Siya Mnyanda
Siya Mnyanda

White people must stand up against white racism

When I was in high school, my headmaster used to say that evil triumphs when good people do nothing. It was not till I matriculated and grew older that I could fully comprehend and appreciate the gravity of his words. Racism, of any nature, defeats the ends of the reconciliation project we’ve been working towards for the past 22 years.

For us to embark on this journey, black leadership called upon ordinary South Africans of colour to forgive the white minority for the atrocities perpetrated against them through apartheid. Many have argued that this was done with little or no remorse shown from white South Africa. This divorce settlement from apartheid meant that white people could still retain the wealth and head start they dubiously acquired through this despicable and oppressive socio-economic regime.

If we are to ever achieve the free and fair South Africa we’ve been working towards the project now requires white South Africans to do their bit and speak out against white racism. If this does not happen, and soon, then I’m afraid we might be in some serious trouble.

When I was 16 I pursued an inter-racial relationship. This was before I had come to terms with the fact that I was gay. I never received any resistance from my friends, both black and white. The same was true of my family. I assumed the same would be true for her especially because I considered her family relatively progressive, but I was wrong. I would later learn that her family expressed having reservations about us being romantically linked because I was black. This was despite the fact that they had warmly accepted me as her friend for years prior and that we came from very similar upper middle-class family backgrounds.

What I found even more surprising was the backlash that came from our peers on her side. Disapproving comments ranged from “jungle fever” to others calling our innocent teenage affair “immoral”. Being the hothead adolescent that I was at the time, I reacted and took one of the girls to task. To my surprise and utter dismay, most of our white contemporaries either defended her or simply kept quiet and said nothing. This would be the first of many times I would notice this trend whereby white South Africans do not stand up and speak out against white racism.

I can recount dozens more stories between then and now and in all of them, white South Africans have continued to be silent in the face of white racism.

I do not recall any strong or notable white movements against the actions of the likes of Dianne Kohler-Barnard, Alistair Sparks and most recently Chris Hart and Penny Sparrow.

Unfortunately, such silence plays into the hands of the ruling ANC which continues to use emotional blackmail when canvassing for votes by playing on the justified fear that white people condone racism and would reinstate a form of apartheid if they would come back to power.

Because politics is largely a game of perceptions more than performance, it also doesn’t help that most of these perpetrators are in some way or the other associated with the DA, a party comprising mostly of white people. Such an association is not good for both reconciliation or democracy and it is no wonder the DA is trying to be seen as taking a harsh stance against racist behaviour through disciplinary action of its rogue members.

The only way white South Africa will rid itself of white racism is from within. It is unfortunate that silence reads as an endorsement of racism and in turn perpetuates it. Our post-apartheid reconciliation project is thirsty for white voices and requires white people to do what Steve Biko recommended — actively “involving themselves in an all-out attempt to stamp out racism from their white society”. Our democracy desperately needs this if it is to stand a fighting chance at survival. Silence is no longer an option.

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    • Green advocator

      You know what else plays into the hands of the ANC? Making us feel guilty for even trying to do the right thing. Sad to say this but maybe this country should have dropped into civil war in 1994. Then there would be another 40 odd years of getting over themselves before they realize that they are alienating those who want to stand up for what is right and not just ‘white racism” but racism of all colors..

    • Pierre Burger

      White people “silent” about DKB, Penny Sparrow etc? Lol! It’s clear you don’t have any friends who are white SJWs or Lefties. I am personally not one, but my facebook feed is constantly inundated with my white SJW friends screaming about white privilege, #Rhodesmustfall, #Blacklivesmatter, “micro-aggressions” and so on.

    • WillemvdW


      You are absolutely right that if good people do nothing, the bad is victorious. And I fully agree with you that to racism in all its vicious forms should be condemned and opposed, and eradicated from our society.

      What I do not fully understand is why your call is for white people to condemn white racism. That is such a divisive call. Would joining the bandwagon to heap scorn on a disgraced white individual prove my commitment to being ‘non-racial’? Am I as a person with a white skin colour guilty of racism until I have proved otherwise time and time again?

      Why is it not a call for all South Africans to oppose racism of any kind?

      That you have found racism where you did not expect it, is really bad. And real. May I share with you that I very recently dated a black woman, and never met her family (in well known circles) because of their disapproval of her dating a white man. Is this somehow less problematic? And years ago, when I married my college sweetheart, that happened to be black, and my family disapproved I cut ties with them and stayed with her. Now I need to “prove” that I am not a racist, because some silly woman shouted to the world that she was?

      Siya, I invite you and all the South Africans that abhor racism of all kinds, to join hands and start fighting it wherever it rears its ugly head. I am sorry, but your call is racist in itself, and in doing so you have lost the moral integrity of your message. Fighting racism in our own being, and in our society is a lifelong and hard struggle, that requires constant questioning of your own views, feelings and gut reactions. How much stronger will we not be if we understand this, commit ourselves to this together, and strive to eradicate racism in all its forms and flavours from our society.

      I recently stood in a queue of white boys waiting to enter a well known club in Cape Town, whilst every black person walked straight in. I was eventually called in, because I used to come there often, but it reinforced in me the understanding of how bad it is for someone to be at the receiving end of racially discriminated power. This should never happen to anybody, white or black. I believe that we can only do this if we join hands with all non-racialists and address all forms of racism in our country. I urge you to form a group of anti-racialists on Facebook, with this vision, and I will be the first to be there.

    • Adam Kossioris Kouros Olive O

      It is high time for Black people in South Africa to stand up against Black racism. They are the majority, in numbers and in wealth, have been living in a country that has been liberated from the evils of apartheid more than a generation ago, continuously crying wolf against the meagre white minority.

      Among them is the conviction that each ones ethnic racial group, is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others. This is cows manure!

      They excuse their scantiness and their leader’s corrupt behaviour like all the people of this planet, Greeks included, on others than themselves.

      Till the time that people will become self-critical and accept their responsibilities, cleptocrat and plutocrat groups will suck their daily sweat and blood and they will remain in their gutters even if racism is abolished from the face of the earth!

    • Rainbow Man

      Blacks majority in wealth? Have you seen the list of richest people in SA? Seen the proportion of CEO across the colour line? Actually if you are a worker like me how many white bosses compared to black have you seen? Or just to Soweto or Alexander or any informal settlement and tell me if you spot a white person. While at it drive around affluent northern suburbs and tell me how many blacks do you see wlaking their dogs or jogging on the road. I assume that you are a tourist since you really don’t seem to know your facts about SA……oh while at it also do some research to find out land ownership proportion between blacks and white, once done please update your article. We don’t want you to leave SA with a wrong impression..

    • TerminalA

      what point would that server…even if one white guy owned 2 hectares of land and one black guy owned 2 hectares of land, at the current ratio of 10/1 it would mean 100% of whites owned land and only 10% of blacks owned land

    • Philip Machanick

      I am getting sick of whinges from some white South Africans about what victims they are.

      While there is the odd incident of black people saying objectionable things, that really is not the dominant racist discourse that I hear on a daily basis.

      Racism that makes it to the public space is the tip of the iceberg.

      We should all start taking a stand against this when it happens in private.

      The sooner we banish this from the general discourse the better. We have hard problems to solve in this country like rampant inequality, a failing public school and health system and a governing party that is increasingly become a patronage engine.

      Dealing with hate speech is a distraction, one we have to deal with, but not something that actually solves these problems.

    • wayne III

      You are right about whites but you also need to say the same about black people because for racism to end it will be the effort of both blacks and whites, not one race! To be frank government also needs to get rid with racial policies as well and be pro-poor people polices.

    • Waxfoot

      Siya, your math is off:
      The DA won 22% of the electoral vote in the 2014 General Election, yet only 8.8% of the total population of RSA is classified as white.
      How then do you figure that the DA is “a party comprising mostly of white people”?
      It’s mathematically impossible. Your assumption is pure fallacy perpetuated by propagandists; yes, a game of perceptions which you may be unwittingly perpetuating.

      You lament that there is inaction against white racists, but then state “no wonder the DA is trying to be seen as taking a harsh stance against racist behaviour through disciplinary action of its rogue members”.
      Contradictory much?

      You state: “I do not recall any strong or notable white movements against the actions of the likes of Dianne Kohler-Barnard, Alistair Sparks and most recently Chris Hart and Penny Sparrow’
      I’m curious as to which strong and notable white movements you refer? A white movement that would define or identify itself as such would be inherently racist, no? I think it’s naive to expect a racist-based movement to condemn racism. In any case, such a movement would have zero credibility and should be shunned and dismissed with the contempt it deserves (along with idiotic statements like those of Sparrow, Kohler-Barnard etc. )

      Or do you really mean white people as a monolithic group?
      That would be a disappointing argument, Siya.

      A bit like certain people on social media claiming that a monolithic group of other people litter beaches excessively.
      There’s a word for that type of thinking.