High tea with Thuli Madonsela discussing ‘white privilege’ and ‘black disadvantage’

It is undesirable to generalise about entire categories of people when it comes to privilege. There is a scale of relative privilege and deprivation in South Africa, and in our case, the discrepancies are extreme, writes Helen Zille.

canada goose uk black friday The highlight of last week was a traditional high tea, that turned into a three hour in depth discussion with Thuli Madonsela, former Public Protector and now professor of social justice in the Law Faculty at the University of Stellenbosch. canada goose uk black friday

canada goose uk outlet Our meeting was the culmination of a Twitter debate about whether the concept of «white privilege» is still the primary lens through which to understand «black disadvantage» in South Africa (and whether the concept of «black privilege» exists at https://www.bamschaatsteam.nl all). canada goose uk outlet

Canada Goose Outlet In three hours, we only skimmed the surface of the debate that focuses on the concepts of «whiteness» and «white privilege» in society. These are crucial ideas within the framework of «identity politics» that now dominate the social sciences at our universities, and seem to be accepted as «self evident» by many (probably most) social media users. Canada Goose Outlet

Canada Goose Online When we ended our discussion, we still had one core disagreement: Canada Goose Online

Professor Madonsela believes that all whites are beneficiaries of «white privilege» (from a hobo to the offspring of a billionaire). I disagree. However, we did concur that not all black South Africans are equally disadvantaged. That provides a good starting point for our next meeting.

Canada Goose sale At the end of our discussion, we each agreed to write two articles. The first would summarise our respective contributions to last week’s conversation. The second would reflect on what we learnt from each other. We would then meet again to take the discussion to the next level. Canada Goose sale

buy canada goose jacket I had to do some serious preparation for our meeting, because in our preceding Twitter engagement, Prof Madonsela canada goose outlet ottawa set me a mathematical challenge. «I hope we’ll at least agree on mathematical principles such as exponentiality, compound debt and interest, which will explain why equal opportunity is an illusion without reparation of compound disadvantage.» buy canada goose jacket

I replied that my husband (who has two degrees in mathematics) would have to explain these concepts to me properly. She replied: «Hope he cheap canada goose joins our team to conduct some analytics on, or create canada goose xxl uk an algorithm to calculate the impact of the various past laws on two families one privileged by them and one disadvantaged over 344 years to help us make sense cheap Canada Goose of the cumulative mess we find ourselves in.»

After doing my homework, I agreed that «the algorithm» was a good starting point.

An algorithm canada goose outlet is a set of rules to interpret data and solve defined problems.

So the starting point must be: what problem are canada goose outlet florida we trying to solve?

canada goose factory sale I defined the key problem as the poverty and exclusion of the majority of South Africans (a very large majority of whom are black). canada goose factory sale

The next question to ask, in developing an algorithm, is what data is relevant to measure. What factors contribute to exclusion? Once you have established this, you can best determine which interventions will be most effective in reversing this debilitating legacy.

canada goose store In defining the problem, it is undoubtedly true that the racist legacy of colonialism canada goose outlet in winnipeg and apartheid continue to have a devastating impact to this day. Land dispossession, the exclusion of black people from the industrial economy through the «colour bar», inferior education, the pass laws (that decimated family life), forced removals (that decimated communities) the list goes on and on. canada goose store

It is also true today that not all black South Africans remain equally disadvantaged. Looking at «racial categories» of people (as we still do in South Africa) it is interesting to note that during the last 25 years, Indian South Africans, in most provinces, have moved up the scale significantly, and are now, on average, either on par with whites, or slightly ahead. The reasons for this would be an interesting phenomenon to study on its canada goose jacket outlet uk own.

Among black Africans, the disparity between extreme privilege and profound disadvantage is now as wide as it is in society as a whole (and continues to widen).

It is therefore important to accept that it is undesirable (in principle and fact) to generalise about entire categories of people. There is a scale of relative privilege and deprivation in South Africa, as in every other country, although in our case, the discrepancies are extreme.

Race remains a significant factor in determining a person’s position on that scale, but it is not the only one, nor is it a simple one that can be used as a broad generalisation to define the relative «advantage» or «disadvantage» of entire racial categories of people.

The great risks of getting stuck in the race debate are:

1) It apportions blame to biological attributes that people cannot change;

2) This deflects attention from the factors that we can actually do something about, (although some of these interventions have proved very difficult);

3) It ignores the fact that inequality (and discrepancies in «privilege») are wider and deeper now than they were in 1994. Today, there are more than 9 million unemployed South Africans. In 1994 there were 3.6 million;

4) It fails to focus on the problem of policies that entrench disadvantage for the majority, while promoting extreme privilege for the politically connected few;

5) It is extremely dangerous, because the more the majority of black people remain trapped in poverty, the more the government will ignore the real reasons, and continue looting the state, while hiding behind concepts such as «white privilege» to scapegoat a small and shrinking minority;

6) The more minorities feel isolated and marginalised, even rhetorically, the more the skilled amongst them will leave the country, although most of them desperately want to be part of building the South African «success story». This will strip us of critical skills we require for development.

Developing an ethos of ‘self help’

Experiences of successful transitions from mass poverty around the world show that it is possible to achieve this in a single generation, if we work hard enough at the right things, and everyone takes responsibility.

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