13 May, 2008

Racism on campus

Yandiswa Tembani (University of Fort Hare)

Racism is a form of discrimination based on race, especially the belief that one race is superior to another. Racism generalizes and some racists humiliate others, which reinforces their superiority and the inferiority of the victim of such humiliation.

Race related incidents have had a great impact on South Africans. It reminds us of our worst traits as people, but speaking openly about it can enable South Africans to confront the and allow us to see how much common ground has been created since 1994.

The recent racist video produced by four white students at the University of Free State generated a lot of fury from many South Africans. The contents of the video are an indication of the lack of transformation in tertiary institutions and the shallowness of the reconciliation among youth born a few years before democracy. This, tthanks to the circulation of this contoversial video, is a disturbing truth that has now been exposed to the whole world.

A tourist visiting South Africa at the time the video surfaced might have thought that racism was dead in South Africa and that the four UFS students were awakening an unwelcome ghost. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that racism in South Africa is not dead. It still thrives in many places and the UFS scandal is just one incident.

The incidents shocked the higher education community, A a result about 2000 students, lectures and directors of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University's George campus marched against racism on in tertiary institutions. Campus principal Professor Fabricious expressed serious concern about the racial tension simmering below the surface in places of higher education.

Racial tensions are also running high at the University of Johannesburg's Kingsway campus after a string of violent incidents. Drunk white male students allegedly bursts into a womenʼs bathroom and beat up a black student and another black student was attacked and thrown down the stairs.

These are racially motivated incidents of violence and humiliation reported by UJʼs SRC in recent weeks. The SRC president, Mhlobowethu Hoyi, believes that the levels of racism on campus are unacceptable. The Star newspaper reported that the SRC has threatened the institution's management with mass protest action if urgent attention is not given to the problems.

Professor Grain Soudien, the chairperson of a committee set up by education Minister Naledi Pandor to address racism on campuses, said it was unavoidable that race related incidents were happening in South African universities.

As South Africans we are all part of the post apartheid South Africa and it is our responsibility to become catalysts for unity in our country.

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