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Being racist and being #colourblind

25 February 2016

Over the last few months there seems to have been an escalation of racist discourse in South Africa. A group of students at the University of Pretoria (Tukkies) started an anti-racism movement under the #colourblind hashtag to try to counter it.

We are #ColourBlind | eNCA: #ColourBlind’s call to action is that people post photos of themselves with a friend from a different race in a grayscale format accompanied by #ColourBlind.

A group of students from Tuks unite in support of the ColourBlind movement as a protest against recent racial tension on the campus. Photo: eNCA / Ditiro Selepe

A group of students from Tuks unite in support of the ColourBlind movement as a protest against recent racial tension on the campus. Photo: eNCA / Ditiro Selepe

On the face of it, the #colourblind hashtag looks rather naive, and could imply that it is merely trying to paper over the cracks, but it appears from this interview that the founders of the movement are aware of the dangers: Maverick Interview: #ColourBlind | Daily Maverick:

GN: What does it mean to be colour-blind?

JPVDW: One cannot be “colour-blind”; the hashtag does not refer to a state of being. It by no means aims to imply that we should ignore our diversity. Following this movement merely means that you as a student or someone in support of the student community wishes to unite under the banner of acceptance and hope in a time where students are bombarded by negative and violent factors.

GN: If we adopt a colour-blind approach, how do we at the same time acknowledge and rectify past and current racial inequalities caused by white people and inflicted on black people?

JPVDW: In the description of this movement we made it very clear that this movement is not aimed at ignoring race or nationality or any other factors. The intent of the ColourBlind movement is not to ignore the pertinent questions that deserve crucial conversations. The movement is focused on unity. If anything this movement aims to show people that the discussion on issues of the past as well as moving forward into the future cannot be done on a polarised platform, these issues belong to all of us and should be conversed on and solved together.

The hashtag #colourblind is therefore a convenient label for an anti-racist movement, not a prescription for solving the problem. But the disadvantage of trying to encapsulate something into a single slogan or hashtag is that it can be interpreted simplistically, and this tweet on Twitter points out some of the dangers:

I’ll start being the day i have a white lady to wash and iron my clothes and a white man to do my garden

Cobus van Wyngaard, in his blog my contemplations | a South African conversation on just being church today also points out some of the dangers:

But because it is not the first time that these spaces are set up in response to racism in South Africa, we also need to be reminded of the problems which these spaces have left unresolved or even perpetuated in the past. This explains my kneejerk reaction, as well as the kneejerk reaction of others (which is probably what got me to write again).

But in spite of the unfortunate connotations of the #colourblind hashtag, I think that the movement itself is worth supporting, if only to counter the increasingly heated racist rhetoric that is being bandied about in social media, and in real life. It’s worth laying aside one’s preconceptions and prejudices about #colourblind, and reading the Maverick Interview: #ColourBlind | Daily Maverick and making that the starting point for discussion.

So, in accordance with the request, here’s my picture:

Gideon Iileka, Steve Hayes, Thomas Ruhozu. Kamanjab, Namibia, 5 Oct 1971

Gideon Iileka, Steve Hayes, Thomas Ruhozu. Kamanjab, Namibia, 5 Oct 1971 #colourblind

 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rangjan permalink
    26 February 2016 10:32 am

    Here is another perspective:

    • 27 February 2016 5:00 am

      It’s too close to the end of the month to be watching online videos — not enough bandwidth left.

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