The UCT student newspaper, Varsity, caused a Twitter-mob to mobilise in publishing a graphic regarding the attractiveness of “races”. But doing so isn’t itself necessarily racist.
There are certainly issues worth debating related to affirmative action. Sunset clauses are one, and whether we should focus on class rather than race is another. But it’s beyond any reasonable doubt that one generation is far too short a time to think that a black job-seeker has an equal shot of success as a white one does.
The impulse to think equality can only be effected by eliminating affirmative action is understandable. But we shouldn’t have discussions around discrimination without recognising that both fair and unfair discrimination are possible, and that an argument can be made that some racial discrimination might be entirely fair. When you reject that possibility out of hand, it’s hard to avoid questioning your motives, and your commitment to eventual non-racism.
Solidarity, the DA and Freedom Front Plus were among the voices calling for SAA to scrap its plans for an allegedly racist cadet scheme. But if it’s excellence, or merit, that we’re looking to find, then we shouldn’t discount the possibility that you can only find it if you look harder – and in places that you might not look without affirmative action measures such as this.
The proposed Constitutional amendment removing sexual orientation as grounds for protection against discrimination, alongside the Traditional Courts Bill, are grounds for deep concern regarding the commitment some of our representatives feel towards social equality.
Whether the idea that Cape Town is particularly racist is perception or reality, these are both problems. And we’re not going to fix whatever problems do exist by being offended, or by insulting those who make such claims.