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Stop pissing about, varsities, and teach modules on race

Ideas

Stop pissing about, varsities, and teach modules on race

Protests and expulsions will not stop racism, and soon another student will urinate on a peer’s belongings

Columnist

Now that some of the smoke of protest has cleared around an outrageously racist act in a men’s residence at Stellenbosch University (SU), it is time for deeper reflection. The facts of the case are undisputed. A white student urinated on the laptop and other possessions of a black student. However, the public incense, sometimes disguised as commentary, was all over the place. Let’s take a closer look.

In his incomparable little book offering an intellectual history of the Donald Trump era in America, What Were We Thinking, Carlos Lozado writes this precious line: “My own concern is not how we got here, but how we thought here.” How do we as South African’s come to “think here” when another racist incident surfaces in school or society?

A University of Cape Town (UCT) student must have thought he was clever when he posted: “Timezones (sic) are weird. It’s 2022 but in Stellenbosch it’s 1952.” That English arrogance as usual; the real racists are the Afrikaners. Truth is, such racism can and does happen on any campus, even if not everyone is so drunk as to video the atrocity. Which raises the obvious question: why do we react as if this is something exceptional? Racism threads through the everyday interactions of ordinary citizens (and non-citizens) in devastating ways, but we don’t think like that. We react with an intensity unmatched as the usual performances kick in. Protests. Marches. Anger. Outrage. Demands. Reaction. Quiet. Just like that. It’s over. Until the next atrocity...

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