Don’t blame the girls, Blame the University

Like all African South Africans, who saw the now infamous “racially” inspired picture of 2 Tuks students dressed as domestic workers with black painted faces. I too, was filled with anger and disappointment at another racist incident at our universities. I too, called from the comfort of twitter and Facebook for their heads (no pun intended) to spin by receiving the harshest punishment possible.

When all was said, and when soberness prevails, there are questions to ask such as: How could this be found funny, and why did it happen at the University of Pretoria?

In the last 3 years, this is the 5th incident at our institutions of higher learning that have sparked national discourse about race relations. Universities by implication are supposed to be spaces of human development; of challenging norms; of creating new knowledge and most important, spaces that groom future leaders and custodians of our nations’ ambitions.

Universities by design represent all that is best of a country and its people. Do these 2 racially intolerance girls represent all that is best about white South Africans?

In South Africa more so, universities have an important role to play, with all of the expectations above, our universities are expected to facilitate the creation of spaces within themselves to be non-racial; nonsexist and foster a culture of racial tolerance and academic excellence.

Mindful of our disjointed past, South African universities are expected to be non-apologetic in their approach to developing and grooming future leaders, which are better at dealing with racial intolerance than their predecessors.

The universities of Pretoria; Free State and even Stellenbosch, are regarded as former Afrikaans centric institution, because, in the last regime, these institutions were incubators of Afrikaner pride. Does this mean that the staff of these institutions supported Apartheid?( that’s for another day).

With this backdrop , in a new South Africa that is theoretically non-racial, more is expected from these institution, to limit the impact of their racially intolerant past  and more than anything it is expected that these institutions are to be more mindful of white based racial intolerance due to their pasts.

I won’t lie, the fact that this incident like many others has happened in former Afrikaans universities, is part of the source of the anger, because it implies that these institutions, inclusive with their staff; students  and parent bodies are in fact still practising forms of racism. I doubt the national response would have been the same if this happened at Fort Hare or even Limpopo universities.

The leadership of these Universities must be mindful that more is expected from them. Theirs is a responsibility greater than most, to ensure that their spaces are an environment for white racists to be re-educated and be integrated into our broader national ethos of non-racialism.  

Some of the student in former Afrikaner universities have never interacted with progressive black intellectuals and have almost been isolated on their farms, interacting with the African Black farm labourers, that are uneducated and peasantry in nature.

With this truth, the universities that these student attend (they still prefer Afrikaans centric universities) must endeavour to their utmost best, more than other universities, to re-educate and de- indoctrinate these students.

If these universities are not sensitive to the historic legacy that is present in their institutions and fail to put together programmes that are focused on the  re-integration of these student, they would have failed our joint nation building project.

Citing charges of putting the institution into disrepute is a cop-out for the University of Pretoria leadership. The University of Pretoria must not punish these girls, because honestly, I think they (girls) do not know what wrong they committed. Kicking them out of residence, doesn't re-educate them (thinking that making fun of black people is funny), but further isolates and discriminate them.

To be clear, I do not endorse the insensitivity of these girls, but I don’t think they are racist either. In as much I believe that there is more to this picture that paint and padding, I expect the University of Pretoria, to go through an introspective process to review how and WHY this happened at their institution.

This is not about reputation, it’s about how the university failed in creating an environment to sensitize and re-educate their students about race dynamics in SA.

I expect more from the University of Pretoria; it has received a fail mark from me, when I come to dealing to issues of nation building.

John Greystoke 2014-08-07 10:48:11 PM
How about blaming no-one because nothing really happened? Every time a black person over re-acts because of a imagined racial incident every white person needs to be de-indoctrinated. Just get over it! Not every thing is about race.
Wehr Wulf 2014-08-08 12:16:28 AM
What a lot of feigned indignation. Those girls did NOTHING wrong. Get that in your oh-woe-is-me I'm black so am an eternal victim. How about some outrage at quota systems in universities? How about outrage at political leaders calling for the killing of whites (boers)? How about outrage at RACIST BEE and AA policies that favour YOU because you have a black skin? No, you hypocrite, that doesn't bother you - but two young girls painting their faces black is worthy of this inane ranting. Please, stop your stupidity you racist.
Patty Gaby 2014-08-08 12:33:56 AM
Oh please people get a life!if a black person dress up like a farmer with his safari suit &big hat.will he called racist?you people are sio racist mad please grow uop &have a laugh !it was very funny."SMALL THINGS AMUSE SMALL MINDS"JUST LAUGH &IT MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON.
Sebenzile Sweetpayne Menziwa 2014-08-08 12:41:47 AM
The thing is those girls never saw a white domestic worker so they were imitating what they always see that was fun that,s all but my peeps are so sensitive.
Alex Bax 2014-08-08 03:21:52 AM
What an excellent article, you have got it spot on.
Bruwer 2014-08-08 06:23:59 AM
"progressive black intellectuals" ha ha , that strike and burn educational institutions to the ground
Makhokolotso Mk Mitchell 2014-08-08 06:38:59 AM
What I don't understand is what does it have to do with the university coz it was private??? So now when I fight with my husband I'm gna get a disciplinary hearing @ the workplace?
Victor Ndabenhle Mkhaliphi 2014-08-08 06:48:39 AM
Of course the University has to intensify education on dealing with and tolerating diversity & encouraging respect between different races at campus. From the sort of responses that we see from platforms like N24 from most white people, one understands why students would think that making fun of black people is amusing. And in fact they are making fun of the black women who raised, took care of and showed them motherly love since infancy. This story makes me sad, what do racist white people want from us? They want to continue to strip us of our dignity,even in democracy, after having done so for centuries!!!
Phoenix Ashes 2014-08-08 07:29:24 AM
If you see racism in everything you are most likely a racist.
NormalCitizen 2014-08-08 07:44:30 AM
Firstly; what is an African South African? South Africa is part of Africa? You probably meant Black South African. I'm a white African :) So if 2 white girls are racist by dressing up as black domestic workers... is it not racist that many blacks try to be "white" by driving fancy cars and wearing suits? I believe Black Cultures wore minimum clothing before the white person came. Should YOU not be called racist by trying to imitate us? Lastly, while I do believe what they did was probably not right, I don't see the harm in highlighting a races' traits? If I dress like that at a dress up party , and my fellow black friend dressed up as a british guy with red on his neck....I would probably give the man a bells and laugh about it. DO NOT DENY WHO YOU ARE. It should not be an insult. Blacks cant swim good...white cant run as fast as blacks... its not racist...its how we are designed.