Nco Dube
Nco Dube

Let’s talk: White fears and black aspirations

South Africa has always had a history of bad race relations, but after 1994 we all held high hopes of improved race relations and tolerance. How wrong we were. The issue is simply that South Africans are selfish. All race groups are! We simply refuse to step into one another’s shoes and try to understand the other’s perspective. We, for some reason, fail to talk to one another directly and honestly, choosing to let politicians lead the charge instead. Even a very well-meaning politician will fail at this because they are all bound by party politics and party objectives.

Yet behind closed doors and in the comfort of our familiar environments we pour our frustrations out. We shout, we curse and we complain. But we don’t do this with those who need to hear it. The biggest problem is that black people feel hard done by the new dispensation. Political freedom was supposed to be followed by equal opportunity to participate in the economy, the return of land that was taken in one swoop by the 1913 Land Act and the subsequent Group Areas Act, better education and overall improved life standards. In terms of social needs like housing, water and electricity, we have seen improvement but not nearly enough. On the economic front and with land transformation we have, sadly, seen very little progress. People are still being abused by unscrupulous employers, black people still find it extremely difficult to access finance from financing institutions. They still find it twice as hard to climb the corporate ladder. Land reform is even worse. I’m not sure if we can’t learn from our neighbour just north of us how land reform failure can lead to an almost total destruction of an economy. There simply has been very little land transferred back to black people. This is because of a combination of factors including inadequate legislative and constitutional frameworks, incompetency, corruption and lack of political will in the public sector; and resistance, delaying tactics and arrogance from the land owners and the agricultural industry. Where little land has been transferred, very little support is given to the new owners who actually haven’t worked the land since 1913.

All this leads to resentment and anger amongst black people. They see white people as simply interested in preserving their ‘ill-gotten’ privileges and using every trick in the book to stall and frustrate progress. That the government has failed dismally to address these issues because of its own problems of corruption and lack of political will makes matters worse.

White people, on the other hand, seem to feel that there is a systematic persecution of their interests and, as a minority, are employing every available resource to counter that. They feel that chants of economic freedom mean grabbing from them to distribute to blacks, or that the consistent call for land reform means the reversal of assurances given at Codesa. It is sad that in all this madness, the two groups forget just one thing: to talk directly to each other and stop relying so much on politicians and the media. Race groups simply do not talk and do not understand each other at all. People work together for years and do not know anything about the lives of their colleagues from different groups.

By talking we might find that we have less of a need to apportion blame to this race group or the other, that political party or the next. If we can just make an effort to talk as neighbours, as colleagues, as business partners, even as strangers in the park, maybe, just maybe, we can start understanding that we can actually find balance between white fears and black aspirations. White people could actually understand why black people are offended by the name Pretoria – something they see as trivial. Black people could maybe understand that most white people are actually not racist. If we can talk individual to individual, a lot can be achieved in breaking down the stereotypes and the mistrust, and end the resentment.

The truth is that we cannot, at least not yet, realise a colour-blind society before all the problems created through racial discrimination and racial inequality are adequately addressed. You simply cannot take race out of the solutions to address such problems. So next time you bump into a familiar face with a different colour from yours, just strike a conversation, an honest conversation.

Tags: , , ,

  • Ideas for tackling land reform in South Africa
  • ‘Disgusting, fascist, racist Donald Trump’
  • People are not as free as they think they are
  • Why Americans should vote Democratic in the mid-term elections tomorrow