Lately, I seem to be noticing more overt racism than was there a few years ago. It feels as if racists no longer feel the need to cover their true feelings in a veneer of civility.
The sense I have is that racists feel as if, twenty years after the “fall of Apartheid”, black people have not progressed and this is because they are, as the racist has always suspected, inferior.
This thinking is wrong on so many levels.
Firstly, Apartheid was not simply about access to the vote, or forced segregation. Apartheid was the product of and climax of centuries of systemic and violent suppression.
Black people were denied an education, access to opportunities, access to land, access to wealth, access to justice. The corollary is that white people benefitted from inequitable access to opportunities, employment opportunities, education, justice, land, wealth and humane standards of living.
Secondly, generational wealth is not simply inherited wealth. It means the chance that a friend or family member will have a friend who can give you a start up job, the chance that your first car will be purchased by your parents, the likelihood that you will be able to spend your salary on yourself and not have to send it home to impoverished family, that you won’t be raising siblings, and supporting extended families.
This did not end with Apartheid, and it cannot be expected to have ended a mere one generation later.
Black people have not suddenly become equal to white people with the demise of Apartheid, or even twenty years later. White privilege does not cease to exist because affirmative action is still necessary. Opportunity is still not equal. And there is a big difference between equality and justice.
So, before you use statements like “reverse racism” or “get over it”, consider just exactly what you are saying.
And then, whatever you might decide, just don’t say it. Because while you might have the right in South Africa to think or say anything, what you say will still colour you in the eyes of others, and I’ve heard enough of these statements preceded by “I’m not a racist but” to know that, even though you might not care that you are a racist, you’d still rather not out yourself as one.