By Anima McBrown
He is no stranger to Rhodes University and its lecture theatres, which is perhaps part of the reason Eusebius McKaiser held his audience captive throughout his talk at Eden Grove Red on Thursday 25 February 2016. Launching his third and latest book – Run, Racist, Run – the proud and much celebrated former Rhodent cut straight to the chase, presenting and inviting discussions over some of the serious race issues his book explores.
Never one to shy away from controversial and against-the-status-quo thoughts, opinions and statements, McKaiser made no secret of the fact that this book was written in the middle of another about illness, death and meaning. “But new questions fascinated me about race, and so I put that book project on ice to write Run, Racist, Run”, he said. He also shared the realisation that one must answer the call when “something else wants to be written inside you.”
At this, UHURU’s (Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University) second and yet another successful book launch so far this year, a highly engaged audience listened as McKaiser isolated three of the book’s most talked about chapters: “Reporting from the racist heart”, “Racism receipts” and “Meritocracy, white excellence and other myths” (which impressively yet not surprisingly is being taught at Oxford).
He explained that his interests when it comes to racism go beyond what can be considered the easier, obvious or rather blatant cases of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of ‘colour’. It is more than just identifying the symptoms of racism but digging deeper to unearth the problems that lie beneath the skin of a racist, what McKaiser calls “vicious ill will”.
“We need to move away from this notion that racism is rare – that is utter nonsense. Racist motives are commonplace”. McKaiser argued against the idea of ‘white excellence’ being the product of genetic luck and hard work. “If that were true then black people struggle due to either genetic inferiority or laziness, which would be false and racist. It follows that ‘white success’ is, in part, the result of structural racism.”
Mikaela Erskog, an MA student in politics, responded to McKaiser’s remarks. As a researcher of intellectual histories and someone that is invested in exposing the plight of black women in South Africa, Erskog spoke to the “burden of black writing”. She also called for the audience to think about issues of legitimacy and micro-aggression, especially when it comes to concerns that are hot on the agenda right now: institutional curricula and transformation. She lauded McKaiser’s book as “excellent”.
Run, Racist, Run is proving to be an essential starting point for some and an important continuation for others, for thinking deeply about the real racial tensions that are part of our everyday realities. For those who might accuse McKaiser of being an angry writer in his third book, his response is simple: yes, he was angry while writing this book. He maintains that anger is crucial if one is going to allow themselves to ‘feel’ whilst on their journey of understanding and getting to grips with (i) the currency carried by skin colour and (ii) historical injustices. He even included a chapter defending the place of anger in race discourse.
McKaiser’s book does not speak to or advocate for a non-racial society but rather an anti-racist society. Part of the reason people should read the book is to gain insights into what exactly the differences between those two concepts are.
After an honest, open, emotional but much-needed conversation McKaiser ended by calling for us to be more gentle with one another, while not shying away from discomfort.
Some brilliant quotes (and things only Eusebius can say without flinching):
“White people are very good at scaffolding each other”
“Whiteness is so pervasive”
“I don’t have to defend getting angry (but ironically did)”
“Black writers are never free”
“Black people can be racist”
“These are woke times”
“Every day I wake up and remind myself to wear the confidence of a white mediocre man”
*Also read his other remarkable works: A Bantu In My Bathroom and Could I vote DA?Source: Communications and Marketing