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Lead SA Podcast Series Confronts Racism

Written by: Marisa Oosthuizen

South Africans barely had time to recover from 2016 New Year celebrations when KZN realtor, Penny Sparrow took to Facebook and revealed the strong undercurrent of racism still prevalent in the country. In a rant over the litter left on the beach after New Year celebrations, she referred to beach-goers as "monkeys" and subsequently sparked a mass reaction on social media platforms.

The Sparrow debacle was by no means the only racist incident of 2016, but it certainly set the tone and also raised the need to tackle the issue of racism in earnest.

Confronting Racism is a 9-part podcast series hosted by radio personality, Koketso Sachane which unpacked the complex issue of racism and aimed to help South Africans heal and move forward.

We take a look back at the series and the topics that steered the conversation...

Part 1 - What is Racism?

In the first part of the series, Koketso asked the question - What is Racism? In a bid to find the answer he spoke to Kayum Ahmed, a doctoral fellow at Columbia University and Mienke Steytler, a researcher at the SA Institute of Race Relations.

His guest defined racism as viewing oneself as superior to others based on race, but added that racism also needed to be defined in relation to cultural, economic and historical elements.

"One can say that 350 – 400 years ago there were already indications that people were judged according to their race in the settlements around the Cape… We’re talking hundreds of years of (institutionalised racism)… generations growing up thinking differently of people who are different from themselves. South Africa is particularly special because of our special history."

Mienke Steytler, SA Institute of Race Relations

"Covert racism takes the form of micro-aggression and can be anything from referring in a derogative way to an individual while paying some sort of compliments like saying ‘you speak good English’ which is a covert way of saying ‘as a black person I don’t expect this level of English from you’. Either they don’t realise that they are doing this or they are doing it subconsciously. This is what creates tensions within communities in South Africa."

Kayum Ahmed, Columbia University

Part 2 - Dissecting Racism

To understand where are as a country, we need to look back at the relationship between colonialism and Apartheid. While we know that racism has been a constant in South Africa's political and social discourse since colonial times, it is important to unpack how it came into being, how it manifests and how we can deal with it.

Koketso dissects Apartheid with Ron Nixon, Author of _Selling Apartheid; _Richard Freedman, Director at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and Mokena Makeka, Architect and Owner of Makeka Design Labs.

"The psychology or the psychosis of racism is not merely a cultural phenomena but its also about limiting that races' opportunity to progress economically, culturally or socially."

Mokena Makeka, Makeka Design Labs

"Colonialism is really where we need to start looking at what influences the Apartheid legislation."

Richard Freedman, Cape Town Holocaust Centre

"There are those who will still hold on to those traditions and sometimes try to sanitise what happened, a sort of continuation of that propaganda."

Ron Nixon, Author of 'Selling Apartheid'

Part 3 - District Six, Consequences of Land Lost

2016 marked 50 years since the forced removal of residents from District Six, a inner-city residential area in Cape Town. Koketso and his quests Bonita Bennet, Director of the District Six Museum and former District Six residents, Joe Schaffers and Victoreen Gilbert take a journey back in time to that painful day.

It is easy to dismiss the past as the past, but the impact of the forced evictions of District Six residents is still felt today...

"Are we actually re-traumatizing people by reminding them of what they went through? The significance for us, is that the past really does matter. It is still with us - we are living with it."

Bonita Bennet, District Six Museum

"Where you lived before you were within walking distance to your place of work, the schools, your churches, your recreational areas and the shops. Suddenly uprooted, you're thrown that far away from the city, but your salaries don't increase, your financial burdens increased. The areas where you are thrown into have no shops and you have to travel through different areas to get to the shops.... It became dangerous because you didn't know the area."

Joe Schaffers, Former District Six Resident

Part 4 - The Psychology of Racism

Over 20 years into South Africa’s democracy, the question remains on how far the country’s citizens have come in terms of reconciliation and addressing the economic and social imbalances of the past. We still continue to deal with the consequences. These consequences can be felt not only politically and socially, but also psychologically.

Psychology as a discipline was very instrumental in legitimizing the idea that white people were superior to black people. Koketso and Dr Shose Kessi, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Cape Town (UCT), delve into the long-term effect of racism and structural Apartheid.

"There is a very close link between how apartheid became legitimized in society and in our minds, and the origins of Psychology as a discipline."

Dr Shose Kessi, University of Cape Town (UCT)

"Often we view emotion and rationality as a separate thing...emotions can give a different understanding to what the issues are."

Dr Shose Kessi, University of Cape Town (UCT)

Part 5 - The Road to Transformation and Reconciliation

Central to transformation and reconciliation is not only to recognise the need for it, but also to understand the process of transformation and reconciliation. What does it involve? Where and how do we begin? This year we have heard the call for transformation in our institutions of higher learning and we are beginning to realise the need for it to spill into broader society, but many still argue that this is not the time, while other have downplayed the issue.

Koketso and his guests, Research Chair in Transformation and Social Change at the University of Stellenbosch, Professor Pumla Gobodo-Mdaikizela and then Stellenbosch University student, Lovelyn Nwadeyi ask the question: is the call for broader transformation valid?

"These 'memories' of the past are known to be passed on from generation to generation... In South Africa we live side by side with people who benefited from Apartheid and so it is imperative for us to engage in the process of dialogue. What is missing is an acknowledgment on a wider scale by those people who benefited from this oppressive past."

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, University of Stellenbosch

"Part of the challenge is that we have not fully acknowledged what has happened. That expectation that suddenly people must get over things is very problematic, and it's mainstream, it's not a small group of people that say that...our supposed reconciliation or transition process was abnormal, because in what alternate universe does the perpetrator decide the terms of forgiveness."

Lovelyn Nwadeyi

Part 6 - Exploring Our Shared Origins

Two crucial aspects of tackling racism in society is the need to work as a collective and exploring our shared origins. Koketso explored these aspects with Sean Moodley of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, who is also the National Chairperson of the Anti-Racism Network of South Africa (ARNA) and Professor Robert Blumenschine, Chief Scientist of the Paleontological Scientific Trust (P.A.S.T).

"We fully agree that giving this message to youth is very essential, for after all these notions of race are notions that we are conditioned to talk about; we are conditioned to think about human diversity literally in black and white terms, which completely overlooks the rich diversity that we actually have."

Professor Robert Blumenschine, Paleontological Scientific Trust (P.A.S.T)

"The whole conditioning that has taken place in this country... Apartheid conditioned us to a point where we were conditioned to see people as they told us. It was a system that divided us and ruled us and in our little boxes we were conditioned, and so instead of coming out of our boxes we started boxing others."

Sean Moodley, Anti-Racism Network of South Africa

Part 7 - Land and Land Ownership

More than 20 years into our democracy, South Africa still grapples with the issue of land ownership. It is a highly emotive subject in the country and deeply rooted in our history. Many believe that it is central to how we can move forward in addressing the injustices perpetuated in the past.

Koketso confronts the land issue with Associate Professor at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, Ruth Hall and Dr. Sibonginkosi Mazibuko, Chairman of the Department of Developmental Studies at the University of South Africa (UNISA) and Editor-In-Chief of the Africanus Journal of Developmental Studies.

"Land is not just an economic matter, it is cultural, religious, it is everything. When you take land away from the people, you are taking away their dignity, you are taking away their identity."

Dr. Sibonginkosi Mazibuko, University of South Africa (UNISA)

"The returning of that land does not in any way make up for what was lost... More than land has been lost, returning of the land is a relic, it does not by itself restore what was lost..."

Professor Ruth Hall, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies

Part 8 - Propaganda, Media and the Arts

The Apartheid regime used the media and the arts as important cogs in its propaganda machine. Koketso looks back at Apartheid propaganda with political spin doctor, Chris Vick and performance artist, Khanyisile Mbongwa and how media and the arts transitioned into democracy.

"What apartheid did to White people was make them passive-recipients of apartheid propaganda."

Chris Vick

"Art can also make the tragedy that you are dealing with, seem so beautiful when it is not."

Khanyisile Mbongwa

Part 9 - The Economy and Racial Politics

The economy was an important tool the Apartheid government used to instill the racial divides in South Africa. Koketso chats to Economist and Managing Direct at Nascence Advisory and Research, Xhanti Payi and Communications Coordinator at Afrobarometer Network SA, Sibusiso Nkomo about how the economy is still playing a role in race relations in the country.

"The ownership of the economy probably lies with the people with the education levels, but also historically people who have had access all along."

Sibusiso Nkomo, Afrobarometer Network SA

"The first bit of work is to actually change people’s attitudes towards black people."

Xhanti Payi, Nascence Advisory and Research

Part 10 - Looking Back. What Have We Learned and Where to from Now?

Koketso recaps the "Confronting Racism" with Dr Shose Khesi, Senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at UCT, and highlights the most defining moments of the series

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