Quote of the week

Excluding refugees from the right to work as private security providers simply because they are refugees will inevitably foster a climate of xenophobia which will be harmful to refugees and inconsistent with the overall vision of our Constitution. As a group that is by definition vulnerable, the impact of discrimination of this sort can be damaging in a significant way. In reaching this conclusion it is important to bear in mind that it is not only the social stigma which may result from such discrimination, but also the material impact that it may have on refugees.

Mokgoro J and O’Regan J (dissenting)
Union of Refugee Women and Others v Director, Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority and Others (CCT 39/06) [2006] ZACC 23
3 December 2007

On race and the black middle class

This morning in the Business Day there is a very interesting article by Eusebius McKaiser, touching on some of the same kind of issues tentatively raised on this blog last week about race, racial essentialism and the like. He bemoans the fact that members of the so called black middle class are criticised for not having a bigger social conscience. Money quote:

But the critique of the black middle class does not stem from these humanist considerations. It is an argument that is explicitly couched in race terms, as if the white middle class is incapable of being moved by mostly black poverty. And therein lies the problem with this attack on the black middle class. It betrays deep-seated race essentialism that is overlaid with latent racism.

The argument is essentialist in that it effectively demands that every member of the black middle class accept special moral duties towards other black people solely by virtue of the fact that they both have black skins. But how, and why, does one’s membership of a group generate duties in respect of that group?

I think we should talk more about race and race essentialism because it remains the elephant in the room in almost any interaction and discussion. This article is an interesting and provocative step in that direction.

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