Letters from TZ

Racism still a factor in 2012

The series ‘Roots’ first aired on American television in 1977. It was the screen adaptation of Alex Haley’s novel ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’, a book about an African Mandinka warrior from the Gambia, who was sold into slavery, and shipped to America to work on a plantation. 30-years later, in May of 2007, Warner Home Video released a four-disc, anniversary DVD set that included a behind the scenes documentary entitled, ‘Remembering Roots’. In 2015, it will be 150-years since the slave trade was abolished in the US. It’s hard to believe that in 2012, we have not forgotten (not about Roots nor the atrocities that inspired it), and worse than that, there is still racism in the world.

All over the world, people of colour are still facing hatred and discrimination on the strength of their skin tone. But now more than ever, much of the focus is shifting to ‘reverse racism’, a controversial term that defines racism that is directed at a so-called ‘dominant’ race – in other words, coloured people treating white people badly.

Some people include “positive discrimination’ in that definition; positive discrimination is the kind that gives special benefits or opportunities to people who belong to a group which has been under privileged in the past. The racist act is committed by giving preference to one person over another because of their race, religion, or ethnicity, rather than their personal merit, skills, or knowledge.

At a very informal level however, there are some people who are allowed this “positive” form of racism because of the negative racism they themselves have experienced in the past. Without debating the morality of racism in whichever direction it is pointed, it is true to say for example, that African Americans have been ‘allowed’ to scream their throats hoarse about black power, while white Americans are labelled racists of the worst kind when they do the same. There’s an event that airs periodically and is broadcast around the world on Black Entertainment Television (BET) – it’s called ‘Black Girls Rock’. It’s hard to imagine that a worldwide audience would be as receptive to a ‘White Girls Rock’ type show, that focused on the strengths and achievements of white women and women of Caucasian descent. When black people elevate themselves as a race, it’s fine – for white folk, not so much. Black people have an excuse to be racist, two excuses actually, slavery and colonialism. White people have nothing. And yet, ‘normal’ racism is alive, well and kicking up a storm.

A South African story

Recently, Nelson Mandela, the beloved South African statesman has been so unwell that he has had to be admitted to hospital. Mandela was a key architect of South Africa’s ‘rainbow nation’ and many credit him for his efforts to unite the black and white populations. As he lay in his hospital bed last week, a Facebook post sent shockwaves through the South African community in the UK. The post, which was written by an anonymous author on the ‘South Africans in the UK’ Facebook page, warns that the death of the statesman will trigger the widespread massacre of white South Africans in the country. In part it reads: “URGRNT SECURITY ALERT: Certain source claim that the day Nelson Mandela dies, this would trigger the mass killings of many non-African South African citizens. Plans have being made by the nation’s Communist Party to slaughter all whites in the country upon his death. 70, 000 armed black men will be transported to the Johannesburg city centre to attack whites. The assailants will be expected to “take over” fuel points and massacre whites. When racial disputes occur, blacks often tell whites, “Wait until Mandela dies””.

By the time we went to press, less than 20 people had responded to the post, but most of those who did were skeptical. Whatever the motivation behind the inflammatory statement, it just goes to show that there are blacks in South Africa who still have an axe to grind on account of apartheid. Some of them would feel justified in killing white people as punishment for the sins of their ancestors.