Racism is more of a problem for politicians than citizens - Businesslive

6 June 2021 - Could it be that the most racist thing in SA in 2021 is the energy squandered on calling out “racism” at the expense of finding solutions to the hardships suffered by the country’s jobless millions?

Michael Morris
Could it be that the most racist thing in SA in 2021 is the energy squandered on calling out “racism” at the expense of finding solutions to the hardships suffered by the country’s jobless millions?

I take my cue from listeners who called in to a radio discussion on whether Eskom CEO André de Ruyter was “racist” in dealing with what 702 host Clement Manyathela pointedly summed up as “the rot that has been plaguing Eskom for the longest time”.

One said: “We are in a mess, we are in a crisis. And unfortunately we cannot now look away and say just because you are one of us and because you are black there is racism.”

Another commented: “Come on, man. We need better people. Whether it’s black or white does not matter, as long as the people can do the work.” Hundreds of millions had been stolen and “people who have been there for 20 years now cry ‘racism’. Come on!”

Such comments don’t discount the importance of confronting the racism that we know an intellectually insecure minority still cling to, but they do align with research by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) into what South Africans see as the country’s real problems, and what the solutions are.

The answers, based on 2020 polling, substantiate the IRR’s bold claim that “racism is not the problem”, the moniker of a campaign to “[move] the values of common decency into a public light, dispelling myths about ‘everywhere-racism’ ... [and spurring a movement] to get real about today’s problems and expel all race-based policies that offer nothing but fraudulent solutions”.

As the campaign website (racismisnottheproblem.co.za) puts it: “Seen for what it is SA does not emerge as a rosy utopia, but rather as a failing state in which most youth are unemployed, crime is terrifying, corruption is widespread, basic services are undelivered and public education amounts to child abuse — exactly the major problems topping most people’s agenda.”

In the poll, 53.4% of respondents (56% of black respondents, the highest number among all groups) said unemployment was the “most serious problem”. The next three most serious issues were identified as crime, safety/security (22%); corruption (18.2%); and housing (16.6%). Right at the bottom of the list of 14 options was “racism/discrimination”, with only 3.3% overall (and 3.1% of black respondents) saying this was a serious problem.

This comes as no surprise given the responses to the question: “Have you personally experienced any form of racism over the past five years?” Overall, 80.6% (81.3% black) said they had not.

The IRR notes: “Politically, race-based policy turns every government failure into an excuse for the government to seize even more power from citizens to solve mythical, ubiquitous ‘racism’.”

But significant proportions of South Africans are sceptical.  Responding to the statement “all this talk of racism and colonialism is by politicians who are trying to find excuses for their own failures”, 54% of respondents (52% black, 58.7% coloured, 65.1% Asian and 63.2% white) agreed.

Furthermore, 80% think merit, not race, should be the deciding factor in job appointments. As the caller to 702 said last week: “Whether it’s black or white does not matter, as long as the people can do the work.”

People doing their jobs properly is the key to stimulating the economic growth on which jobs depend. When only 15-million in a labour force of 26.4-million have jobs, it is unsurprising citizens have no difficulty identifying joblessness, not racism, as priority number one.

Morris is head of media at the SA Institute of Race Relations

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/columnists/2021-06-06-michael-morris-racism-is-more-of-a-problem-for-politicians-than-citizens/

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