Blossoming non-racialism NOT rotten roots of racism

I disagree with virtually every statement in David Matthews’ Roots of Racism: parts 1 & 2. No, racism IS a moral crime perpetrated by individuals taught to hate and fear by other individuals! This is elucidated unequivocally in the song “You’ve got to be taught”...

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I disagree with virtually every statement in David Matthews’ Roots of Racism: parts 1 & 2.

No, racism IS a moral crime perpetrated by individuals taught to hate and fear by other individuals! This is elucidated unequivocally in the song “You’ve got to be taught” from the Rodgers & Hammerstein play/film ‘South Pacific’. The use of ‘race’ within humans has neither a biological nor ethnic/cultural basis. Babies are born innocent. There is nothing but myth and bigoted thinking that even suggests that racism, ethnic chauvinism and social ‘otherness’ are embodied in DNA.  Yes, from the very beginnings of modern humanity (and even among other Great Apes) there are various forms of ‘otherness’, but they are determined ecologically depending on the dispersion of close kin and relative abundance of limited sexual partners and other limited ‘resources’. Within the most genetically distinct Homo sapiens, the word San is Khoi for ‘foreigners’ and Khoikhoi is Khoi for ‘real people’. Xhosa is a San word for “angry people”. San also have no collective word for the >10 San ‘peoples’. But, this does not require, let alone justify, one ‘group’ of humans being or acting superior to another, let alone owning, exploiting, oppressing and systematically murdering them. No rational human being should be allowed to place a sign in his shop window: “No dogs, niggers or Irish”. Tutus are not “cockroaches”. A ‘kaffir’ is someone who does not share the beliefs of Moslems, not someone who can’t marry your sister. A ’cracker’ is something to eat, not a person with melanin-deficient skin.

Yes, some individuals are more intelligent than others and some harbour more anti-other-group feelings and these differences might be detectable using one test or another. But, this demonstrates within-population diversity, not group-relative superiority. Look at the de Klerk, Mbeki and Breytenbach brothers! Brothers fought against brothers during the US Civil War!

Racism is NOT the biggest problem in South Africa. This has been demonstrated decisively time-and-again by multiple surveys conducted by the internationally respected South African Institute of Race Relations. If an individual’s or institution’s racism can be demonstrated to legally adversely affect any aspect of another individual’s or group’s existence he/she/it can be held accountable for it. The best that the most virulent Fallists can say at the University of Cape Town [where I worked and developed socio-politically for 40+ years] is that racism is rife, but it is “invisible”.

‘Races’ do NOT cooperate willingly or unwillingly. Individuals who share the same academic or corporate views and respect the rule of law do. This happens every day throughout post-Apartheid South Africa. When they don’t and violate its laws, racists, regardless of their ‘race’, should be held accountable. It just requires the relevant elected and appointed officials to do their jobs.

Matthews’ mythical ‘races’ are NOT moving steadily apart. They are converging on a common goal communicated to the world more than two centuries ago in colonial America and Haiti: “the pursuit of life, liberty and the happiness.” Yes, racism in all its guises persists and cannot be eradicated unless “we come first to understand what racism actually is”: BOTH immoral and illegal discrimination based on arbitrarily perceived ‘otherness’.

Yes, ‘racism’ involves “a great deal more than mere physical appearance”.  It involves perpetrating acts of “prejudice against, or aversion to, not simply people’s racial appearance, but to all those things about them that are significantly different”. Matthews then lists some of these “things”, but fails to indicate when and how the ‘differences’ are “significant”, other than to say that humans “are naturally suspicious”. But, rather than admit that racists are “stupid or irrational”, he seeks solace in the ‘fact’ that “over the hundreds of thousands of years that our ancestors [who up to a few thousand years ago were ‘black’] lived an extremely hazardous existence in small, isolated communities” and “carry this inherent aversion deeply within ourselves, and will always do so”.

I and some other people (Aristotle, Jesus, Muhammad, George Washington, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, Oskar Schindler, Martin Luther King, Mother (now Saint) Theresa, Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk and Helen Zille) think otherwise.

Unless one believes in the repeatedly refuted theory of ‘Group Selection’, ‘racism’ isn’t an isolated (indeed any kind of a) biological adaptation carried from anywhere or any time. Moreover, it is NOT “the reverse of positive cultural prejudice, or personal and social self-identification”. It is simply immoral and illegal discrimination against ‘others’ or, at best, discredited ‘pop sociobiology’ applied to arbitrarily identified ‘others’. There is nothing “logical” or “absolutely natural” about it that is “fundamental to human survival. It is a ‘trans-racial’ cultural cancer that must be eradicated.

‘Racism’ is not merely “social self-identification” which is bad enough. It is also relational exclusion, requiring the pseudo-identification of inevitably subordinate and, ultimately, exploited/oppressed/enslaved ‘others’.

Yes, “anti-racism is a very recent phenomenon”, a far, far too recent development in Humanism. Because something has been prevalent, even ”for the entire course of human history”, is at best an observation. It is most definitely not a justification of something to be recognized as asocial norm”. Yes, anti-racism can lead to “political conflict”. But, it’s a price that has to be paid for centuries of oppression. Trying to pass racism on as “an inherent biological adaptation” promoting “group loyalty and social cohesion” cannot and should never have been tolerated. Pronouncing that “everybody on Earth is ‘racist’ to at least some or other degree” serves only to promote the assertions of ‘black’ nationalist racists that ‘whiteness’ is an inherent evil.

NO, until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, human populations did NOT “tend to remain in one place and to be homogeneous.” With the possible exceptions of a handful of forensically diagnosable populations in Africa (e.g. the KhoiSan), people have moved and continue to move huge distances over remarkable short periods, populating and re-populating the Earth’s furthest corners. That’s why we’re all genetically highly similar (99.7%) ‘kissing cousins’; eminent African-American Harvard historian and ardent ‘genome-genealogist’ Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and an Irish-American police officer (who arrested him for trying to gain entry to his locked home) may be descendants of 4th Century Irish King, Niall of the Nine Hostages.

Now to part 2.

Sadly, Matthews is correct in identifying the promotion of a potentially devastating “widening … political divide between black and white in South Africa”. However he is incorrect in dating its inception to 1994. He also misses the point in attributing this to the ANC’s “Marxist and collectivist economic and social programme”. If anything, the communists have been marginalized within the Tripartite Alliance and the unionists have been betrayed by the kleptocratic elements within the still dominant pro-Zuma-toadies faction.

Yes, many individuals with Eurocentric upbringing fail “to fully understand and appreciate the worldview of the other[s]”.   Many Afrocentrists fail in the same way. There is also a deficiency in mutual respect. Dealing with these problems requires the unfettered interaction that characterized UCT during the Ramphele Reign.

Yes, (but not “for countless millennia”), “Homo sapiens developed [divergently] under radically different circumstances in Europe and Africa respectively”. This divergence also took place concurrently within both continents; compare southern Italians with Norwegians and pygmies with Masai and KhoiSan. But it is gratuitous to assert that “when Africa was colonised, the inhabitants were still in a relatively undeveloped state technologically and culturally in Western terms”.  ‘Undevelopedness’ is in the eye of the beholder. Colonialism did not “[interrupt] the natural course of cultural evolution [towards Eurocentrism?] on the continent”. To varying degrees, it forcibly re-directed it in ways that undermined, if not destroyed, working civilizations developed over millennia. The subordinated African societies did NOT “remain fixed in [their] relatively undeveloped state”. They continued to develop, sometimes assimilating Eurocentric cultural memes, but often finding their own new ways. ‘White superiority” was a superimposed artefact maintained by systematic socio-economic emasculation of the ‘nie-blanke’. Since many South African ‘others’ had five more decades of additional highly effective systematic emasculation, they still retain its lingering effects. But, to suggest that they are “infected with inferiority” totally misrepresents reality. Provided with genuine opportunities and being allowed to find their own individual pathways to success, all South African students and trainees are highly capable of success.

Yes, the “white delusion of inherent superiority” is as much a delusion as that of “inherent black inferiority”. What “is unnecessarily poisoning black/white political relations in South Africa today” is Machiavellian manipulation by political failures and demagogues clinging to or desperately attempting to acquire power.

In 1994, ‘whites’ did not “hand the ANC the keys to the state”. That was done by voters through a democratic ballot. Thereafter, for a decade or so, a broad spectrum of South Africans collaborated to redress past injustice and develop innovations to rebuild a non-racial nation.

Sadly, during the twilight of the Mbeki Regime, the momentum was lost and replaced by spiralling colour-blind kleptocracy. The death of Nelson Mandela seemed to spur the rainbow crooks onward.

The “current moral collapse” is not restricted to the ANC, any other political party or self-identified ‘race’. It is panmictic.  Thuggery, vulgarity and apathy are pervasive. Indeed, if this were not so, why did harbingers of hate dominate the slate of candidates of UCT’s Students Representative council and why did 80+% of the student population choose not to vote?

NO, the best way to “avoid ‘Zimbabwefication of South Africa” in NOT for “leaders of society … to get together”. It requires a grassroots effort at the ballot box and peaceful, but steadfast, civil protest. It got the Brits out of India.

The last thing that ‘whites’, ‘blacks’, ‘browns’ and ‘yellows’ should do is to abandon our individual “arrogance”. They must use it to salvage the non-racial society envisaged by Sobukwe, Jan Hofmeyr (the younger), Tambo, Slovo, Naude, van zyl Slabbert, Suzman, Mandela, and the beleaguered Zille.

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  1. Dirk Scheepers Reply

    Not sure why people still quote Ghandi when talking about non-racialism. If you care to read his earlier works, you’ll see what Ghandi really thought about black people.

    Also, isn’t it odd that Crowe (and Zille) want people to be one happy family, as long as everyone speaks English and does it their way.

    Lastly, there seems to be a tendency towards ignoring the importance of culture. You can preach about how the only thing that makes people cooperate is their same academic or corporate views and respect for the rule of law. But who writes those laws? Tell that to the cultures where it is perfectly ‘legal’ to ‘honor-kill’ women who have sex before marriage. If someone doesn’t like that, they aren’t racists for choosing not to share their living space with barbarity of that magnitude.

    The overuse of both bold and underline serves only to imitate a crazed screeching rather than calmly driving the few good points home.

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