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How racist are you?

19 September 2008

Ryland Fisher at Thought Leader comments on the response to his recent comments on black and white racism:

The response to my last blog on black racists proves what I have known for a long time: South Africans are still heavily divided along racial grounds and they find it difficult to have a discussion on the issue without losing their tempers.I have never had so many white people agreeing with what I wrote. And I have never had so many black people disagreeing.

It seems to me that even to ask the question whether black people or white people are more racist is itself racist.

I think there is a quite simple test to see how racist one is. It’s a test to be used on yourself, not on other people.

Just ask yourself how frequently you use terms like “we” and “our people” in such a way that the primary criterion for inclusion or exclusion is race or colour.

Then ask yourself how frequently you use terms like “they” and “these people” is such a way that the primary criterion for exclusion or inclusion in those categories is race or colour.

It you do so several times a day, then you are probably a hard-core racist.

If you do so several times a week, then you are probably a common or garden racist.

If you do so several times a month, you probably have racist tendencies.

If you do so less than once a month, you are probably not a racist.

Of course one of the aims of the apartheid system was to teach us to think like that. The indoctrination can persist for a long time. Apartheid taught that race was the most important thing about us. It determined where we could work, where we could live, where we could go to school, who we could associate with.

It overrode all other human groupings. It had to be “we Whites” (with a capital W) or “we Blacks” (with a capital B), or Coloured or Asians. That was far more important than we chess players, or we soccer fans, or we Methodists, or we farmers.

Everything was built on “own affairs” and “own” was tied to the colour of your skin. Farmers did not have “own affairs”. Urban workers did not have “own affairs”. Methodists or Catholics or Muslims did not have “own affairs”. Skin pigment determined who your “own people” were and what your “own affairs” were. You had no say in what your “own affairs” were. The government told you what your “own” affairs were, and if you didn’t accept that, then you were guilty of “improper interference” or a “communist” or a “race traitor” (volksverraaier).

And if you’ve been indoctrinated with that outlook since you first went to school, then it sometimes needs conscious resistance to overcome it.

So ask yourself those questions, to see which “we” you really think you belong to. Do it once a year or so to see if you are becoming more or less racist as time passes.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Daniel Clark permalink
    19 September 2008 11:16 am

    Of course, here in Britain we are much more subtle than that these days. We have learned to talk about “British Culture” “British values” (heck we even test outsiders to see if they can conform to them before giving them indefinite leave to remain!) so that we can exclude and affirm our (White but oh-so-tolerant in a patronising way of “Blacks” -as long as they remain a minority) superiority.

  2. 19 September 2008 1:07 pm

    I am really enjoying your blog. Very thought provoking posts. Thanks for taking the time to challenge all of us.

  3. 19 September 2008 2:40 pm

    Daniel,

    The same applies, though. If the “we” of British values and culture includes black Brits, then it’s probably not so much racist as nationalist. I notice that when the Formula I motor racing commentators talk about Lewis Hamilton — very nationalist. Though a few years ago they reserved their adulation for Michael Schumacher, who wasn’t a Brit.

    Gail,

    Thanks very much for the kind words — do you have a blog I could link to?

  4. 20 September 2008 7:53 am

    One of my tests (for other people) is to see whether they yell, “Arsehole!” when a person who has the same colour as them cuts them off in the traffic; and whether they yell, “Fuckin’ kaffir/honky/slit-eyes/Paki/Coolie!” when the person does not have the same colour as them.

    I think a non-racist should yell “Arsehole!” to whomever angers them (if yelling an obscenity is what they do), their colour or not.

  5. 20 September 2008 10:13 am

    Rethabile,

    Yeah, that would work. You just have to arrange for a few bad drivers of difference races/colours to come along at the strategic moment (grin).

  6. 20 September 2008 11:22 am

    similarly, i have noticed that in traffic, people tend to let people of their same colour turn into the lane in front of them and actually prevent people of other colours from getting in. this is why i like cars with tinted windows – you can’t discriminate.

    it is also interesting driving a condor with an orlando pirates sticker on back – everyone things i’m a taxi until they see ME driving. funny how that changes their demeanor toward me…

  7. 20 September 2008 3:14 pm

    Steve,
    I live in cosmopolitan Paris. A bad driver comes along every few minutes.

  8. 21 September 2008 4:56 am

    very interesting view

  9. 22 September 2008 6:13 pm

    I guess I’m lucky in that I grew up in a fairly multi-cultural environment, with friends of several races, and didn’t even notice skin colour – or no more so than I noticed hair colour – until I was in my teens. I remember being slightly startled looking at some photos of my sister aged about 9, at her birthday party, when I was a young adult. Her best friend was black… but I hadn’t ever noticed and certainly hadn’t remembered. Children just don’t, unless someone tells them to. Now we’re in another multi-cultural place, at least church-wise. In our congregation of about 120 people there are over 30 nationalities represented, including at least three or four of the African countries.

    There are some ‘we’ statements made – perhaps ‘we with English as a first language’ (who can understand more complex sermons than those for whom English is a second, third, or even fourth language…) – but nationality is just a way of pinpointing where in the world someone was born and raised, and a useful clue in what cultural norms and social conventions they expect. As for skin colour, we see all sorts from pasty pale pink to very dark brown, and just about every possible shade in between. ‘White’ and ‘black’ are colours I’ve only actually seen on cats and dogs in this neighbourhood…

  10. 22 September 2008 7:30 pm

    I like the test you mention here, Steve. A slight variation I heard from a very well meaning elderly man this weekend was a comment on “our coloureds” and later “our blacks” which reminded me of the typical liberal white patrinization of people of other races. It isn’t ‘them’ but ‘our’ and it sounds fond and kind but I’m sure those of other races might not experience it that positively!

  11. 27 September 2008 5:01 pm

    Copy of Comment to:
    Thoughtleader: Ryland Fisher: White People Can be Among the Most Racist

    You are like a bunch of doctors arguing about what kind of aspirin to administer to a patient with a massive brain tumour.

    Racism is one of politicians most EFFECTIVE DIVIDE AND CONQUER WEAPONS; to enable the distraction from the reality of the DEMOCKERY: religious, corporate and national slave and cannon fodder breeding rule by a small group of oligarchs, with the mass media as their favourite Orwellian doublethink crimethought, tools of oppression and tyranny

    Perhaps the doctors themselves too have braintumours, or else where did they get their degrees in stupidity?

    “Who made you so stupid?”
    ~ Malcolm X ~

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