that we are stuck

This is worth reading through, if you want to get a take on racism and the debates on it in South Africa today.

For more on this story – the sadistic video made by four racist young men, all Afrikaner I think – go here. Someone said the story reminded them of the incident I reported in Mali a couple of years ago involving a North American diplomat among others. Both involve humiliation and exploitation, and force us to ask not simply why did the perpetrators do it but why did the perpetrated participate apparently so willingly? That does not mean to deny that clearly the guilty here are the perpetrators. And from what I understand, the video is symptomatic of institutionalised racism in Bloemfontein university. But I am interested in the relationship between attacker and attacked, persecutor and victim, violator and violated. Frantz Fanon is to whom I, for one, will return (as I always do).

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “that we are stuck

  1. The victims were tricked – these kinds of stunts have been used to ‘initiate’ generations of students there – me included. The women will have seen many times how the white boys endure similar humiliations in order to become part of ‘something’ – a brotherhood of Reitz.
    So these students tricked the women to think they could become part of the ‘brotherhood’, when in fact they were becoming part of a racist protest video.

  2. gess

    Hey there.

    I think people are more interested to know what made these women to accept the degradation, and remember these women are adults.

    But I can’t imagine a Nigerian or other Black Africans would accept this treatment and it must be because of long effective (mind)colonialism that made them to give up.

  3. Alleman, thank you. And if you are right, that the women were tricked into believing they could become part of the ‘brotherhood’, one must ask why they would have wanted that. I really think the whole ghastly episode provokes more questions than perhaps we are prepared to try to consider, let alone answer. The good thing is that it has provoked so much debate here, across SA. I am told that readers of Die Beeld, which as you will know (but other readers may not) has for long been a very critical and progressive Afrikaans newspaper, have been outraged by the video, and outraged this sort of thing goes on today in 2008 here in SA. On the other hand, I find it continually remarkable how many South Africans I’ve met are surprised that racism is alive and kicking in this country. It’s alive and kicking in the United States 40 years after the civil rights movement, so why shouldn’t it be so here. There is almost a naivety in this country about race which I – and many expats I have met here – find quite curious.
    But the other thing that has struck me about all of this is that the debate on racism here is never linked (in the public media anyway) to economics. There was an otherwise excellent discussion on SABC last Friday, with Jeremy wotzisname, with many callers all giving their 10 cents on That Video and no one seemed to think that the divisions that still exist in this country have anything to do with economics. The deceit of capitalism is quite extraordinary IMHO.

    Gess, thank you for writing. I’m not sure that ‘other Black Africans’ would under no circumstances have gone along with this kind of treatment, as my experiences in West Africa as written in the Rad Phil piece prove. This has everything to do with power – who has it and who doesn’t, or who is perceived to have it – and yes, sure, a legacy of colonialism and racism that continue to this very day.

  4. Lara while I agree with you that economics and inequality is central to how power relations between people are formed, I will not join you in taking a swipe at capitalism. I find it shocking and disgusting that people from the British Left can continue to come to Africa and peddle their ideas here even after having seen how much misery those ideas caused in Africa, and how much wealth capitalism brought to the West.

  5. Me thinks thou doth generalise a tad too much. You make too many assumptions about me Alleman. I’ve been very critical in my own work about not simply the British Left, but the European Left, chasing their own political ends on the African continent. I am well aware – and have done quite substantial research into – just how much damage certain Leftist ideologies have done, particularly at this end of the continent. But capitalism has and is also doing a lot of damage – and to deny that (simply) because of the extremely wealthy West is rather foolish, to put it very politely.

  6. julianr

    I find it shocking and disgusting that people from the South African Right can continue to come to Europe and peddle their ideas there even after having seen how much misery those ideas caused in Europe, and how much poverty capitalism brought to Africa.

    The wealth that capitalism delivers to some doesn’t come from nowhere. I accept that competition, personal ambition and the desire to accumulate wealth are sometimes, even often, useful motors for human invention and action. But Western wealth is largely based on the exploitation of African and Asian geological and human resources – gold, diamonds, wood, oil, copper and cheap (or slave) labour. Capitalism will never make everyone rich. It is by its nature amoral and exploitative of people and natural resources. It prefers to keep the poor poor.

  7. Lara
    Sorry I have misrepresented you based on that one comment.

    julianr
    The South African Right do that?

  8. julianr

    I can’t claim to have objective evidence, but my strong suspicion is that the white South Africans populating the more expensive parts of London in ever-greater numbers aren’t there to foment socialist revolution.