View Full Version : White Identity In A Changing South Africa / Part I

lord patch
04-23-2007, 11:15 AM
posted from daveyd's

http://p076.ezboard.com/fpoliticalpalacefrm73.showMessage?topicID=503.topi c


http://p076.ezboard.com/fpoliticalpalacefrm73.showMessage?topicID=504.topi c


Still colonial after all these years

A fortnight ago, we undertook to carry a belated review of the book,
"Whiteness Just
Isn't What it Used to Be - White Identity in a Changing South Africa,"
by the South
African academic, Melissa Steyn. Our reviewer has persuaded us that, instead, we
should publish this review in five parts.

What follows is the first of the five-part review, which will discuss the five
narratives of "whiteness" discussed and analysed in the book.

Among other things, based on an analysis of the answers of 49 respondents to a
questionnaire, the book seeks to understand the essence of the
responses of white
South Africans to socio-political change, and the implications of
these responses,
relative to what being white has meant to the whites, historically.

"Whiteness", in the South African context, connotes the conscious and
feelings and assertions of racial superiority of white people over
Africans and over
black people in general. Steyn traces the origins of these feelings
and assertions to
European racism ("Western racialised whiteness") and certain myths that pre-date
colonial conquest, myths which have long pervaded some conceptions of
the European
political and quasi-moral order of things.

In this Introduction, we discuss key constituents of these myths and
belief systems
and how they manifested themselves in the assertion of whiteness
during the colonial
era, to date.

Steyn identifies and analyses five prevailing narratives of present
day South African
whiteness as it grapples with the change from apartheid to a
non-racial democracy.
The narratives are:

* 'Still colonial after all these years', which "holds on to a sense
of importance of
whiteness..." in which "Power is, and should be, in the hands of
whites to influence
change along European, 'white' ways..."
* 'This shouldn't happen to a white'. This narrative still clings to
whiteness and
sees the changes taking place in the country as having a
"disempowering" effect "with
catastrophic implications" to whiteness. According to Steyn, "This is
a story about
whiteness besieged, insulted, and victimised by present circumstances,
which have
robbed it of its power to control, and even influence the future."
* 'Don't think white, It's all right' which sees whites as having lost
power and, as
a result, envisages options of "new forms of subjectivity within a
more inclusive
structure". The essential characteristic of this narrative is that it does not
encourage or discourage the abandonment of white identity as ordained
by colonial and
apartheid power relations.
* 'A whiter shade of white,' avoids acknowledging and confronting the
personal - and
therefore collective - implications of South African socialisation.
Steyn calls it "a
narrative of denial: engaging in thinking about one's own
racialisation is blindly
* 'Under the African skies (or White, but not quite)' does not retain familiar
discourses of whiteness. It draws on other cultural repertoires to supplement or
replace previous white identities.

Why a (continued) discussion of race and racism?

The ideal of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa has guided our
movement since its inception. Indeed, many of our people died in pursuit of this
noble ideal. Rightly, non-racialism informs all of our government's policy
prescripts, precisely to build a non-racial, non-sexist and united
South Africa based
on human dignity.

It is nevertheless self-evident, and in any event it would have been
foolhardy to
expect this, that such a society cannot come about simply and
singularly as a result
of policy interventions - significant though this is. South African society as a
whole, must engage in dialogue, leading to concerted national action,
painful as this
process will inevitably be.

Steyn's introductory remarks are therefore instructive: "The present
climate in South
Africa, where there is considerable resistance to talking about race as a social
category, makes it necessary to say a few words about the wisdom of a study that
addresses the issue of racial identity when so many South Africans are intent on
dissociating the country from its racialised legacy."

She continues: "The constitution of the New South Africa is founded
upon the premise
of non-racialism, and [has been] part of the discourse of ... popular
struggle as it
seeks to establish equality and bridge differences. Non-racialism is also often
recast in the mould of liberal colour-blindness, with the consequence
that middle
class South Africans, both black and white, frequently express the belief that
drawing attention to race as a societal issue is anachronistic and harmful."

In this regard, Steyn observes a tendency which has evidently grown since the
publication of the book six years ago in 2001: "To name race is taken
to be racist.
The most frequent comment I receive when asked about my work is
'Aren't we beyond

She notes the pain occasioned by our history, which elicits
ambivalence towards any
discussion on racism. However, she counsels against this kind of schizophrenia,
saying: "If the structures of feeling that informed the old South African
institutions are to be dismantled, an approach that takes cognisance
of the long-term
effects of colonialism and the concomitant process of racialisation is

She thus calls for "a constructive engagement with the past", in order to foster
reconciliation and a different consciousness - in short, an emancipating

Slavery, European myths and South African racism

Steyn, as historians before her have done, traces the origins of
racism to the slave
trade during the 16th century. In this regard, historian Basil
Davidson wrote that,
"Familiar European contempt for Africans was an attitude born of the slave trade
after about 1650, and later, of the cultures of European capitalism. It has no
instrumental existence before."

To build and propound the image of Africans as inherently inferior,
Steyn argues,
Europeans recycled pre-existing discursive resources, "notably Greek
discourses of
the savage and the barbarian, medieval Christian mythology, and the
notion of the
chain-of-being that had been present in Europe in some form since Aristotle..."

As Europe expanded during the 16th century - the so-called period of
discovery and
conquest - it conferred upon itself, the position of the "cultured",
and tagged those
with whom it came in contact as "savage/barbarian". This seemingly innocuous
discourse "had in fact been around in Europe for centuries" but without racial

Africa and Africans only came to be represented as characteristic of
every notion of
backwardness and inherent incapacity for development during the 16th
century, while
Europe and Europeans cast themselves in morally superior terms just as they were
dehumanising 'The Other' through slavery on a massive, commercial scale.

According to Steyn, the power to define, and to order to their liking,
the material
conditions of the colonised, "predisposed Europeans to only the very
most superficial
knowledge" of the colonised. The correlative to the depiction of the African as
uncivilised "necessitated that they should have civilised masters". It also
necessitated, and justified, "a sinister proclivity for genocide, at a
and even physical level."

Steyn asserts: "A lack of appreciation of the individual humanity of
others who [came
to be] valued entirely in terms of their surplus value to whites,
meant that there
were few restraints in the treatment of ... Africans." She stresses that, "The
package deal of white civilisation included the rights of both appropriation and

Sadly, yet another factor that was to be used in the armoury against
Africans was an
Europeanised Christian religious narrative, namely, that of saved
souls as opposed to
heathens. "The biblical story of Noah's curse of Ham's son - 'Cursed
be Canaan, a
servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren' - for example, was seen as an
explanation of and justification for slavery. The story provided an account that
assuaged any pangs of conscience brought on by awkward convictions of
the equality of
humanity before God."

By the seventeenth century the explanation included the notion that
the curse had
been responsible for the darker skin colour of Africans. Black thus
came to represent
the colour of the devil which association, through convoluted
processes of linguistic
bewitchment, would be used to assign to the colonial project a
perverse appearance of
moral authority.

Since the accidence of birth occasions one the colour of one's skin,
"inequality ...
did not need to be analysed, it could be taken as a condition."

Says Steyn: "Light skin [came to signify] a natural grouping of
people, who through a
superiority 'endogenously determined' occupied a dominant relationship to darker
skinned people." The reader cannot, but think of the divisive effects
of colonial
presentations of Africans as constitutive of different, desperate
"tribes" who must,
at the slightest of provocation, obliterate one another in a senseless
orgy of blood
letting when Steyn writes: "While not particularly unifying across
troublesome ethnic
boundaries within Europe, the invention of whiteness provided people
from Europe with
a supra-nationalism that enabled them to ensure that the emerging
social formations
brought about by European expansion were articulated to their greatest self

We must stress that our organisation, the African National Congress,
has never and
does not believe that any religion is supportive of the thesis of the
inferiority of
any of our people. Rather, religion (un-perverted) has been and
continues to play a
fundamental part in the liberation of the world's poor.

The third arsenal in European racist discourse was the purportedly natural
chain-of-being, a hierarchical ordering of the universe from the
micro-organisms of
inner earth to the gods of the heavenly sphere. Turned the wrong way around to
justify racism, it was perverted by artificially re-placing a category of human
beings characterised as African at the rung of the chain closer to
animals than other
human beings.

Melissa Steyn says: "Once established as part of the world of animal
nature, Africans
became legitimate objects of domination through natural science. The
humanness of
white people was never in question in these schemata, indeed the human was fully
equated with whiteness."

The inevitable corollary was that blackness was equated with something less than

This introductory discussion takes us to a closer inspection of the
first of the five
narratives of whiteness.

Narrative one: Still colonial after all these years

Steyn says of this narrative:

"The defining characteristic of this narrative ... is that the person still
constructs whiteness around the belief that whites are in a position to define
themselves and the 'other' more or less unilaterally, and that
intervention needs to
take place on 'white' terms, for the 'good' of the 'blacks'. Power is
perceived to
reside in the hands of whites, who should still largely dictate the
content and pace
of change."

The narrative consists of two versions, "The hardliner colonial" and
"the altruistic

Hard line colonialists are naturally obdurate. They have little if any
regard for
human dignity as they cannot perceive of humanity outside of
whiteness. The following
remark by one of Steyn's respondents, a business person from Gauteng,
is revealing:

"My whiteness was never a real issue. Generally white was more superior
intellectually. Today I am more convinced than ever of this." The businessperson
claims commitment to the advancement of black people. The problem,
however, arises
from "their (black people) lack of commitment in wanting to be
uplifted, and their
inability to maintain higher standards". The committed businessperson hopes to
continue along his good path of advancing black people "without having to lower
standards" to accommodate them. He is of the firm view that black and
white cultures
are "historically entrenched and completely incompatible".

These remarks are indeed revealing, for the mental world of this white
provides an idea of the nature of his practical relationships with
black people on a
daily basis and at all levels. Through this revelation, we can, for example,
understand how he would be a factor in the origination and
exacerbation of work place
problems that would arise at his business establishment, the
difficulties that would
arise between him and potential black business people and clients in
pursuit of their
mutual and self interest as economic actors. Indeed, when human
relationships are
typecast in terms of superiority and inferiority, it is difficult for any mutual
respect to evolve.

In the mental world of the businessperson, and to use Steyn's words,
"Whiteness still
ought to be able to perform the function of social control."

Thus an accountant remarks: "I have a farming interest, and therefore work with
unskilled [black] labour. They expect me to care for them. I see my whiteness as
being a caretaker."

In the minds of the white South Africans, the socio-political context
within which
black people, in general, came to constitute the majority of the
unskilled labour
force alongside the privileged position of the majority of white people does not
arise. Rather, this complex subject is reduced to the supposed
inherent inferiority
of black people who are, according to the fallacious assumptions of the hardened
colonial, akin to little children, permanently beholden to the largess
of whites.

Listen to the accountant again: "Being white means that I am part of
the culture that
has developed SA socially and economically and has created an orderly
way of life
which appears to be what the blacks want - perhaps the presence of
whites will help
the attainment of black goals without too much disruptment."

An ever-present feature in the analysis of the hardened colonialist,
is the division
of good and bad blacks, an aspect of which we spoke earlier in reference to how
whites defined themselves in contrast to black people as constitutive
of separate and
different tribes devoid of a common destiny. History attests that this colonial
feature has practical political tactical usefulness, for through it,
the colonialist
rules with ease by dividing their subjects.

In line with this age-old colonial divide-and-rule tactic, in fact in
this instance
to perpetuate racial stereotypes, the accountant says: "There is a
major difference
in 'blacks/nonwhites' in towns/cities and farms. In towns people want the same
objectives (basically) but on farms you have a lot of peasants who
only want to drink
and have no responsibilities and who have no basic moral standards -
these people are
commonly called 'kaffirs' by the people who work with them. Unfortunately most
farmers only associate with these peasants and therefore their
perception of 'black'
people is distorted."

The altruistic colonial is equally driven by the notion of white
supremacy and the
accompanying belief that blacks cannot think or do anything for
themselves without
the unimpeachably good aid of white people. Its result, says Steyn, "is a
construction that reflects a struggle to reinvent a future in the name
of the old."
She cites a PhD consultant in the field of social transformation who says:

"I read adventure stories about explorers meeting savages. I
recognised there were
utterly different, lesser human beings, enlightened (to some extent)
by contact with
whites. White people were the only 'real' people. Today I regard
myself as a member
of the human race of Caucasian origin with a European cultural tradition and
civilisation. The associated 'world view' has become dominant in the
world, partly
for better, partly for worse. I am very conscious of the cultural
roots and identity
of a white person and would never be anything else, but I am growing
in understanding
and appreciation of the other streams of humanity."

The respondent goes on to say, revealingly, that, "my experience has
probably not
been that different from the experience of whites in Europe and
America." He boldly
asserts: "I don't believe 'blacks' could have absorbed the educational and life
experiences I had because of a radically different orientation in the
cultural being.
This difference takes much more time and shift in consciousness to be

The use of language here is interesting for our analysis of whiteness
and racism. The
PhD graduate assumes cultural advancement can only be attained by people of a
particular racial grouping. This leads him to the logically
inconceivable assertion
that the inherent racial abilities and implied weaknesses of which he
speaks can only
be bridged by "much more time and shift in consciousness" - whatever this means.

Says Steyn, this is "far from being related to originary, essential
qualities that
inhere in individuals or a group of people who are naturally bounded
for whatever
reason, in fact, constructed through discourse. The attempt of a
dominant discourse
to fix social identities is an exerciser of power."

Illogical as this narrative evidently is, there are many in our
country who, through
no fault of their own, retain these and worse views. Through no fault
of their own
because, as Steyn says, "as a native South African, I cannot remember
a time when I
was not aware of being 'white'. Race was the defining factor in any
South African's

In line with the defining role of race, Steyn continues to say that
"White people
lived in nice houses, went to good schools, did the work that
mattered, had culture,
and decided political issues. Other South Africans worked in our
houses, on the roads
on the farms. They were labourers, although some were terrorists, to be feared.

"During weekends most dark-skinned men would disappear into the townships [and
villages] and we would enjoy the white beaches, the white cinemas, the
white parks,
and our private swimming pools. Our maids would prepare our food (except in some
homes where the worthy woman of the house would not have black hands
work with the
food, although such hands could wash the dishes after the meal); they
would sleep in
a room at the back of the house, use the back door and separate
ablution facilities,
and eat with separate cutlery and from tin plates and mugs."

Steyn asserts: "These things were common to practically all white
households, even
working class homes, English and Afrikaans, give or take a few differences in
cultural nuances."

Next week, we will discuss the second narrative: 'This shouldn't
happen to a white'
which as we said earlier, also clings to whiteness and sees the
changes taking place
in the country as having a "disempowering" effect.

** "Whiteness Just Isn't What it Used to Be - White Identity in a Changing South
Africa", by Melissa Steyn: State University of New York Press, Albany, NY. 2001.

This issue of ANC Today is available from the ANC web site at:


receive ANC Today free of charge by e-mail each week go to:


04-23-2007, 12:01 PM
is there no way you could break that down into 3 sentances?

lord patch
04-23-2007, 12:09 PM
"Whiteness", in the South African context, connotes the conscious and
unconscious feelings and assertions of racial superiority of white people over
Africans and over black people in general..."


04-23-2007, 12:36 PM
where you from?

04-23-2007, 03:52 PM
the format of that makes it rediculous to read

lord patch
04-23-2007, 04:13 PM
where you from?


04-24-2007, 03:20 AM
south africa is alright
there is racist people of all colour but right now the biggest enemy we got is inflation
most cats don't spend their time worrying about skin they spend more time worrying how they going to make the month

04-24-2007, 10:04 AM
south africa is alright
there is racist people of all colour but right now the biggest enemy we got is inflation
most cats don't spend their time worrying about skin they spend more time worrying how they going to make the month

Inflation is a tight story down this side of Southern Africa. And in Zim most people are currently experiencing the ripple effects everyday. And people are still expecting this months inflation rates from the CSO (Central Statistical Office).

They deffered the announcement from 2 weeks ago as there were visitors sent by the SADC on a mission. So we are expecting the figures anytime soon.

PS: And Bob is rolling in his new Merc...Titanium (a grenade could blow underneath and he wouldn't here anything if he was inside) safety first!

04-24-2007, 02:25 PM
only 1 out of 5 people in zimbabwe got a job
that place is fucked
what i don't get is that america is so busy in the middle east but in zimbabwe where the people need them the most they don't show no pressance
the place is in total chaos

04-24-2007, 03:41 PM
thats the funny thing about america, were either assholes or saviors

04-24-2007, 04:07 PM
america 1st looks to see what they can gain

maestro wooz
04-24-2007, 05:03 PM
other countries do different?

04-25-2007, 02:27 AM
only 1 out of 5 people in zimbabwe got a job

Do you know that most people here that don't work are actually making more money per month than an individual who works!

One person gets zw$ 500 000 a month (new currency-bearer Cheques)

Another who buys a bar of soap for zw$ 8 000 and sells it at zw$ 50 000, then calculate if he sells at least 10 bars a week (tax free).

Why don't workers quite, well its a matter of having a stable income.

Why ca't the people buy from the shops, monopoly. street vendors are buying all the stock from shops or the factories to sell to you.

Demand and supply....