LETTER: More than race defines Msimang
Intelligentsia’s willingness to sustain critical scepticism in the face of moral persuasion goes with the assertion of the primacy of colour
I am actually genuinely admiring of Phila Msimang and his achievements (“Address my concerns, not my (supposed) character”, August 17) — not least because, though I don’t know him personally, I don’t doubt the obstacles he faced purely on the grounds of his appearance and the meanings indiscriminately attached to it.
The credit redounds to him, and, I judge, illustrates his agency, his skills set and his determination to use them, the particular circumstances of his life and his will to confront and overcome obstacles some or many of which are likely the sinister products of race consciousness.
I take it for granted that his intellectual preoccupations arise from his experience, but I feel certain that more than his race explains who he is, as more than race explains who I am, and that the same is true for all of us.
Though I didn’t choose the headline, precisely what matters is the willingness of the “comfy intelligentsia” (of which, without hoping to claim any undeserved status, I consider myself a part) to sustain critical scepticism in the face of the very considerable — and mounting — moral suasion that goes with the assertion of the primacy of race. The risk is that this is more likely than not to obscure the power of individuals to act in their own interest, and only strengthen policies that undermine their scope to do so.
I would suggest that the best possible education, good health and the widest opportunity to thrive stand the best chance of defeating the superstition of racial superiority and the doubtless very real power it can confer. Perhaps we are at one with Msimang in believing it can be defeated. At any rate, we are convinced that the best place to start is to ensure that young South Africans do have a good education, sound health and the opportunity to flourish.
We are confident that our research surveys suggesting that most South Africans want these things above all, too, are credible for being the products of research companies whose methodology, and experience, vouch for the integrity of the results.
And, as I said in my column, this work is integral to a project “not to deny the legacy of racial disadvantage”, but “to stare it in the face and collaborate in defeating it”.
Michael Morris, Institute of Race Relations
JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Send us an e-mail with your comments. Letters of more than 300 words will be edited for length. Send your letter by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous correspondence will not be published. Writers should include a daytime telephone number.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.