Steaurt Pennington wrote a letter about liberal thinkers, criticism and subliminal racism which was published in the Business Day last Friday. I responded with:
By implying that when “thinkers who position themselves as custodians of our liberal values rail about cronyism, corruption and the collapse of our civilised norms” they are merely “falling foul of their own aversive racism”, Steuart Pennington has got it wrong.
While aversive racism may indeed be the underlying cause of some persons’ criticism, it is scurrilous to suggest that this applies to everyone who dares criticise the steady erosion of accountability and governance that SA is experiencing.
By Pennington’s logic, these critics (who he incorrectly assumes are all whites) are simply not entitled to criticise the government because to do so is racist. He does not realise that most who espouse liberal values such as constitutionalism and ethical governance would criticise governance failures regardless of the government’s racial composition. Indeed that was amply evident during apartheid when Helen Suzman, Colin Eglin and other liberals vociferously condemned the Nats’ wicked policies.
Incidentally, middle-class whites such as Pennington remain largely unaffected by dodgy tenders, fat-cat black economic empowerment deals and public service plundering. It is the poor, mostly black, majority that suffers the most from rampant malfeasance. Thus to remain silent about cronyism and corruption is to show contempt for this impoverished majority.
It is time for Pennington and the others held hostage by their racial identity to liberate themselves, evaluating and, if need be, attacking arguments according to their merit — not according to the colour of the skin of the person who dared suggest them. If our democracy is to survive, ideas, debate and criticism cannot — and must not — be constrained by the paradigm of race.
As a 20-year-old who has grown up in the new SA, I “rail against corruption and cronyism” not because I’m racist — but because I am furious that African National Congress members’ relentless pursuit for power and self-profit continues to entrench apartheid’s lingering oppression among the very people the ruling party purports to represent.
Read Pennington’s reply to this letter in this morning’s Business Day here.