who are unhappy about the status quo … not true Sister

      2. We (black people) or (dare I say) “free South Africans” don’t want white people to sit and shut up with complacency, while they are not happy with their own government of their own country. That would breed a whole new form of segregation (apartheid).

      The angle your article should’ve taken is one of encouragement of all South Africans, telling us to work together for our country. Instead is smells of a white person who is telling her fellow race to “play dead” as the situation is hopeless.

    • Philip Cole

      Basically good article that makes important fundamental points about race and class exploitation, oppression and inequality in South Africa … and then, typically for Schutte, mars its positive impact by banging on for ever, including repeating the same fundamental points again and again, and going off the deep end into frankly nutty statements like:

      – deconstruct the phallocentric white view of ”white as right”.
      – rather than obsessing over his penis.

      What on earth have penises got to do with race, class and inequality? This seems to be Schutte’s own personal obsession rather than anyone elses.

    • Xoi San E

      Being born in 1964 I know exactly what I did until 1994 to participate in the abolition of Apartheid and I am proud. Gillian however, who’se CV is available on the internet for public consumption, can not make any such claim. although also born in 1964 but in the former Zimbabwe. So pehaps a case of “jonny come lately” instead of helping solve the propems in Zim, is causing devisions in our Republic. For now I will be happily and confidently black in the conviction (probably considered dillusional by Gillian) that no white people, in my environment or community are dehumanising me or mine. Gillian, in case you don’t get out much we are now FREE and it is up to us what we do with that freedom. We have a brand new generation of kids born in the late eighties and nineties, they are now in their late twenties and early thirties, they are hip, educated, worldly, well read, white and black, not concerned with colour.They have no idea what you’re on about. Again, these conversations you wish to start can only be described as a publicity stunt. They were exhausted during the anti apartheid struggle, Where were you when were at war over these issues?Have you missed it.Speak to people, go to Wits or Boston Campus, go to Braamfontein Speak to rural and urban kids. We can learn from them. It is a slap in the face of the comrades of the Mass Democratic Movement that you and who ever informs you that our struggle was in vain and that you have no good experiences to share.

    • Justin

      How about a voting system for the comments?

      It’s difficult to move forward when your head is turned back.

    • Grant

      So much wrong here it is hard to know where to start but let’s try this:
      Write a piece of equivalent length, fire and passion called ‘Dear Black People’. In this way you may be able to force yourself out of the ridiculous narrative that all evil in the world stems from a white skin. When an article like this

    • Grant

      …is written you seem surprised that it evokes an angry response and you openly double your efforts to racially demonized and insult people based on nothing but their skin colour with added enthusiasm. What do you actually want here? Wet, limp white people with hunched simpering backs shuffling about the country wringing their hands awkwardly and staying out of the national debate? Well, you are welcome to your own intense session of self flagellation while the rest of us live and let live and try our best to build a country without all this endless prattle about guilt and colour.

    • I a

      Don’t worry…SA is just catching up with the very usual (I’m European) social class racism.
      The “color racism” is just very old fashion and is the previous battle.
      I hope your country will really bet on solid education for all.
      But, let me doubt about it.
      Because this will be very threatening for governments.
      But if you do, then you’ll be one of the very rare country to do so.
      And I wish you will developp real good education for all.

    • mythos

      And what should non-white people do? just curious, you see…

    • Ardin

      Brilliant letter. Saying what needs to be said. Although the tone of it might not change hearts and minds- I hope it stirs up something. Thanks for this.

    • Khoisan

      @Bornthisway “Persons like yourself are simply perpetuating uninformed, uneducated propaganda, lies fed to the general populace as gospel to further the revolutionary agenda of self-enrichment.” wow the irony is as thick as … several similes spring to mind…

      Where on earth did you get your information from… was your old man’s name Joseph..and is your family surname Goebbels?

    • Khoisan

      @Daymon.. if you think the communist manifesto is the Bible, imagine how revolutionary the actual Bible is… the failings of society start with the main ingredient…the human condition