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Addressing the Eradication of Racism

Addressing the Eradication of Racism

Ahead of Human Rights Day which was celebrated on Monday, 21 March, the Durban University of Technology’s International Centre of Non-Violence (ICON) held a dialogue titled: “Racism: Fresh thinking, fresh action”.

The Dialogue, which was addressed by University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Director of Critical Research on Race and Identity, Professor Rozena Maart and keynote speaker, ANC Treasurer-General, Dr Zweli Mkhize, took place at the University’s Mansfield Hall, Ritson Campus.

Dr Mkhize said it was the responsibility of every South African to understand that the country cannot go back to a society that racially discriminates. “For a non-racial South Africa, we must not accept us being defined in terms race, we must accept each other as human beings irrespective. There must be mutual acceptance regardless of what we might have posed in front of us,” he said.

The dialogue aimed to challenge the country’s thinking on racism and encourage citizens to take action on racism “that is informed and focused”. Another intention of the dialogue was to bring together- across political divisions- people who have common interest in defeating racism and in making the possibility of a genuinely non-racist society a reality.

Dr Mkhize added that although South Africa may have banished discrimination in its legislation, the legacies and attitudes are not eradicated from society. “To have a non-racial society we need to first start embracing every other person as an equal. We need to continue in mobilising society to be intolerant of racial discrimination. Even though the laws had changed according to legislation, the socio-economic landscape is still in some parts defined by legacies of discrimination as we still have poverty. This legacy defines levels of education, income, challenges facing students and those people of the previously disadvantaged communities. Therefore fighting racism is the psychological emancipation of the oppressed and the oppressor,” said Dr Mkhize.

Supporting Dr Mkhize’s sentiments, Professor Maart said it was important to understand the psychological impact of racism. “Democracy has been a long process that is why when we talk about racism. We need to be aware of where South Africa has been. We cannot legislate attitudes which is why we must establish how we can address them (racist attitudes). Understanding white privilege means that you have a responsibility to unlearn the superiority that you were taught under apartheid”.

The panel and audience both agreed that the fight against racism is an ongoing process that needs to start with individuals regardless of their race. The audience also emphasised the need to include non-racism and non-sexism as well as addressing socio-economic issues facing the country.

– Noxolo Memela

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