The ‘devil’ that lives in all of us

2009-08-01 00:00

THE recent arrest of a black Harvard university professor by a white police officer in the United States of America, which culminated in the “beer summit” at the White House with president Barack Obama, reminded me of some of the challenges we still face as a people and as a nation.

Professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested on Thursday by police sergeant James Crowley after Crowley received a call about two black men trying to break into a house. Gates, who had been trying to open a door into the house, was arrested and a number of questions were raised after the incident, including Gates’ racial profiling.

Obama then invited the two men for a beer on the White House patio and the three were joined by Obama’s deputy Joe Biden to “quell the race row”. Obama, who is friends with Gates, advised the two [as well as the nation] to take a positive lesson from the incident and move on.

I have often been accused of being a racist, or of being racist in this column, but aren’t we all racist, that is, the pre-1994 class? I do not believe that the generation before 1994 does not, one way or another, look at issues, things and people, in terms of one form of racial classification or another.

As a nation, divided at the time, we were taught to look at each other through the racial lens and the remnants of this continues to live within us, and the first step is to admit that this is indeed the case.

Failure to do this is like an HIV-positive person having unsafe sex on the grounds that he or she is negative. This is called denial.

A lot of people are racists, black and white, but they hide it to be politically correct.

How many black people look at a white man and think Verwoerd, the father of the system that oppressed “us”, which, by default, makes that white man a racist.

This stereotype exists, even if the black person who thinks this way has never even met the white man.

When a white woman walks down the street and sees a black man, she clutches her handbag because her defence mechanisms send out an alarm saying “armed robber and thief”.

There’s also black-on-black racism where one sees a foreign national with an accent and, even though we do not know that person, have never met him or her and do not even know which country in Africa he or she is from, our deeply-embedded stereotypes say “Nigerian fraudster”.

I have a Ghanaian brother-in-law and he does not fit any of the profiles that exist out there.

The U.S. has been an integrated nation for more than 40 years and the remnants of racism always seem to come up. How much longer then for South Africa, which has been in the sunshine for a mere 15 years?

You will find that the people who claim not to be racists are the real racists, while those who admit to it are more than half way to facing our tainted past and removing the remnants that are the devil in all of us.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.