Speech by Ernst Roets, Deputy CEO of AfriForum to the MISTRA Roundtable on whiteness - Whites, Afrikaans, Afrikaners: Addressing Post-Apartheid Legacies, Privileges and Burdens - 5 November 2015
“Jews are dishonest thieves who steal other people’s money.”
“Asians are inhumane and they don’t care for their fellow human beings.”
“Muslims are terrorists and they should be searched for bombs.”
“Indians cannot be taken seriously, because they are dishonest and they have goofy accents.”
“Coloured people are violent gangsters who are always drunk.”
“All white people are criminals and should be treated as such. We need to take their property, deny them of job opportunities and treat them as second-class citizens. White people are rapists, dogs and cowards. We need to sing songs about how they should be mowed down and murdered. According to the white man’s religion, women are nothing more than property that can be assaulted and murdered as they please. White people are in the minority and that means that they must have fewer rights than the rest of us… Absolutely, that is how democracy works. And if they dare to protest against these views, we must tell them to shut their mouths, because they are racists who are simply getting what they deserve.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I do not agree with any single one of the abovementioned quoted statements. I believe them all to be false stereotypes and extremely racist. However, according to the views of the South African government and the ruling ANC, all of the abovementioned statements can be viewed as being racist. All of them, except those relating to white people. In fact, what I have just said regarding white people, was a compilation of ANC quotes and policies.
I believe that the topic of “whiteness” is a misdirected topic. I believe that a solution to the so-called problem of “whiteness” will do little to move South Africa forward, as white people are not to blame for South Africa’s contemporary crisis.
I believe that we might just as well initiate a conference about “blackness” and how black people need to change their way of thinking.
But if we discuss “blackness” we are only allowed to discuss how black people have been exploited in the past and not how black people need to change their way of thinking. Because the latter would be racist.
If, however, we discuss “whiteness” we are only allowed to discuss how white people need to change their way of thinking and not how they are currently being exploited. Because the latter would be racist.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of post-apartheid South Africa: A story of double standards. A story in which the President of the country can argue in Parliament that people who are in the minority should have less rights and in which he openly argues that every single thing that is wrong with this country can be laid at the feet of the white man’s ancestors.
Now let me state for the record that I do not hold dear my identity as a white man. I believe that the colour of your skin is supposed to be irrelevant. I have also never made a speech about white people, but I am making it now, because that is what I was asked to do. I do however regard my religious identity as a Christian as fundamental. I regard my cultural identity as an Afrikaner as an inseparable part of who I am. I regard my geographical identity as an African as non-negotiable.
But am I allowed to be an African? During his famous “I am an African” speech, former President Thabo Mbeki suggested that I might be. President Jacob Zuma referred to Afrikaners as the white tribe of Africa. I guess in that case, I can be an African.
But according to the laws of this country and the manner in which it is interpreted by our courts, I cannot be an African. The Populations Registrations Act – a law that was used to categorise people according to the colour of their skin – was repealed because of its racist nature. Ironically, the laws that have been implemented since then, continue to discriminate on the basis of race. There is however no law according to which different races are categorised. Because to have a law like that would be racist. Furthermore, that is exactly what the ANC fought against. So what do we do? We scrap the law, but we continue to execute it in any case.
Technically there is no legal basis according to which my race is defined. “White” is not defined in the Employment Equity Act, neither in the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, neither in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. “Black”, however, is defined as “a generic term referring to Africans, coloureds and Indians”.
However, “African” is not defined. According to our Constitution, every citizen has the right to freedom of association and “unfair” discrimination is prohibited. I associate myself with the term “African”. Does that mean that I am black?
But looking at the way in which the law is applied, it is clear that I cannot be black, simply because I cannot be African, despite my choosing to be referred to as such. I can make a solid argument that that is unfair discrimination and unconstitutional. But that is not how the Constitution is interpreted.
That is why I say that double standards have become the story of South Africa. Let us start with a few examples of the way in which we deal with our history:
White people are said to be “land thieves” because they took other people’s land. Strange, because that is exactly what Shaka did and it is exactly what Mzilikazi did. Mzilikazi, who committed the greatest genocide in South African history, is however written out of history books and Shaka is rendered a hero. It appears then that where black people killed each other, took each other’s land and even committed genocide, it doesn’t matter, because they were black. It seems that #blacklivesmatter, but only when the killers are white. #peopleswar #ANCvsInkatha #StompieSeipei.
The atrocities committed by white people of the Vlakplaas unit of the former SAP are stressed in history books. It is held up as an example of white cruelty. At the same time, the tortures of black people committed by the ANC at Quattro and other ANC camps in Africa, are ignored.
We are told that names like “Church Street” in Pretoria should be changed because offensive names cannot be tolerated. Meanwhile, the name of Amanzimtoti’s main street is renamed from Kingsway (hardly an offensive name) to Andrew Zondo Street. Andrew Zondo, an ANCYL member at the time, is really only known for one thing. On 23 December 1985, Zondo planted a bomb in a shopping mall, murdering one baby, one little girl and three women. Some of the families of these murdered victims still residing in Amanzimtoti can now drive to work in a street that was named after the man who murdered their loved ones. But in the South African story of double standards, that is not offensive and the murderer is regarded as a hero, presumably because he was black and because his innocent victims were white.
Now, let us look at contemporary examples of double standards:
When two female students of the University of Pretoria (UP) painted themselves black at a private party, they were summarily expelled from their residence, before any investigation into the matter could be resolved. SASCO threatened to paralyse universities across the country. The Human Rights Commission (HRC) undertook an investigation into the “scandal”. Not long thereafter, another photograph was circulated. This time, two white students from the University of Stellenbosch (US) painted their faces black at a fancy dress party. They dressed like Venus and Serena Williams. “Black face scandal hits Stellenbosch,” one media house reported. As expected, in this case the university also announced in public that an investigation was being done and the students were forced to publicly apologise for their “misconduct”. Before long, the debate became a huge joke on social media. Numerous photographs of black students who painted themselves white or who dressed up like white farmers, suddenly surfaced and the general question was why these people were not also being accused of racism. The short answer: Because they were black.
Last year, two white students at the University of the Free State (UFS) bumped into a black student. The students were accused of having done it deliberately, and furthermore that they assaulted the black student. It was described as an act of racism. The students were suspended by the university without a hearing, at the insistence of the Vice-chancellor, and they were severely insulted in public. However, a court acquitted them of all charges and the HRC found that the incident was not racist. Shortly after this incident, almost the same thing happened, but the racial tables were turned, when a white student was thrown from his scooter and assaulted by a black student. The black student was also charged, but in this case the university remained silent in public, and the case was dropped soon thereafter.
At the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University, the Minister of Higher Education intervened after alleged “Nazi activities” on campus. An independent inquiry found that there were no Nazi activities on campus, but that did not deter the Minister. He stated that he does not care what anyone tells him, because he is already convinced that the students were busy with Nazi activities. False accusations of Nazism were used as a green light to “radically transform” the campus, which in practice means that there are too many white people.
Shortly afterwards, a racist pamphlet appeared on campus with the words “Kill the Boer, Kill the Racist, Kill Afrikaans”. The new Vice-chancellor, Prof Dan Kgwadi, said that the university ordered an investigation into the source of this pamphlet, and then immediately added that the possibility was not be excluded that the pamphlet was actually distributed by white people.
When the so-called Rhodes Must Fall campaign was in full swing, the leader of this campaign disrupted classrooms, intimidated white lecturers and stated that white people need to be killed. However, this campaign was still regarded as heroic by Government, and we still hear that its ideals are non-racial.
When black students at the Elsenburg Agricultural College attacked and assaulted white students with whips, the Vice-chancellor and management of the University of Stellenbosch refrained from repudiating what has happened. When AfriForum Youth responded, stating that they will arrange for private security firms to protect innocent students from attacks by rioters, the same university management was said to have responded, stating that AfriForum Youth’s response (not the action of the rioters who were assaulting people) was polarising the university.
When white people use the extremely derogatory so-called “k-word” a very small group of them argue that the word has a historic meaning that has nothing to do with racism and that for that reason, the word cannot be regarded as racist and that how black people feel about the matter is irrelevant. This is a ridiculous argument, of course. But when black people sing about how white people are dogs and rapists and how they should be shot, the very same people who are angered by white people arguing about the k-word, are quick to use the exact same argument to protect these racist songs. They then argue that the song has an historic meaning different from the actual words. They argue that how white people feel about this is irrelevant. The ANC was prepared to go to court to defend their so-called right to sing about murdering white people.
I can continue with more examples but due to time constrains, I will now conclude.
This phenomenon, ladies and gentlemen, can be called double standards. It can also be labelled black privilege.
Black privilege is the privilege to implement racist policies and then call it “transformation”.
It is the privilege to be able to stand on a stage, in front of the State President, and say that all white people are criminals and should be treated as such, without him blinking an eye.
It is the privilege to sift potential candidates for the appointment of judges based on their willingness to execute the ANC’s political ideology.
Black privilege is the privilege to determine who are legally allowed to be labelled African and who aren’t.
It is the privilege to lash out against apartheid for implementing racist policies, but to then turn around and do the exact same thing and get away with it.
It is the privilege to be admitted to study medicine and become a GP or a surgeon, despite the fact that you did not comply with the minimum requirements to be admitted into medical school in the first place, while white youths who do comply are turned down, because they are white, to make space for you, because you are black.
And the worst of all: Back privilege is the privilege to believe and argue that your race is so superior that you are excluded from the very definition of racism and that you can never be racist, simply because you are black. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate form or racism.
I believe that I might have made some people angry with this speech.
If that is the case, I will now do what is expected of white men: I will apologise and I will sit down. But fear not, for this is a democracy. If you want, we can now vote on wether my arguments were valid or not, and you as the majority can outvote me.
But that, I believe, is the new story of South Africa.
This speech first appeared on the AfriForum website.