Want to write about black people? Know your facts

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Want to write about black people? Know your facts

White academics have no right to question black people’s behaviour without humility and caution

Columnist

The reason I did not emigrate, says a friend, is because in SA there is never a dull moment. On the face of it, an article titled “Why are black South African students less likely to consider studying biological sciences?” should be dull enough. Except this research, published in the South African Journal of Science, unleashed a political storm in the past week.

The “UCT (University of Cape Town) executive” said it “distances itself from the contents of the paper” by one of its own professors and charges the published piece as being “offensive to black students at UCT” and “black people in general.” I will come to this in a moment.

What happened next is something so chilling that it should send shivers down our democratic spines. The university executive placed a call to the editor of the scholarly journal to complain about the piece. Worse, the UCT Black Academic Caucus fired off a letter to a senior politician — the political head of higher education — with this injunction: “We strongly call upon you to withdraw this publication from the journal.” Yes, a politician must withdraw a published research paper from a scholarly journal. Not even apartheid’s apparatchiks would pull a stunt such as that...

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