Rainbow dreams fade as racial laagers increase

2014-12-03 12:40

The desire for a united South African identity has decreased by almost 18% over the past 10 years, to just 55% of the population.

Racial identity is also increasing in importance, with race moving from the third-most selected identity (11.8%) in 2003 to the second-most selected identity (13.4%) in 2013. At the same time, South African identity as a choice dropped from 11.2% to 7.1%.

Yet in spite of this growing disillusionment and increased racial identity, trust between people from different race groups has consistently improved over the past decade. Reported mistrust of other race groups has decreased by 12.5% over the past decade, to 28.1% last year.

These are among the findings of the 2014 annual South African Reconciliation Barometer released by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town this morning.

Interpreting these apparently contradictory results, the barometer’s author Kim Wale said that there was a need to develop a more nuanced understanding of identity “which allows for diversity within unity”.

She said the reconciliation barometer was like a metaphor for light and shadow.

“As we progress, the more we are able to see the shadows.”

“Perhaps with an increase in trust also comes an increase in the honesty required to confront the continued forms of inequality and injustice that remain in South Africa, thus resulting in increased disillusionment with the idea of unity and an increasing desire to challenge continued forms of racial inequality,” said Wale.

Other findings over the 10-year period include:

» 76.4% of South Africans agreed that apartheid was a crime against apartheid, almost 10% down from a decade ago. There are stark differences among the race groups, with about 80% of black people, 77% of Indians and 70% of coloureds agreeing, and only 53% of whites.

» 23.5% of South Africans reported socialising with people from other races, a 13% increase from 2003. However, racial integration was much more prevalent among higher income South Africans.

» 27.7% of white South Africans, compared with 60.3% of black South Africans, agree that “reconciliation is impossible if those disadvantaged by apartheid are still poor”.

» 53.8% of black South Africans have trust in the national leaders, a decrease from 62.5%.

Wale said that for reconciliation to work, white people needed to acknowledge that they were previously advantaged, and black people needed to be willing to forgive and participate in creating new relationships.

It was imperative for the country to develop an antiracist white identity, she said.

“If white South Africans are unable to acknowledge apartheid criminality and redress the legacy of racist oppression in the present, this negatively impacts on the reconciliation relationship.”

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