The FW de Klerk Foundation and its Centre for Constitutional Rights agree that everyone in South Africa, regardless of race, must condemn racism in all its forms and manifestations, not only when a person is the victim of such undignified and unconstitutional conduct, but also whenever and wherever it may occur, and by whomever it may be committed. We have to recognise the injustices of our past, committed primarily against black South Africans, by a system that left us understandably sceptical of one another. As such, we need to work towards a united future by healing the remaining divisions, by fostering mutual respect and by developing communities and a society based on our constitutional values including dignity, achievement of equality and non racialism. Given our past, white South Africans must, just like other South Africans, be vocal and clear in their condemnation of racism as well as preconceived biases, cultural convictions or personal preoccupations, which may result in, or give rise to, racism.
We agree that if we, South Africans of all races, are silent about acts of racism be it in the form of grand organisational policies which exclude any group or race from participating in any part of society, or individual acts of bigotry denying a person his or her dignity it may well be perceived as indifference or worse, as suggested, tacit approval. This is true not only of public condemnations, but also in our respective communities where every South African, as an individual, has the ability to influence for the better the daily lives of others. We accordingly deplore the conduct of the Wilgehof Primary School teacher, Mr Lenard MacKay, whose actions were subsequently held by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to be acts of racism and hate speech as defined in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. We also welcome the SAHRC’s findings and recommendations in this regard.
Racism is, however, not a one way street, just as non racialism does not benefit only a single group of people. Strange as it may sound, racism and non racialism know no colour. Victims of racism in general are not limited to any single group of people and the perpetrators come in all shades of our rainbow nation. Correspondingly, the contention that all black South Africans are necessarily outspoken when other groups of South Africans are being discriminated against, may perhaps be an extrapolated assumption.
Be that as it may, there is no place for racism in our society. Each one of us must denounce racism and any conduct that may negate our pursuit of an equal, non racial society based on dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms whether in our education system or elsewhere. We cannot do this by fuelling racial divisions, either in ignorance or as part of subjective self serving aspirations whether political or otherwise. Therefore, in pursuit of non racialism, we have to remain aware of, and guard against, our subjective assumptions, biases and possible racially tinted lenses when we engage one another in good faith.
The Constitution enshrines and protects those values, rights and principles of the society we aspire to be, yet still struggle to become. In order to reap the fruits of a truly non racial society, everyone in South Africa must live up to those values, rights and principles, especially in our own personal lives and our respective communities. Moreover, we must come to appreciate and truly subscribe to the constitutional value of, and right to equality without preconditions or qualifications mindful of how we as individuals treat and respond to each other, more so than how others treat and respond to us. That is what dignity and equality what reconciliation, nation building and mutual respect are all about.
Adv Johan Kruger, Director: Centre for Constitutional Rights