NEWS & ANALYSIS

YCL UCT's complaint to SAHRC over Varsity article

League says article on student perceptions of racial attractiveness was a horrendous piece of writing

YCLSA UCT Complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission

The Young Communist League of South Africa, University of Cape Town Branch hereby formally launches a complaint against the Varsity Newspaper, the University of Cape Town, and the editorial staff of Varsity Newspaper to the South African Human Rights Commission on an article published on 2nd April 2013 in the Varsity Newspaper in an article titled "Is Love Colour-Blind" written by Qamran Tabo on page 5 of Varsity Newspaper.

1.The article begins by pointing to an 'expectation of open-mindedness' about race, and more specifically interracial dating. One would assume that the writer was hinting towards a direction that did not take racial grounds on attractiveness (whatever this may be). In a country that frowned on all sorts of interracial mingling, what then constitutes an open-mind? Is it an appreciation of such mingling between racial groups? If this is the case, then the answer lies within the same article because all the respondents stated that they would date outside of their race.

The writer went further to investigate (we are told) that these responses to interracial dating was to varying degrees with Caucasians topping the 'charts of attractiveness'. But our writer was not done, he had to attach these 'findings' on some theoretical hook, and we all saw it dangling on the proverbial hook of a 'white-crazed' media and then it swiftly jumped to 'Darwin's' arms where it was finally rested. What one sees is a carelessness that runs through this article about its expectation of an open mind insofar as this introduces what the article and the survey is about.

2. If the article wanted an appreciation of an open mind, it would have been satisfied as to the overwhelming response that all participants would date outside their race. But this was not enough, there had to be a grid where we had a loser and a winner which was the ultimate and foreseeable consequence of the question 'if not your race, which one? Issues of race in whatever context deserve a measure of care and sensitivity when dealt with as Lwazi rightly points out.

This wasn't a simple survey on who liked coke more than fanta. This horrendous piece of writing dealt with race, one of the primary tools we still use to identify ourselves (as to whether we should continue to do so is beyond the scope of this response). The article without so much as a shred of theoretical and evidentiary leg to stand on cripples the very society it seeks to educate (if this really was the aim).

3. This charade of a survey was aimed at instilling a culture of ranking by race. From the outset, the very first question looked solely at 'which race was more (than any other) appealing,' the ultimate result of this was always a destabilization of the culture of unity that the transformation desk at UCT has been fighting to foster and nourish.

It can be argued that this is a form of divide and conquer with the effect of punting one racial group above another. This writing does not add any value to the literature and debate which has been about race and transformation. It is based on an unknown survey, supposedly conducted at an unknown time and place. With the mediocrity and insensitivity that followed the structure of this survey, it always had the propensity to elevate one race against all others, and it does just this. It does this without an identifiable social aim that it pursues.

4. The article and its alleged survey were always leading to inculcate a culture of one race being the jewel of all others. It is despicable to read and should not have been published (even more so that we were without the full details of the survey). It should have been apparent to the editors of Varsity Newspaper that the manner in which the author of the article dealt with issue of race was inadequate, insensitive and out of touch with the transformative route this institution and country have opted for.

Varsity newspaper cannot hide behind the survey and state that it merely reflects the preferences of sixty randomly chosen students. The discussion in the article never had a chance at being legitimate and thought provoking, it simply sought to discuss general and unfounded propositions about race (whites are difficult to attract, they are a status symbol) and pass them off as the rule for all. We all deserve a retraction and an apology from all concerned with the publication of this filth.

Therefore in light of this article being released to a national platform and not on social media the Young Communist League does not accept the retraction of just the headline of the pie chart and we regard this action as a frivolous attempt by the editorial staff of Varsity Newspaper to wave off the intrinsic issue at which the article discriminates not productively, but destructively not only towards that national transformational, but the university's transformational agenda.

Therefore the Young Communist League would like the following steps to be taken by Varsity Newspaper.

1. The retraction of the article, and their acknowledgement that the article did not assist with race relations in the institution. This article instead has incited racial divisions within the institution, and through their actions have cause psychological harm to the student populations. They should also acknowledge that the racial insensitivity in the article such as statements such as, "Quite unsurprisingly, Caucasians were chosen as the most attractive by non-whites." And further comments such as, "Dating a white person is perceived as being the ultimate status symbol for many people of colour."

Finally, "I have come to realise that we would have better luck creating a research wing at Med School dedicated to cloning white people to feed the demand than trying to understand the origins of our supposed 'preferences'", therefore statements such as these are not only divisive on campus, but also misrepresents the entire student body due to the lack of quantitative evidence due to the sample size regarding their "study", but rather a subjective view by Varsity Newspaper.

2. Furthermore, the Young Communist League wants the University of Cape Town and the Varsity Newspaper to be socially responsibility on race relations, and therefore we would like the University to initiate and dedicate an entire month on programs regard building race relations within the institutions, and within South Africa. Secondly we request Varsity Newspaper and their editorial team from now until the end of the year to dedicate a page to a full page article on racial issues in regards to contemporary South Africa. If the editorial team is not able to fulfil the above requested feature of the newspaper, we as the Young Communist League of UCT are prepared to do such an article.

3. Finally we would like a meeting that with the Vice Chancellor of the University, Varsity's Editorial Team, and the relevant staff member that is put in charge of Varsity Newspaper. This meeting would be mediated by the South African Human Rights Commission.

It is through social responsibility that we as the Young Communist League submit this formal complaint against Varsity Newspaper and the University of Cape Town.

Source: The YCLSA's online journal, the BOTTOMLINE: issue 7, Vol 10: April 5, 2013

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter