The campaign against “race hustling” currently being launched by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) comes not a moment too soon. This growing industry is as big a menace as politicians who blame their own failures on apartheid. It is also insulting to both blacks and whites.
According to an IRR statement issued last week, the “race hustler consultancies” that are springing up are exaggerating the extent of racism in schools and businesses to “win contracts to address this allegedly ubiquitous crisis”. The IRR intends to expose all these “hustlers”.
What the IRR labels as their “unsubstantiated insistence that racism is the biggest problem” facing South Africa in fact flies in the face of no fewer than seven nation-wide opinion surveys commissioned by the IRR over the past 20 years. Race issues were a concern for only 8% of South Africans in 2001 and only 3.3% last year. Unemployment, crime, living conditions, and poor education have long been of far greater concern.
The false claims about ubiquitous racism not only ignore contrary evidence, but also the history of what has been achieved in this country.
Back in 1978 the IRR published a book describing the content of this country’s apartheid laws, including the security laws designed to suppress resistance. Written by Muriel Horrell and entitled Laws Affecting Race Relations in South Africa, the compendium ran to 479 pages. The book had to be that thick and that long because there was no aspect of life that was not governed by racial restrictions.
Twelve years later, in 1990, the IRR published my book, South Africa’s Silent Revolution. Most of it written before F W de Klerk’s famous speech of 2nd February 1990, this book described how that mighty apartheid edifice was “crumbling all about us” and how the “new society is taking shape”. I had in fact already chronicled the process of the “erosion of apartheid” in testimony to a congressional sub-committee in Washington DC in March 1988.