‘Adam Habib is no racist. He should be reinstated without delay’

Ideas

‘Adam Habib is no racist. He should be reinstated without delay’

The self-righteous cannot be allowed to act as thought police or diversity, knowledge and culture will be stifled

Thuli Madonsela, Justice Malala, Palesa Morudu and Barney Pityana

SA’s Professor Adam Habib, the new director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, was asked to step aside a few weeks ago. Habib previously served as vice-chancellor at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He was asked to step aside after he used the “N-word” in a Zoom meeting with student leaders at SOAS.

Based on the original video clip circulating on social media, these are the facts. During the meeting, a participant read a question from another student, asking how SOAS could make statements about Black Lives Matter (BLM) “while underfunding the Africa Department ... and allowing lecturers to say the N-word in class”. Habib responded by verbalising the word, saying its use would be a disciplinary matter and urging students to bring such incidents to his attention.

Several students were visibly upset with Habib for uttering the word. One, who is black, said Habib is not allowed to use that word because he is not black and had not “suffered 500 years of oppression that black bodies go through every day”. Habib became defensive, even clumsy, saying the N-word does get used “where I come from ... in context”. He also apologised for uttering the word...

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