After the guilty verdict last month, Joe Biden said of the murder of George Floyd that it revealed “the systemic racism that is a stain on our nation’s soul”. That is not much of an advertisement for all his party’s predecessors in the White House, or for the Democrats when they controlled congress, held state governorships, occupied mayors’ offices, packed Washington with liberal bureaucrats, and appointed judges and police chiefs up and down the country.
South Africa, whose government, like that of the United States, buys into the “systemic racism” ideology, seems to be doing quite a lot better than the Americans. This is remarkable, given that we abolished apartheid laws long after they did. Moreover, improvements in race relations are one of the very few issues on which Cyril Ramaphosa and the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) seem to agree, sometimes at least.
Over the past 20 years the IRR has commissioned seven opinion surveys on race relations. All seven reveal that the proportion of black Africans (blacks) who think race relations have improved outnumbers the proportion who think the opposite.
In 2001, the figures were: improved 49%, worsened 23%, and stayed the same 28%. In 2020 the figures were 43% improved, 24% worsened, and stayed the same 27%. At one stage the “improved” proportion was as high as 64%. My colleague Anthea Jeffery, who has done an analysis of all our surveys, suggests that the drop in the “improved” proportion may be the result of the “constant emphasis on racism” by the African National Congress (ANC).
At the same time, however, the number of blacks who report that they have no “personal experience” of racism has risen from 46% in 2001 to 81% last year. This, says Dr Jeffery, is a “very encouraging improvement”. It certainly belies all the allegations about pervasive racism supposedly practised by whites against blacks (critical race theory taking the view that blacks themselves are incapable of practising racism).
The IRR surveys were not confined to blacks. We found that the number of coloured, Indian, and Asian people that think race relations have improved since 1994 is higher than the number thinking they have deteriorated, as is the case with blacks. However, the opposite obtains among whites: only 32% think race relations have improved since 1994, against 35% who think they have worsened, and 28% who think they have stayed the same.