Whites should be silent on SA’s future, debate told

Rhodes>Perspective>2013 Archive

White South Africans should not speak out about the county's politics, because it was black people's turn to rule, controversial Rhodes University philosopher Samantha Vice said last night.

Vice - who received international praise as well as threats for her academic paper "How do I Live in this Strange Place" in 2011- was among a group of panelists who took part in a debate on "whiteness" at the university.

She reiterated her controversial call that white South Africans should feel "shame" for the injustices caused by apartheid and that they should remain silent about the political problems plaguing the country. "At the end of the day something is not right about a visceral silence.

But obviously it is obnoxious for someone to take the moral high ground when they are self-righteous whites acting as the moral guardians". During the discussion, Vice urged white people to show humility because history placed a moral burden on them.

As long as "whiteness" remained it would make white South 66 Africans feel strange in a place they call home, she said. "While the emotions of guilt, regret and shame are appropriate emotions for white South Africans to feel, shame better captures the identity and phenomenology of the white South African."

Fellow panelist, Rhodes student and SRC alumnus Mohammad Shabangu, argued that whiteness was not merely the pigmentation of the skin, but involved the systems of power and privilege that were still sustained today.

"Remaining silent simply means these systems are reinforced," he said. He disagreed with Vice's call for whites to remain silent, saying the call Africans itself was "as loud and boisterous as any overt about the attempt at political maintaining problems white supremacy".

Plaguing the Shabangu country said the importance of this was pivotal to the conception of race. "Not least the ideas around superiority and servitude. Only once we recognise the irony of the relationship that the chains of the slave are those of the master as well, will we be able to understand the arbitrary nature of race."

He said on recognition of this whiteness, action rather inaction was indispensable. "Vice's prescription of silence seems to be, although unintentionally so, insidious. Remaining silent will re-inscribe the very whiteness it wishes to silence.

"White privilege, therefore operates in a deceitful way because part of the privilege is the freedom from the burden of knowing one's whiteness or thinking in terms of colour," he said. Professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lawrence Blum, agreed with Archbishop Desmond Tutu's call for a wealth tax to be imposed on white people.

"Apartheid can be seen as a giant plan for affirmative action. The tax is reasonable," he said. Blum was not present but his speech was read out by the panel chair Pedro Tabensky, who works in Rhodes' philosophy department. Another panelist, Michael Monahan of Marquette University, said white people should learn to listen and speak with humility.

Vice's paper received heated reaction when it was published two years ago. Stellenbosch philosophy professor, Anton van Niekerk, was even attacked by a member of the Volksraad Selection Committee in his university office for agreeing with Vice's views. Vice also received backlash from white supremacists for her stance on an imposed ban on speaking out.

"I was characterised as a self-hating attention seeker and directed to commit suicide," Vice wrote in a blog following the release of her paper.



Source: WEEKEND POST (Border)