[lg policy] South Africa: SA ‘born free’ students see the world through the prism of race

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Mar 14 15:20:07 UTC 2016

 SA ‘born free’ students see the world through the prism of race

Monday 14 March 2016 07:42

The Conversation

White Afrikaans-speaking students and black students traded blows over the
University of Pretoria’s language policy. (SABC)

   - South Africa
   - University students
   - Apartheid
   - Racial issues
   - Race relations
   - Student protests
   - Racial tensions
   - University of Pretoria
   - Language policy

Joleen Steyn Kotze
<http://theconversation.com/profiles/joleen-steyn-kotze-194983>, *Nelson
Mandela Metropolitan University

 A university rugby match degenerated into on-field brawls
between black and white students. White Afrikaans-speaking students and
black students traded blows
over the University of Pretoria’s language policy.

Some people are astonished that this is happening nearly 22 years after the
end of formal apartheid and that such clashes often involve the so-called “born
frees” <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34570761> – young South
Africans who were born after apartheid ended
<http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/unit.php?id=65-24E-6> in 1994. But the
country is undergoing a massive transformation. Race lies at the heart of
this process, just as it lay at the heart of the apartheid state.

Between 2013 and 2015 a group of colleagues from various universities and I
conducted research about students’ views on political culture, values and
voting; their perceptions of government policy and quality of life; and
their impressions of race relations. All were “born frees”.

Our key finding was that university students often fall into the “single
trap: they tend to ignore the experiences of other individuals or groups
when constructing an understanding of the country’s political realities.

Political realities are, by their nature, constructed
In understanding the political discourse of race, then, the “single story”
becomes salient. People construct their political knowledge based on their
experiences and ideas about individuals and groups. This in turn structures
group thinking – or single stories – around specific political issues and
actions. On campuses, this would include language policy in higher
education or the idea that universities must be decolonised.

Our research shows that students’ realities are built on single stories of
“the racist”, continued exclusion and stereotypes. Their sense of
nationhood, of being one, is very fragile. Their political reality is full
of contradictions: integrated, yet separated; united, yet unreconciled;
free, yet oppressed; equal, yet unequal.
Constructing political realities

The data was gathered from about 1,500 students across faculties and
disciplines at six universities. Some are historically white institutions,
one catered exclusively for black students during the apartheid era and
others were created during a merger process
<http://www.actacommercii.co.za/index.php/acta/article/viewFile/175/172> in
the early 2000s. Participants were all given a survey featuring both
closed-ended and open-ended questions. On some campuses, these surveys were
supplemented with focus groups.

So what are the “single stories” that university students tell themselves
about race?

Students place a high value on democratic values like freedom, inclusion,
equal rights and equal treatment. Concomitantly, there are also high levels
of intolerance across racial lines based on students’ perceptions of other
race groups’ access to wealth, better education, jobs and greater privilege.

Across the racial board, participants told a “single story” of exclusion as
their lived political reality. White participants said they felt excluded
by the country’s affirmative action policies
and measures of redress. They feel they are being excluded from the job
market. They talked about “reverse apartheid” being directed at white South

Black students talked about the country’s racialised patterns of poverty
and inequality, which they view as a continuation of apartheid oppression.
Their political reality was one of oppression as seen through the slow pace
of substantive transformation and a lack of access to quality health care,
education and basic services.

These “single stories” of exclusion and access exacerbate racial tensions.
Getting along?

When it came to relationships with people of different races, many students
said they took hope from their own cross-racial friendships and the number
of interracial romantic couples they know. They believe that non-racialism
is based on the idea of tolerance. But many said that improving
relationships across races would be a generational fight, as they believe
that post-apartheid South Africa is built on a racist culture.

an unwillingness to interact and continued discrimination fuel racial
Moving beyond the ‘single story’

As long as the “single story” of exclusion is the main narrative describing
post-apartheid citizenship, the racial dividing line that separates South
Africans will persist. A divide created by apartheid will remain at the
heart of South African citizenship.
[image: The Conversation]

Joleen Steyn Kotze
<http://theconversation.com/profiles/joleen-steyn-kotze-194983>, Associate
Professor of Political Science, *Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation
<http://theconversation.com>. Read the original article


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