Letter: Responses to race and inequality show muddled thinking - Businesslive

18 November 2019 - There is no question that most South Africans who need and deserve real help 25 years down the line are black, and it is they who will be the primary beneficiaries of any policy based on disadvantage rather than race. Race casts a long shadow over SA society, but it is the persistent disadvantage — which burdens black people most of all — that needs fixing.

The letters responding to my own letter reveal the muddled thinking of those who insist on viewing everything through the lens of race (“Tackling all disadvantage”, November 11).

Reagan Marchant says I argue that race cannot symbolise disadvantage but can be a forecaster or explainer of it (“Predicting the proxy,” November 12). Well, quite. Most disadvantaged people (the overwhelming majority) will be black, but not all black people are disadvantaged. It follows that focusing on disadvantage will help mostly black people.

Jihaan Haffajee also takes issue with my assertion and advances two extraordinary positions. (“Race is always an issue,” November 12). She says some advantage must be given to those who were previously disadvantaged. To some degree this already exists through BEE policies, but it is clear these have failed to benefit the vast majority of previously disadvantaged people.

Unemployment and poverty remain highest among black people. It is a form of magical thinking to believe that more of such race-based policy is the medicine SA needs. She also says we must forget economic status and focus on previous disadvantage and discrimination. But, again, why not focus on people who are disadvantaged — the vast majority of beneficiaries of such an approach will be black people.

Equally, is it right that a white person born at the end of apartheid (now aged 25) should be locked out of opportunities? Disadvantaged white people make up a tiny minority, but they are no less deserving of help on the basis of their disadvantage.

There is no question that most South Africans who need and deserve real help 25 years down the line are black, and it is they who will be the primary beneficiaries of any policy based on disadvantage rather than race. Race casts a long shadow over SA society, but it is the persistent disadvantage — which burdens black people most of all — that needs fixing.

Marius Roodt
Institute of Race Relations

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/letters/2019-11-18-letter-responses-to-race-and-inequality-show-muddled-thinking/

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