Khaya Dlanga

Whites are more equal than others

2011-10-28 12:30

Why must you always write about race? Why is everything always about race, Khaya? Why can’t you write without touching race, Khaya? I get this a lot.

Do you think I like writing about race? Unfortunately race confronts us everywhere we go. We do not use race as an excuse for anything. Race is thrust upon on our faces every day, yet some amongst us tell us to pretend.

It is easy for the former perpetrator to say move on, forget about it, he does not want to be reminded of his sins. It is an insult to the wounded to tell them to forget about the injury, even though you are the one who caused the fatal blow in the first place.

South Africa is a deeply racially polarised society. The polarisation mostly has to do with a lack of willingness for some people to understand the grievances each side faces. Apart from the aircon fights between blacks and whites in South Africa, right now, there is no greater division between the races than the discussion of economic liberation.

Black people feel like they have to bend over backwards to accommodate white people, to ensure that they are comfortable, that they don’t feel unwanted. Yet for the blacks, there is a great sense of being affronted because they are not getting that respect back. There is a feeling that some white people want to pretend that things are just fine the way they are. For example, the great fallacy that many deny that they benefitted from the crime that was apartheid.

There is a misconception that economic freedom is about taking from the one hand giving to the other. In this case, taking from white people and giving to black people. This is what makes all this economic freedom talk especially scary for many white people. All they are seeing when it comes to Julius Malema’s march to Pretoria is just about that.

"We believe that in our country there shall be no minority, there shall be no majority. Just People." Steve Biko said this. What can we gather from Biko’s words? We can read that he does acknowledge that there will be a minority and a majority in the future South Africa he envisioned. But we will work towards a future with no minority or majority. Just people he said. What does that mean in today’s context?

We have a poor majority. It is large and black. There is a rich minority. It is small and white. Now, now, let us not use the example of a few black billionaires and use that as an example of how rich black people are. Those are exceptions, not the norm. The inequalities are clear.

A study by Richard Wilkinson shows the economic impact of inequality in societies. He uses Japan, Finland and Norway as examples of countries with the most equal societies. Then as an example, he uses the most unequal developed nation, like the US, Portugal and the UK and correlates social problems to these countries. He found that the greater the inequality in a society, the worse it does when it comes to life expectancy, maths and literacy, imprisonment, teenage pregnancies, murders etc. Japan, Finland and Norway fared much better than their more unequal counter parts.

South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal societies. We don’t do well when it comes to maths and literacy, we have a high murder rate and in the words of Thabo Mbeki, “and so on and so forth and stuff like that.”

Having looked at Richard Wilkinson’s study convinced me even further that we need to create a more equal society if we want less crime, fewer people in prison and improve our maths scores as a country.

Therefore, it is the government’s responsibility to create a more entrepreneurial friendly society across all social levels. The entrepreneur who lives in a shack must have equal access to tools that help him start a business as an entrepreneur in Sandton. Unfortunately, all the tools are biased to whoever lives in Sandton, therefore this means the gap will keep getting wider.

In countries like Japan, Norway and Sweden, there is no polarisation, not because they are all the same, but because the societies are more equal. There is greater polarisation in the US, Portugal and the UK because of the greater inequality gaps in these countries. It is a matter or class if one can say.

There is racial polarisation in South Africa because all the disadvantages and advantages are split along racial lines. For example, white unemployment in South Africa only sits at 7% while black unemployment is well over 30%.

The fight for economic liberation is not a fight against white people. It is a fight against the government’s inaction. It is also a fight against inequalities in our society. Those with a sober mind will be able to tell that we are racially polarised because the inequality gap is also racial. The more the wealth is spread, the more equal we become, the less racially polarised we’ll become.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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