(This is a letter sent to Perdeby by a student)


Since the infamous Reitz scandal at UFS three years ago, the issue of racism and racial division at universities has been a ‘hot topic’ especially in former predominantly Afrikaans universities like UFS and UP. This together with the broader national debate on transformation, mother-tongue education and BEE create fertile ground for emotions to run wild. Yes, race is still on the agenda.

This couldn’t be any clearer than during the spring day celebrations recently. The story (which was news to me) goes something like this: RAG Farm is for ‘blacks’, ‘coloureds’ and ‘indians’ who like to dance to wild music, get in fights and behave in an ‘uncivilised’ manner.

Harlequins is for Afrikaners, whites and indo-Europeans who fear for their safety and who are afraid of getting pickpocketed, beaten up and insulted at RAG Farm (presumably by the blacks that attend?).

This is one of many stories that create a strong persuasion among students that dividing the university along racial lines can be justified and does not pose a problem to our young democracy. This story feeds into each year like a chain of lies that further strains the already fragile race relations at the university even deeper.

Something must be done to break the chain. The RAG committee and the student leadership in general can be faulted here. Hiring DJ’s who cater predominantly to the black township student archetype does seems rather unfair even for a black township boy.

Politicking in SRC elections every year on a racial ticket where its uncivilised toy-toying ANC blacks versus wealthy and sophisticated DA whites is just as bad for student unity and university life. We need to move away from these unacceptably racist and barbarically old-fashioned ways of thinking and being. It’s 2010 for crying out loud!

Of course there is much more to be said here on building a cohesive and non-racial university. Hopefully this short piece opens more time and space for reflecting on a topic as fundamental as this. Racism, like sexism is about seeing the other person as a full human being.

By using excuses like “it’s your choice to decide where you want to go” or “I won’t feel comfortable being the only white (or black) person there” we help to keep hatred and discrimination alive and in that way, make people seem less human than we are.

The RAG Committee must be brought on terms for failing to use this opportunity to unite all students by hosting an event that will cater to all students who can drink, laugh and jam together at one venue. I repeat: the fight against racism will be fought (and won) on the dance floor and not in the SRC.

Joel Modiri Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

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