The triumphal removal of Rhodes’ statue from UCT and the campaign against other symbols from the pre-1994 past are symptoms of more deep-seated racial attitudes – particularly among the disaffected youth of the emerging black middle class. The media images of recent events have been deeply troubling: Rhodes’ statue, bound and hooded – like some ISIS hostage; the crouching burger guarding Paul Kruger on Church Square irreverently doused in bright green paint; and students dancing on the tables at a UCT Council meeting, singing “one settler, one bullet!”

This aggression against the symbols of the past has its roots in stereotypes of white South Africans that have long been promoted by the ANC/SACP. As a result, many people truly believe that:

This stereotype has been compounded by a growing rejection of Western culture – referred to as “whiteness”. In terms of this analysis Western Europeans are guilty of having for the past 500 years exploited and subjugated the pristine peoples of Africa, Latin America and Asia. Their material success has its origin in this relentless despoliation and has left them with an innate sense of their own racial superiority. So whites are by definition racists – whether they are aware of it or not. However, blacks can never be racists because they are struggling against the unfairly accumulated power of white institutions – like UCT (even though blacks now enjoy a virtual monopoly of political power).

President Zuma started the latest round of racial pot-stirring by claiming in January that all South Africa’s problems originated with Jan van Riebeeck. The current racial agitation fits in nicely with the ANC/SACP’s “radical implementation of the second phase of its National Democratic Revolution”. In particular, it will help to prepare the climate for the assault on white property rights that is embodied in a raft of new legislation. It is within this context that the attacks on the symbols of the past must be seen.

At the very moment that the Rhodes statue was being removed from UCT, the government was hosting a state visit for Robert Mugabe – the personification of black retribution against minority whites. During the visit President Zuma returned to his second phase theme: while African countries had gained political freedom, majority groups were still subjected to poverty and there was a hyper-concentration of wealth among citizens of “white or colonist” descent. (Note the word “colonist”.) “If we worked hard to bring political freedom then it is our turn to work hard to bring economic freedom… To me the struggle to liberate ourselves economically is a crucial one. We should be as angry about this struggle as we were for the political liberation. It’s urgent, it’s important, it’s correct.”

The core of racism lies in the propagation of negative racial stereotypes. It reduces ordinary human beings to depersonalised caricatures – and potential targets. It gives demagogues a licence to incite harm against identifiable groups – whether they are gays, Jews, white farmers or Somali shopkeepers.

The values that the protesters and ANC/SACP ideologists are rejecting are not “white”- as commentators would have us believe. They are the distillation of global experience of what works in human society and what does not work. They are based on religions that have their origin in Asia; on Arab and Indian mathematics and astronomy; on European norms of democratic governance; on globalised technology; and on economic experience everywhere.

This globalised culture accretes to itself – oblivious of race – everything that ordinary people throughout the world need or want: jazz and popular music with their origins in Africa; American movies; Asian martial arts; British sports like soccer and cricket; Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisine. Successful emerging societies everywhere drink deeply from this common pool of culture, technology and science – without losing their own distinct personalities. It belongs to all mankind.

The purpose of universities is to immerse students in this glorious pool – and to enable them to emerge with the knowledge and skills that they need to better understand the universe and to succeed in a competitive world.

The Rhodes Must Fall demonstrators can be forgiven for their irresponsible behavior because, throughout history, students have been motivated more by passion than by common sense. Not so the ANC/SACP’s ideologues. Their second phase policies constitute a new dimension in state-sponsored racial discrimination. They will erode the property rights that are essential for all successful societies. They will discourage the foreign and domestic investment we need for sustained economic growth; they will threaten our food security; and they will seriously undermine the national cohesion that President Zuma says he wants to promote.

They must be resisted by all South Africans, black and white, who still cherish the values that underlie our Constitution, and who are committed to genuine non-racialism.

By Dave Steward, Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation

 Photo credit: tony4carr / Foter / CC BY-SA