Time to Understand What Is Racism and Unpack Genesis of the Phenomenon

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Sibongile Somdaka

Having been in Cape Town for almost ten years, I am honoured to contribute to the racism debate in the Mother City.

While the recent study by the Employment Equity Programme contains some useful insights, its contents are common public knowledge.

The study gives us a clear synopsis of the extent to which Africans in the city have been complacent and submissive.

Now, my question is - if we have known about this all along, why do we act as if we are surprised when the study becomes part of the public discourse? Capetonians seem to have blindly followed the empty rhetoric of the skewed and senseless reconciliation project in our country, and submerged African majority interests and yearning for justice and equality in favour of an elusive dream that has seen white people getting away with everything in the city.

As a result nobody wants to even mention the word "racism", especially those in influential positions.

In responding to the debate, perhaps we need to start with our understanding of what is racism and unpack the genesis of the phenomenon. As a youth activist in the Black Consciousness Movement, I would like to invoke Steve Biko's view of what racism means, especially in the context of the charge that Black Consciousness is racist (or anti-white): "...We do not have power to subjugate anyone... Racism does not only imply exclusion of one race by another - it always presupposes that the exclusion is for the purpose of subjugation."

Our history as a whole, including Cape Town, is one of colonialism and domination of one group - that is black people in the widest sense of the word, as a political construct rather than as a race - by the other who defined themselves as white and as a superior race. The fundamental reason for and outcome of this fact is the accumulation and monopoly of resources of all kinds by the white race to bolster its social, psychological, military, economic, legal and cultural position of influence for domineering purposes over other races.

Even at the political front the white DA is in charge of the two spheres of government (Province and City).

Racism shapes the character of society; it pre-determines who will be rich, poor, educated, illiterate, marginalised, malnourished.

But in raising this debate on many platforms, I have been ridiculed, often, surprisingly, by African professionals who are in the habit of accepting dummy titles with very limited power in exchange for higher income. They tell me to stop being a cry baby or playing the race card and to get on with it.

This silly reaction has left many victims of racism unable to articulate their experiences and reduced them to spectators to a discourse they ought to be leading. …