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Race against time

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Guy Berger's picture

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My biggest response yet on thoughtleader.co.za has been on a posting about the Forum of Black Journalists. 2000 views and 48 comments.

And most of them - surprise - disagree with my focus. The concern, from their responses, is race. Not secrecy.

Clearly, there are major identity issues present here - with some of the posters even writing about "us" and "they" in reference to racial groups. I'm told in general that SA's media websites are blocking the worst racism that is coming through, and that there is a lot of it. But meanwhile the current racialisation that is not being filtered out is not exactly a long distance away from racial prejudice.

It might perhaps be that the white Free State students who pissed in black workers food before presenting the meal to them genuinely thought they were emulating Leon Schuster. I doubt it. But even if so, that tells us about how some people read and experience the potential in these movies - i.e. as happily reinforcing basic racism.

I wrote a few years ago about the racialisation of SA identity during the Human Rights Commission Enquiry into Racism in the media. My thesis was that these feelings get mobilised in and for particular moments, and subside at other times.

The question in SA right now is: why is race rising as an issue, and what will it take to decline?

Do actions like the FBJ's exclusivist meeting, or the Free State barbarism, trigger this identity? What is it about race in these times? Or is it there all along - throbbing behind the politically-correct scenes?

And the challenge for media: how do you try to foster non-racialism, in a climate when suspicion and hateful views also need to be brought out into the open and confronted?

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