Quote of the week

Senekal last week had nothing to do with solutions. It was all about politicians’ testosterone. It was all about politicians’ egos. What useful idea came out of all that heat and noise generated by all those politicians in Senekal last week? There is nothing. Nothing that makes SA a better place. Nothing that leads us to a better understanding of race relations in SA after 1994. Nothing that is a solution to farm murders – many of whose victims are poorly paid, desperate black people – or a solution to the incredibly horrendous murder and crime problem in this country.

Justice Malala
Sunday Times Daily
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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