Will we ever get away from Race?

Douglas Gibson says whites are being smeared as "racist" because of the actions of one delinquent

At a time when millions of children in our country are malnourished, leading to irreversible mental and physical stunting; when thousands of them are starving and when many are dying of hunger, the national attention is again on race.

A loutish 18-year-old white student at the University of Stellenbosch, Theuns du Toit, urinated on the computer and the books of a black student and compounded this malicious damage to dignity and property by allegedly stating, “This is what white men do, boy.”

It may be news to him, but white men do not do that. The arrogance and the ignorance, as well as the bravado of this student are beyond belief. Does he realise that his criminal action has led to many black people feeling that white people are all racists?

Whites are again smeared with the “racist” tag because of the actions of a single delinquent. Quite often, but not always, the racist cry is used by those who are themselves racists and who ignore the equality and dignity provisions of our Constitution.

Those people who feed off racism, like the EFF, rushed to blame the university, the name of which was dragged into the condemnation of du Toit. People like Cameron Dugmore, the failed Mayoral candidate of the ANC in Cape Town, rushed to Stellenbosch to insert himself into the story. Social media exploded into an orgy of finger-pointing.

The truth about South Africa is that we have a painful racist past. A generation has passed since democracy was established and since representatives of our people agreed on the provisions of the Constitution. That Constitution, despite all that has happened in the decades that followed, is holding and it is the beacon and the safeguard of South Africans.

It is not surprising that there are many of our countrymen and -women who still have bitter feelings and resentments and regrets about the past but the other truth is that most of us, irrespective of language, religion, colour and culture, get on amazingly well.

White and black people work together in every sphere. There is mutual respect and co-operation and collegiality. Of course, there are some racists and tribalists – black and white – but the vast majority treat each other with tolerance and good will.

Our children and grandchildren, except for those in township schools, attend school and university together, make friends across the racial and religious divisions and play together in sporting teams. Their parents form lasting friendships across the colour line.

Our young people are teammates in representative sports and all those teams have a good mix of players, selected on merit and no longer on colour, who get on famously. Just look at the delighted hugging that goes on between players of different colours when someone scores a rugby try or reaches a century in cricket.

It is time South Africans grew up to the reality of a wonderfully diverse nation; that mixture is our strength and not our weakness. We need to start turning our backs on those who continue dining out on racism and racial generalisations and smears.

I have never peed on anyone’s computer or books. Nor have any of my white (or black) friends. That being so, please don’t blame me, or any of the innocent people for the disgusting actions of Theuns du Toit and people of his ilk. Perhaps in addition to a criminal case and action by the university, he should receive some treatment for his mental condition. Sane people do not carry on in that disgraceful way.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is: douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com

This article first appeared in The Star.