Johannesburg - More than half of South Africans believe some race groups are more intelligent than others.
City Press commissioned a top research company to conduct a wide-ranging survey on race, which found that almost two-thirds (65%) of black people believe this, while more than half of white people (54%) agree.
The study, conducted by Plus 94 Research, also found that more than half of the black respondents stated they had been discriminated against by other black people in the past year. Of those, 60% were between the ages of 25 and 34.
Plus 94 Research polled 1 635 demographically representative South Africans, both men and women, from all nine provinces.
The survey found overwhelmingly that South Africans still harboured race-based feelings of superiority and inferiority.
“Most respondents made specific mention of issues about superiority and inferiority between people of different racial, cultural or ethnic groups,” the report found.
These feelings of inferiority and superiority, the survey found, were taught at home, but also play themselves out in schools, universities and in the workplace.
Black respondents, the survey found, appeared most attuned to identifying the broadness of racism and included acts of tribalism and xenophobia into the general realm of discriminatory action and racism. At least 27% of black respondents said they had been a victim of racial discrimination in the past year from members of all race groups.
Coloured people, the survey found, feel they are not recognised under the new dispensation. One respondent reported: “Before, we were not white enough and now we feel we are not black enough.”
White respondents said they felt they were being punished for being white after the end of apartheid. One white respondent said: “Black people always insult white people. They’re always willing to kill white people and the younger ones are always interfering in business that isn’t theirs ... with regard to what was happening in the past and holding on to what older people went through.”
More than four out of five Indian respondents (83%) said they had experienced racial discrimination from white people, and three-quarters (75%) said they had experienced the same from black people.
“We don’t have respect for one another. For example, white people do not like black people and coloured people do not like Indians. We do not have respect for one another’s races at all,” an Indian respondent said.
But what respondents of all race groups agree on is that there is a serious lack of knowledge of the cultures and practices of other race groups.
One of the key findings of the survey was that South Africa is still bound to divisions of the past.
“There seemed to be a hierarchy to the phenomenon of racial discrimination and victimisation, as reported incidents of this type of discrimination tended to have white perpetrators, followed by black, Indian and lastly coloured perpetrators,” the survey found.
“The reported racial discrimination of other race groups by black perpetrators would dispel the notion that black people were a special, non-prejudiced segment of society. Equally, the discrimination experienced by respondents at the hands of members of their own race would add credence to the notion that same-race racism does occur, and that it manifests itself as tribalism or xenophobia.”
The survey also found that the more affluent the respondent, the less they felt the impact of racism.
Asked about the long-term effect a racist incident had on them, 70% of respondents said the racial incident made them “feel small”. Most of those respondents came from low-income groups. Those in higher-income brackets felt angry after experiencing racism.
“From the survey findings, a consistent point was that income level mattered in determining the degree to which respondents reported long-term impacts from their experience of racial discrimination. Additionally, it seemed that more affluent respondents tended to treat people from other race groups equally. However, a greater proportion of less affluent respondents deferred to people based on race.”
City Press spoke to a number of South African leaders this week about the research findings.
Kenneth Lukuko, senior project leader for community healing at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, said: “Unfortunately, or perhaps quite fortunately, we are starting to witness more honesty and less denial or concealment of racist attitudes ... The importance fo protecting one’s dignity and sense of being a fully acknowledged human being, especially for the historically oppressed, has now become more important than compromising merely for the sake of the rainbow nation ideal.”
Lukuko said that while surveys of this kind were helpful, it was important to tackle the issues the research found repeatedly and interrogate the findings through localised conversations in churches or social clubs.
Outgoing Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela said part of the problem was that leaders who followed former president Nelson Mandela thought “structural inequality and racism in other areas of life could disappear magically without conscious or deliberate measures”.
“The urgent requirement is the implementation of chapter 5 of the Equality Act, which seeks to enable leaders and constituencies in all sectors of society to identify evidence of systemic and structural inequality in their institutions that flows from past legalised injustice on the grounds of race, gender and disability, and prepare time-bound plans for eradicating such inequality,” she said.
Neeshan Balton, executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said that a number of surveys showed a deep mistrust among racial groups and that race relations were not improving.
“South Africans, especially young black South Africans, have a much more sophisticated understanding of structural and systemic racism. Issues that previous generations might have silently endured are proving to be too much for the current generation,” Balton said.
Madonsela said she believed a unified rainbow nation ideal should still be pursued and Balton agreed, but serious work was required.
“This notion of a rainbow nation must be premised on the values of the Constitution, and must be coupled with a more equal and equitable country. It will require that South Africans grapple urgently with the issues of inequality, and develop plans and programmes to address them in a way that gives black South Africans a true sense that redress for the past has been adequately addressed,” Balton said.
Plus 94 Research conducted its first survey on race in 2006, involving 2 000 South Africans, which looked to capture the degree to which respondents believed they were prejudiced against owing to their race.
Then, almost a quarter (24%) of respondents reported having been mistreated by others because of their race. The feeling was most acute among black respondents, where 27% said they felt more mistreated than other races. In contrast, less than 20% of respondents from other race groups felt the same way.
Just less than half of black respondents (44%) said they felt discriminated against by other black people, while 29% experienced discrimination from white people.
More than three-quarters of Indian respondents (77%) said they had been discriminated against by black people, while more than half of coloured people (58%) reported the same.
More than a third (36%) of coloured people said white people had discriminated against them.
Just less than half of white people (46%) said they had been discriminated against by black people.
Overall, black people seemed to play the biggest part in the race debate, being both victim and perpetrator of race-based discrimination.