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More must be done to counter racism - foundation

2014-08-07 19:26

Johannesburg - The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on Thursday said more needed to be done to counter racism.

The statement followed the publication of photographs of two white students from the University of Pretoria (UP) in domestic worker outfits and their faces smeared with brown paint.

"The foundation notes with concern the insensitive and racially stereotypical attitude displayed by the two... students, who dressed up as black domestic workers," the foundation’s director, Neeshan Balton said in a statement.

Photographs showed the two covered in brown paint, wearing scarves over their heads and pillows stuffed into their skirts to make their buttocks look bigger.

"The foundation understands that while the two youth may have at the time been unaware of just how demeaning their actions were, it raises questions about their upbringings, their education and what they are taught at universities," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the university said the students had been kicked out of their campus residence.

"They were expelled from the residence but not from university," UP spokesperson Nicolize Mulder said.

"This is pending further investigation and the disciplinary process." They could still attend classes as "due process" needed to be followed.

The students are accused of bringing the name of the university into disrepute. The students' action was considered racist by many people commenting on social networks with the hashtag #blackface.

Mulder said the picture was taken at a private 21st birthday party but because they were students at the institution an investigation was launched.

She said the university would not tolerate any form of discrimination or racism, adding that their behaviour was "completely unacceptable".

Balton said that the blackface incident, together with the increasing number of reports related to racist and stereotypical behaviour at institutes of higher learning, was an indicator of the work that needed to be done among youth.

"Young people need to be aware of the past, and need to be sensitised to issues around racism. While it may not be a daily occurrence, we cannot allow an incident like this, which is the worst kind of stereotyping of African women, to go unchallenged," Balton said.

He said more programmes and initiatives designed for students, both at school and university level, to understand the past, racism and diversity were needed.

"We believe that young people have a responsibility to forge a new national identity for the country, but incidents such as this, leave us with very little encouragement that the youth will meet this challenge," Balton said.

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