We Need More Jobs, Not More Race Laws - Post

30 June 2021 - Imagine a doctor runs some tests and comes back to say, “Cancer is not the problem here, but you do have diabetes, arrythmia, and high blood pressure”. That would be partly good news (about the cancer), but mainly bad news (looming heart failure). Then imagine if the patient turned to his wife and said: “This doctor says cancer is not a problem – she must be crazy.”

Gabriel Crouse

Imagine a doctor runs some tests and comes back to say, “Cancer is not the problem here, but you do have diabetes, arrythmia, and high blood pressure”. That would be partly good news (about the cancer), but mainly bad news (looming heart failure). Then imagine if the patient turned to his wife and said: “This doctor says cancer is not a problem – she must be crazy.”

As project leader of the Racism is NOT the problem initiative, I think I know how the good doctor would feel. Critics turn the move to acknowledge that most people are not racist into a silly strawman idea that “racism is not a problem”, anywhere, ever. Here is the background.

At the end of 2020 Markdata, polling experts hired by various companies, NGOs, and government departments, was hired to do a nationwide survey. The poll was demographically representative in terms of race, gender, and income, to test the body politic.

It found that 80% of respondents said they experienced no form of racism whatsoever in the last five years, and 80% said people should be appointed to jobs on merit. Interesting. Only 3% identified racism is a major problem in the country, whereas unemployment, crime and corruption topped the list.

Having checked the test I inferred that while racism is a problem, in some cases, it is not the basic diagnosis for what is destroying lives and livelihoods across South Africa. Most youth are unemployed. Hard investment slowed under President Ramaphosa before Covid-19, we had two technical recessions, and then a further 1.3 million jobs were lost in the past year.

There is no evidence to show jobs or investments were cut because of racism, but there is plenty of evidence to show that irrational lockdown regulations, the threat against property rights, and looting “vibes” among others put South Africa on a very different path from poorer countries, like Vietnam, and richer ones, like South Korea, which fared better last year and in the last decade.

Rubbish is piling up in Pietermaritzburg, Joburg’s roads are disintegrating, the nation’s railways have been looted, and turned into squatter camps. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni disclosed that most municipalities are in “financial distress”. Most cannot clear a financial audit, and many have completely given up on delivering basic services (but they still hike rates and pay grand salaries to insiders). These are widespread problems with no connection to racism, just greed and ineptitude.

Here is another basic problem. Less than 10% of grade 1s who started in 2008 matriculated with a pass in mathematics 12 years later. That is calamitous. Instead of a nationwide call for education reform, “racist” hair policies, matric dances, and petty squabbles are the main topics of school coverage.

Here is what we need to talk about: voucher programmes. Rather than force poor people to send their children to nearby government “schools” run by inept, corrupt officials, parents should get tax-funded vouchers they can reimburse at whatever private schools – there is a growing number of low-cost ones – they prefer. This system has worked in countries as diverse as Nigeria, the Sudan, and the US. It has recently been adopted in India where it is facing teething problems, but also early signs of success.

“Would you like tax-funded education vouchers to send children to a school of your choice?” Over 75% of survey respondents said “yes”. But when last did you hear someone talk on behalf of “our people” about this idea in public? If people do not talk about it openly, it will never happen.

The survey more broadly asked, “Would tax-funded vouchers for education, healthcare and housing help you get ahead more effectively than current Affirmative Action / BEE policies?”

Over 70% said yes. Less than 20% said “no”. Need-based vouchers beat race-based policy seven times out of 10 in a one-on-one contest across black, coloured and Indian respondents.

The exception was a relatively high preference for more BEE among white people, 35% of whom thought BEE was more likely to help them get ahead than a race-neutral voucher system. Stew on that.

Most people (75% of respondents) said that with “more jobs and better education the present inequalities between races will disappear” – without BEE or any race-laws. Only 8% chose “more BEE” versus 70% who preferred “more jobs and better education” as “the best way to improve lives”.

So, again, I come to the conclusion that South Africa is a very sick society, but racism is not the killer disease. Moreover, race-based policy is not the cure. A devolution of spending power from corrupt officials back into the hands of ordinary citizens is real medicine that would do actual good. To be sure, South Africa will not recover overnight, but over time it could right itself, most people agree.

So then why is genuine reform popular, but silent? I think it is because almost every major problem is, at some point, highjacked by race hustlers who say that really this is just another case of “racism” that needs more quotas to make it go away. The economy is “racist”, physics is “racist”, property is “racist”, and so is anyone who stands up for ownership.

This nonsense is spewed from the top and it distracts us. Worse, it divides people, and even terrifies people into thinking they must not join hands with fellow South Africans to eject looters, regardless of looks.

By misdiagnosing the disease, officials end up giving chemotherapy to a country that really needs better nutrition and more exercise. We need more jobs, not more race laws. We need more skills, not more excuses.

Is “talk of racism and colonialism by politicians seeking to excuse their own failures?” All of 54% said yes. So, half the country knows racism is not the problem it is made out to be. But the other half still falls for the trick, and the rest go down too.

We need to get used to saying “racism is not the problem” when evidence points that way. It is the first step to getting real about our problems, and solving them.

Gabriel Crouse is head of campaigns at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), and project leader of the Racism is NOT the problem initiative

 

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