When Nadine Bowers du Toit from Stellenbosch University posts the Mail & Guardian article, Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch, I can almost hear the sigh in what’s on her mind:
“We’ve got work to do.” It is in the reaction to her post that I want to turn my attention to. Two comments would highlight my own experience of prejudice from different perspectives, I suppose. The response is 10 likes; I sad, I angry, 2 wow. The ‘likes’ I suppose, agree with Nadine’s statement. The ‘sad’ and ‘angry’ probably reflect their response to the article and study. I’m however not sure how to interpret the ‘wow’. Could it express surprise? Surely not applauding the findings of the study! What is, however, significant in the response to Nadine’s post is the 17 shares. This demonstrates to me that this kind of issue is no light subject, therefore important. Important enough to make it known.
Paulo Freire, in his reflections on the role-players in education, names them (and us) “unfinished beings”. At an educational institution, the leadership should also recognise the “unfinished” character of the institution with a view on consistent “becoming” as they apparently do when the spokesperson illustrates the programmes and interventions that they undertake. I agree that all role-players at the institution are “unfinished”. Every one of us brings what we have learned at home, at school, at faith institutions and community and social associations along and act accordingly. If the family, community, school did not yet succeed in eradicating practices and beliefs in racism and other prejudices, SU has the responsibility to take them further on that road.
As the institution cannot be held responsible for the “attitudes of newcomer students and their parents” it must however take that responsibility for, particularly staff, who discriminate racially against students and other staff members. Because we have to admit that there might be students who are further on their road of addressing their “unfinishedness” than some members of staff and other students.
Our response to injustice, such as discrimination and racism should always be to support the victim in their fight for justice. As Miss Universe 2019, Zonzibini Tunzi, professes to have claimed her space, I would add…and make it known.