Cape Town – As the country continues to shake off the anger caused by a series of racist comments on social media, a small group of people in the Mother City have taken it upon themselves to educate South Africans about privilege, specifically of the white variety.
The initiative, Awake SA, was kicked off by Bruce Muller, a 38-year-old partner in a branding agency who says that “recent events lit the fire to get things going”.
One of these "recent events" is the now infamous Penny Sparrow, who complained on Facebook about black people on Durban’s beaches - though Muller doesn’t want to give her any more coverage.
“The current level of discourse is very angry. There’s a lack of insight about racism.
“Acknowledging white privilege is a good first step,” Muller said.
The next step is for white people to “take the pledge” on Awake SA’s website. The pledge includes acknowledgement of one’s advantages and to continue educating oneself about what it means and how it manifests.
On privileged black people
Already about 90 people have signed the pledge. And while many, including black people themselves, would argue that many black people are also privileged, Muller wants to focus on only white people taking the pledge for now.
He feels that should self-described privileged black people sign it, Awake SA “would be jumping the gun” though they do hope to address all forms of privilege in the future.
Muller says people need to be equipped with knowledge as the current discourse around race and the privileges associated with it is very angry.
Already, the group’s Facebook page, which is just a week old, has elicited angry comments from white South Africans who do not recognise the advantages said to exist in their lives as a result of their race.
“What a joke because nowhere do i see white priviledge [sic],” writes one person.
Another posted a link to an article arguing that the notion of white privilege is a myth.
A third angry respondent wrote that the very phrase was a “hate term” and a “sick guilt trip”.
However, there were others who argued that for many privileged persons, it’s hard for them to see it within themselves.
“The concept of privilege is not even about what you have or don't have, but more the fact that by being born white in South Africa [like i was] there were certain privileges and opportunities afforded to me that other races did not have,” one person writes.
But Muller says that while there are definitely people who will never understand his argument, if people are equipped with knowledge they could come to a different view.
He says that post-1994 whites were never asked to make a change or to reach out to their fellow black citizens.
With Awake SA, Muller hopes to get that change going.