Stellenbosch University has been in the news for at least two reasons recently.
The first involved a delayed-infantile adolescence syndrome student urinating on the documents and computer of a fellow student. Of course it was a stupid thing to do and should not only be condemned, but punished to teach the student a lesson. Because it was a white student doing it to a black student, the incident has racial connotations.
I remember a similar incident in the past involving senior students doing a similarly stupid thing to white first-year students as part of initiation. That had to be condemned equally, even though it was not a racial incident. It had to be equally condemned as it was delayed-infantile adolescence.
The second incidence involved Stellenbosch women students complaining that they feel unsafe because one or some of their colleagues had been raped. That incident was not termed as racist, apparently because it did not involve a cross-racial incident. It deserves to be equally condemned.
If, however, I were to question whether a similar incident might have occurred at the same university residence in the past 100 years, people might accuse me of being racialistic, even though race was not mentioned in my question.
The problem appears to be that society far too frequently refers to cross-racial incidents as being racialistic, when there could well be other motives.
The word “racialistic” was not included in the Chambers Dictionary prior to 1930. It came into use in the 1930s-1940s with the Nazi anti-Semitic policy.
Whenever there is tension involving people of differing nationalities, cultural groups or economic levels, there are bound to be fringe discriminations.
During World War 1, a bakery in Brickhill Road, Durban, was burnt to the ground by locals because it belonged to a German-speaking entrepreneur.
Today, many Ukranians detest Russians but there are many Russians and Ukranians who have close friendships.
The world over there are fringe hatreds — call it racism — and at the same time there are many (and probably more) inter-group friendships.
Racism, to the extent that it exists, is not a South African phenomenon. It is wrong (and racist) to classify it as such. It exists universally as fringe behaviour.
V. A. VOLKER