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Rhoda Kadalie
3 minute read
23 Jun 2017
5:40 am

The perils of racial stereotyping

Rhoda Kadalie

In a global world of cross-cultural and transglobal relationships and intermarriage, race as a defining feature is all the more ludicrous.

(Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Thuli Dlamini)

At Schiphol Airport, body searches on people like me are rife. Abroad, I look Middle Eastern or like I am from some or other Asian country and am routinely subjected to body searches.

I have often been called aside and my luggage searched. This is par for the course for a mother who flies to the US frequently to visit her daughter and her family. Ethnic stereotyping has become commonplace and whereas people objected vehemently some decades ago, now global terrorism is a reality, they let it pass.

Ethnic stereotyping is never pleasant. In apartheid South Africa, where it was part of the fallout of racist population registration, it is a disgrace that it is gaining currency 23 years after apartheid. “Black pain”, “black land first”, “black economic empowerment”, “white privilege”, “white monopoly capitalism” are phrases littering the political discourse. With it come racist invectives such as “f*** whites”, “kill Jews” and insults flung at DA leader Mmusi Maimane for marrying a white woman.

When I see these slogans emblazoned across SA’s campuses, I wonder how our children understand these crass expressions of anger, much of it manufactured outrage against a revolution the ANC has betrayed.

In an interview with Justice Malala on The Justice Factor on eNCA, former ANC minister Charles Nqakula admitted the ANC had betrayed the cause of liberation and, unlike most of his colleagues, said the ANC had messed up. Acknowledging lost opportunities to have transformed South Africa into the definitive democracy in Africa, he called for deep introspection.

The time had come, according to him, to recognise that the UDM, Cope and the EFF are offshoots of groups that deserted the ANC because they had failed to put the people of South Africa first.

When parties fail to govern accountably they blame the other for their failures and use racist language to mobilise voters. Epithets are used to insult political opponents and to elevate the party responsible for deep racial inequalities, high unemployment, poverty and crime.

South Africans ignore the lessons from the Holocaust at their peril. The mass rallies, talk shows and racist rhetoric of coercion have sunk deeply into the consciousness of the nation and the potential for this to become second nature is real. This is a legacy we dare not leave our children, given the tinderbox reality South Africa has become under President Jacob Zuma.

Some sage person warned that “anti-Semitism is a light sleeper” and so it is with racism and the mobilisation of voters along racial lines.

We see a resurgence in the US of the language of white supremacy, black pain and safe spaces for black people to speak to each other. It has led to McCarthyism and Stalinism on US campuses that got academics fired for refusing to genuflect to angry students, speakers banished amid eruptions of violence and the media playing second fiddle due to lack of courage to fight for free speech and academic freedom.

In a global world of cross-cultural and transglobal relationships and intermarriage, race as a defining feature becomes all the more ludicrous. In my family, the lineages are so mixed that we are best described as mongrel! We belong to the wide world where race will increasingly be of no consequence.

FILE PICTURE: Rhoda Kadalie, anti-apartheid activist.

FILE PICTURE: Rhoda Kadalie, anti-apartheid activist.