From the Inside: What is Racism?
This is a very difficult and vexing question to answer, but perhaps the application of the 3D test will shed some light on this highly emotive and divisive issue.
Of all the important debates South Africans need to have, the most crucial is this: how does an economy generate jobs? What is preventing ours from doing so? How can we fix it?
Almost neck-and-neck with the economy, is: how can we fix our education system?
But there is another issue that absorbs our energy and attention, almost wiping out considered debate on every other topic critical to our future. It is the issue that defined our past: race and racism.
During a month in which the rand lost 18% of its value, youth unemployment rose to 52.4%, and the petrol price hit record highs, South Africa was obsessing about who was accusing whom of being racist.
These episodes included:
- Ashwin Willemse’s allegation of racism against co-commentators Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, during and after a dramatic on-air walk-out following the Lions/Brumbies match on May 16 2018;
- Repeated EFF barbs about South African Indians, culminating in Julius Malema’s generalisation that “South Africans of Indian descent think of indigenous Africans as less human and less capable”.
- Carl Niehaus’s accusation of “downright unbridled racism” against North West University Politics Professor Theo Venter after he said on radio that Jacob Zuma was the worst president South Africa had ever had (which led to the university launching a formal investigation into Venter).
- The Public Protector’s finding that I violated the Constitution by advocating racial hatred (constituting incitement to harm) for tweeting, during an online conversation that “for those claiming the legacy of colonialism is ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc”.
The intensity of these debates dwarfs anything I have seen on the economy or education. So perhaps it is necessary right now, despite all our other challenges, to address the question: “what is racism”?
According to the online dictionary, racism is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”
But how does one detect or measure prejudice, discrimination or antagonism? Is it merely in the eye of the beholder, (and if so which beholder)? And, if any of these feelings is detected or experienced, how does one determine whether it is the result of an assumption of racial superiority, or on other grounds?
The easiest way of answering these questions is to avoid them entirely and define racism as a personal experience. “If I perceive it as racist, it is racist. You cannot deny my pain”.
Of course, feelings and perceptions are very important in this discussion, especially given South Africa’s history. They are all too real to the people who experience them. There is also a pressing need to include, in the discussion, things like patronisation, paternalism, micro-aggressions and condescension. We need ways of defining them and dealing with them.
But the potential abuse in subjective definitions of racism overrides their value.
Thomas Sowell, the renowned economist, made the point when he said: “The word ‘racism is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything – and demanding evidence makes you a ‘racist.”
In South Africa today, even quoting Sowell makes you racist, as I learnt in a recent discussion. Although he is black, the validity of his arguments are simply discounted by dismissing his “white mentality”. This is the ultimate ketchup smear.
This neatly illustrates my point that unless we get to some acceptable definition of racism, it never ends. Any black intellectual who does not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy can merely be redefined as white (and therefore automatically racist) in order to shut them out of the debate. And so on. And on.
Looking back, the most profound zeitgeist shift in democratic South Africa has been on the issue of race; during the 1990s, non-racialism was still our lodestar; it was progressive to be a committed non-racialist; Somewhere, during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency (probably kick-started by his “two-nations” speech which sought to undo Mandela’s one-nation legacy), the commitment to non-racialism began to change, culminating in Jacob Zuma’s stated view that white monopoly capital was to blame for all South Africa’s problems.
This coincided with the shift towards critical race theory, which defined “whiteness” as South Africa’s core problem and “decolonisation” as the solution.
One of the loudest current online race debates illustrated the point. A group of UCT students advertised a “Decolonised Winter School” which organisers described as “challenging the notions of colonisation and putting the theories of decolonisation into practice”.
Significantly, the suppers were advertised on the Winter School programme as “POC only” with POC standing for “people of colour”.
We are so far gone that reintroducing apartheid is seen by some students at our best universities as part of “progressive discourse”
T&T: $75,000 defamation award for Facebook lies
A WOMAN who posted a lie on Facebook that a female prison officer had abandoned her children roadside, must pay $75,000 in compensation for defamation.
In addition, Ama Charles will also have to pay the legal costs of prison officer Heidi Joseph.
The judgement was handed down by Justice Margaret Mohammed in the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain.
It is the second such judgement this year related to defamation on social media.
In February, Justice Frank Seepersad ordered that Facebook user Janelle Burke compensate an entire family for libelous claims made on Burke’s personal page.
The judge said Burke made ‘reckess and scandalous” claims that the family of engaging in incest, that the father of the family was a rapist who was engaging in sexual activities with his stepson and daughter, and that the seven-year-old was involved in prostitution at school.
The amount of compensation to be paid by Burke is to be assessed by a Master of the Court.
In Wednesday’s judgement, Justice Mohammed said that the claims made by Charles against prison officer Joseph, “ were of a very serious nature since it called into question the fitness of (Joseph) as a parent in a society where the acts of parents with their children are under immense scrutiny both by private citizens and state agencies.”
Joseph gave evidence that on January 24 2016, she dropped her children off at the home of their father and continued on her way to work with the knowledge that the children would be safe in the care of their father.
Joseph said that she then received messages and phone calls from the father who chastised her for leaving the children, and messages from her co-workers and a supervisor at the Women’s Prison, Golden Grove, that a person called ‘Emma’ made several calls and left several messages to the prison requesting that she collect her children.
On the same day, Ama Charles posted on Facebook: “Trying to get on to Heidi Joseph she left her kids in the road at my home and I am unable to contact her. Anyone with information or who can relay the message please assist asap?? Beyond the Tape Ian Alleyne The TV6 News.”
The post was also shared on the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s Facebook page.
“Trying to get on to Heidi Joseph she left her kids in the road at my home and I am unable to contact her. Anyone with information or who can relay the message please assist asap?? Beyond the Tape Ian Alleyne The TV6 News.”
Joseph took Charles to court for posting certain statements on the social media website, Facebook on January 24, 2016.
I wanted audiences to reflect on their privilege. Instead I was accused of racism
I am a performance artist and maker of Maori and European descent. Last week, nine performers and I presented a seven day performance ritual, Where We Stand, at the Victorian College of the Arts. This performance was inspired, shaped and is communally owned by the Indigenous, people of colour (PoC)/Blak people in my life. Hearing stories and reflecting on my own experiences, I felt there was something to be said about the Indigenous/PoC/Blak person’s experience of being in institutionalised and colonised spaces, and in fact, our country as a whole.
For Indigenous/PoC/Blak peoples in Australia, racism, discrimination and marginalisation are inherent parts of one’s experience. The people I love often talk about how they are regularly made to feel less than welcome, less than safe, less than respected and generally less than, in most spaces. We speak about the ongoing violence and discrimination faced by our people. We speak about the trauma of not having access to cultural knowledges and language. We worry for the future of our knowledges in a world where the preservation and practice of our cultures is widely deemed “unnecessary”. We feel the inherited trauma of murdered and abused elders and ancestors. We mourn the stealing and destruction of the land we love.
Making Where We Stand, I wanted to ask audiences to reflect on their position in the colonial and eurocentric nation we live in – ask them to consider how they are complicit in the continuation of a system that marginalises, discriminates and oppresses. I wanted to prioritise the experience of people who are usually not considered in eurocentric spaces.
Opinion: Racism under the guise of tradition
Ohio used to be home to many Native American tribes, most of which were murdered or displaced. But this information is not news to any of the folks at the June 12 meeting at Anderson High School, where the debate over whether to keep the name and logo “Redskins” ended on the affirmative.
I graduated from Anderson High School in 2001. I donned team uniforms and spirit wear bearing the name and visage of a racial stereotype. My friends and I naively painted our faces with war paint and put feathers in our hair before attending football games. I didn’t think twice about it, because I didn’t know anyone who was Native American. I barely knew anyone who wasn’t white. It never dawned on me that we were co-opting a culture for our own purpose while perpetuating racial slurs and stereotypes. I didn’t even realize they were stereotypes – until I moved away and grew up.
Full disclosure: I was not at the meeting on June 12. I am no longer an Anderson resident, nor did I ever intend to send my own children to Anderson High School. The reported behavior of some of the members of the Branding Committee and the audience members is largely why. The Native American community has already expended significant energy and resources informing the public about the harm of using the phrase “redskins,” and Anderson High School leadership continues to ignore it.
I’m embarrassed that adults argue on behalf of the majority at the expense of an intentionally disenfranchised minority. It’s horrific to cite finances as a reason to maintain racist institutions when we got rich and comfortable off the backs of the aforementioned minority. It’s misleading to cherry pick polls supporting your position, and it’s socially irresponsible to default to the impossibility of making everyone happy.
Doing the work of reconciliation is hard. It is expensive. It is uncomfortable. It is bound to generate some social casualties. But, it is also critical and must be championed by the resourced majority. If you actually want to honor the heritage and dignity of Native Americans, defend their lands. Reject Columbus Day. Advocate for programs that prioritize resources for impoverished Native Americans. Don’t continue the legacy of passing stereotypes down to our future generations, your children and the students in your district in the name of tradition.
In the words of Lewis Carroll, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”
We must come together to fight the resurgent racist right
The 15,000-strong violent far-right protest to “free Tommy Robinson” on Saturday 9 June has raised major questions for all those who value our diversity. The racist right are using Robinson to reorganise. Nazi salutes and Islamophobia were at the centre of the mobilisation. This is the first serious attempt since the collapse of the English Defence League (EDL) to develop a racist street movement and give it a political form. It is supported internationally by notorious figures including from the US and the Dutch Islamophobic right.
It is absolutely vital that all who oppose this come together in a united mass movement powerful enough to drive these new developments on the far right back. Donald Donald Trump has played a major role in galvanising the racist right. We will take to the streets for the Together Against Trump demonstration coinciding with his visit on 13 July. And when Robinson’s supporters take to the streets again on 14 July, we will protest against them too. Wherever the far right’s support grows so does racism and violence. Let’s come together to defend our multicultural society from those who spread hatred and division.
Diane Abbott MP Shadow home secretary
John McDonnell MP Shadow chancellor
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite the Union
Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison
Talha Ahmed Treasurer, Muslim Council of Britain
Mohammed Kozbar Chairman, Finsbury Park Mosque
Rabbi Lee Wax
Sabby Dhalu and Weyman Bennett Co-convenors, Stand Up To Racism
Ged Grebby Chief executive, Show Racism the Red Card
Richard Burgon MP Shadow justice secretary
Laura Pidcock MP Shadow minister for labour
Cat Smith MP Shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs
David Lammy MP
Emma Dent Coad MP
Marsha De Cordova MP
Andrew Gwynne MP
Peter Hain Labour, House of Lords
Claude Moraes MEP
Julie Ward MEP
Jean Lambert MEP
Tim Roache General secretary, GMB
Kevin Courtney NEU, Joint general secretary
Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS
Dave Ward General secretary, CWU
Matt Wrack General secretary, FBU
Mick Cash General secretary, RMT
Ian Lawrence General secretary, Napo
Steve Gillan General secretary, POA
Manuel Cortes General secretary, TSSA
Mick Whelan General secretary, Aslef
Kevin Maguire Journalist
Michael Rosen Poet
Roger Huddle and Red Saunders Founders, Rock Against Racism
David Rosenberg Author
Alan Gibbons Author
Dr Siema Iqbal Co-founder of Avow (Advancing Voices of Women against Islamophobia)
Julia Bard National Committee, Jewish Socialists’ Group
Claudia Webbe Labour party NEC and Islington councillor
Margaret Greer National race equality officer, Unison
Harish Patel National equalities officer, Unite the Union
Ian Hodson National president, BFWAU
Tony Kearns Deputy general secretary (postal) CWU
Steve Hedley Deputy general secretary, RMT
Jane Loftus Vice president, CWU
Phyllis Opoku-Gyimah Executive director, UK Black Pride
Shahrar Ali Home affairs spokesperson, Green party
Maz Saleem Anti-racism campaigner/Stand Up To Trump
Kate Hudson General secretary, CND
Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition
Kerry Abel Chair, Abortion Rights
Asad Rehman Executive director, War on Want
Sam Fairbairn People’s Assembly
World Cup 2018 and racism: How will FIFA police discrimination in Russia?
The 2018 World Cup in Russia begins in less than a week and, before a ball has even been kicked, the issue of racism and how FIFA will act in the event of players being subjected to discriminatory chants, has been raised.
England defender Danny Rose has spoken about the prospect of he and his teammates walking off the pitch in the event of players being targeted — a scenario played down by England manager Gareth Southgate — while FIFA president Gianni Infantino has insisted that plans are in place to deal with any outbreak of racism during the tournament.
Russian football has had to fight long and hard to clean up its reputation in terms of racism in football, so how prepared is the country and FIFA ahead of the World Cup?
Here are the key questions.
Q: What is the background to the concerns about discriminatory chanting in Russia?
A: There have been several recent incidents in Russia during which black players were subjected to abusive chants and banners.
Yaya Toure experienced racial abuse while playing for Manchester City against CSKA Moscow in October 2013, while the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Roberto Carlos, Christopher Samba and Peter Odemwingie also reported similar incidents while playing for Russian clubs.
In Sept 2016, the Fare network, which monitors racist incidents for UEFA, noted that a banana was thrown onto the pitch in the eighth minute of a Champions League tie in Russia between FC Rostov and PSV Eindhoven and remained there for a further 15 minutes before being removed.
Q: Has Russia taken steps to eradicate the problem?
A: The Russian Football Union (RFU) has a commissioner on racism in football and Vitaly Mutko, the deputy prime minister and former minister for sport, insisted ahead of last year’s Confederations Cup that Russia has a “zero tolerance” approach to racism.
“For us in Russia, it is a challenge and a responsibility,” Mutko said. “And I think that this is a perfect solution. FIFA has no compromises, zero tolerance. As for Russia, the Russian Federation and Russian football have taken similar measures, stricter measures in Russia. This is a problem that is not purely Russian. It exists everywhere in the world and, of course, FIFA is fighting this phenomenon. We will support FIFA and in our joint efforts we will try to conqueror this.”
Is white America ready to confront its racism? Philosopher George Yancy says we need a ‘crisis’
George Yancy’s new book, Backlash, grew out of “Dear White America”, a piece on the pervasiveness of white racism that he wrote for the New York Times’ philosophy column, The Stone. After the piece was published on Christmas Eve 2015, Yancy received an extraordinary number of responses from white readers, many of which were aggressively defensive and included racist epithets and threats of physical violence. Backlash extends the argument made in “Dear White America”, and turns personal and philosophic lenses on the vile responses it received.
What was the message of “Dear White America”, and why do you think it proved so provocative?
“Dear White America” was a letter of love. And by letter of love I mean that it was a letter that was an invitation for white people to engage honestly with their racism, to be vulnerable and to let go of their “white innocence”.
After conducting 19 interviews with philosophers and public intellectuals at The Stone, I decided to write a letter that was direct and candid. I tried to create a mutually vulnerable space where white people could reveal the ways in which they harbor racist assumptions, emotions and embodied habits.I also invited white people to explore the ways in which they are complicit with white systemic and institutional power and privilege. It doesn’t follow from this that all white people are members of the KKK or that white people are born racists. That would be ridiculous. Yet, that is what many white people assumed that I meant.
I think that the anger resulted from a defensive posture, one that is linked to a failure of nerve and honesty that is needed for white people to confront courageously the truth about how racism is insidious and constitutes the DNA of white America. Fear can breed anger, but I wanted a courageous white America, one prepared to remove the masks of self-deception, to love in return.
What sorts of response did you get to the piece?
The majority of the white responses were vile, despicable and unconscionable. I was told to commit suicide immediately. I was told to go back to Africa, called a “monkey”, “boy”, “hoodrat”, “pavement ape”, and referred to as excrement. One white person fantasized about using a meat hook on me and another white person said that I ought to be beheaded “ISIS style”. Of course, I was also called by that most horrible, dehumanizing and insulting of words, “nigger”. I couldn’t even keep count of the number of times the N-word was used.
White racism dripped from their lips. The responses pulled from old white racist imagery that depicted black people as bestial and animalistic. What became clear to me are the deep ways in which that discourse, those assumptions and imagery are still quite palpable within the white American psyche.
So much of white America is unprepared and unwilling to have a courageous conversation about racism. They would rather avoid the conversation, blame me, call me a “race baiter”. Some even said that I wrote “Dear White America” to sexually seduce white women. What does that say about the problematic and racist myth and fear of the so-called black male rapist?
Given the racist insults, one might argue that the point that I was trying to make was, in many ways, confirmed. I did receive a few very powerful and beautiful responses from white readers who said to me that they accepted the gift that I offered and that they would critically and honestly engage their racism even as they knew that the challenge was real and requires serious work. But after so many insults, I have come to have profoundly less hope in white America.
Race Isn’t a Risk Factor in Maternal Health. Racism Is.
When 27-year-old activist Erica Garner died on December 30, 2017, many of us grieved the tragic loss of another Black mother.
Because I founded the National Birth Equity Collaborative, media reached out to me for comment. I could still see, in my mind, the faces of the patients I’d taken care of with the condition that caused Garner’s death—peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare form of heart failure in women who have recently given birth, as Garner had. From my years of OB-GYN practice, I remembered that this illness can have a risk of death as high as 50 percent.
But I looked up the condition again, wanting to remind myself what the risk factors for peripartum cardiomyopathy are.
When 27-year-old activist Erica Garner died on December 30, 2017, many of us grieved the tragic loss of another Black mother. Because I founded the National Birth Equity Collaborative, media reached out to me for comment. I could still see, in my mind, the faces of the patients I’d taken care of with the condition that caused Garner’s death—peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare form of heart failure in women who have recently given birth, as Garner had. From my years of OB-GYN practice, I remembered that this illness can have a risk of death as high as 50 percent. But I looked up the condition again, wanting to remind myself what the risk factors for peripartum cardiomyopathy are. Because I founded the National Birth Equity Collaborative, media reached out to me for comment. I could still see, in my mind, the faces of the patients I’d taken care of with the condition that caused Garner’s death—peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare form of heart failure in women who have recently given birth, as Garner had. From my years of OB-GYN practice, I remembered that this illness can have a risk of death as high as 50 percent. But I looked up the condition again, wanting to remind myself what the risk factors for peripartum cardiomyopathy are.