I never know, on the spur of the moment, how to respond to racial reasoning. In a country where race affects just about every discussion, it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make fundamental moral arguments without being accused of favouring either black people or white people – shaky as those categories might be.
Often, for example, black people refer to “white monopoly capital” in a manner that implies that “black monopoly capital” would behave differently or be a good thing. There is hardly any space to talk about whether monopolies, regardless of race, are bad because they tend to be inefficient and exploitative, period.
It is also easy to be labelled a “self-hating black”. All you have to do is question or depart from the currently popular narrative of what it means to be black. If you are a black woman, this label could even be triggered by something as trivial as styling your hair in a manner that is considered “un-black”.
The inherent unsustainability of racial labelling as a measure of morality sometimes results in unabashed hypocrisy. For prosecuting the former national police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, for instance, lawyer Gerrie Nel was said in some quarters to be a racist. The courts agreed with Nel’s assessment of Selebi and sent him to jail for corruption. But perceptions of Nel changed dramatically on Valentine’s Day this year, when athlete Oscar Pistorius killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in a case many believe was the outcome of an abusive relationship. As the lead prosecutor in the case, Nel became an instant hero. When the bail application reached closing arguments, many black people on social networks tweeted and retweeted “in Nel we trust”.
Momentarily at least, Nel has been rehabilitated from his “racism”. His fortunes might yet dip if Pistorius is acquitted. Like former detective Hilton Botha, he may then be accused of prosecuting badly in order to let a white man walk away from justice.
This moral flip-flopping doesn’t only affect Nel’s chameleon-like supporters and haters. When news of greedy collusion by construction companies broke, the demographic breakdown of radio callers who found it reprehensible was interesting. Black callers were almost universally indignant and felt the cartel had got off lightly. Of those who found some reason to justify the collusion, virtually all I heard were white.
There was also some glee, and “I told you so” from black people I spoke to on various other platforms. They said unequivocally that they were happy that whites also were finally exposed as being corrupt, because the media only published corruption by black people. I also wonder if the construction cartel corruption occupied as many social conversations as government corruption.
It is this same twisted, selective morality that causes us to be outraged by bucket toilets in Cape Town, which is run by the largely white DA, but not in Port Elizabeth, under the largely black ANC.
So we have become people who look at the race of the political parties involved before adopting a moral position. We do not appear to care that we may and often do contradict ourselves when the circumstances differ.
We are a people largely devoid of moral principle whose example will at best confuse our children, and at worst destroy any prospect of a nonracial social contract in the future. I am not sure what it will take for us to oppose corruption, to be disturbed by poverty and to shun criminals because they are bad, and not because their race pricks our conscience any more or less than it would otherwise. Surely we have to build a common moral foundation on which we build a society we can all be proud of?
Article source: http://www.fm.co.za/fm/Columns/2013/08/22/race-coloured-views