JONATHAN JANSEN: Beware the naked racism of UCT's faux radicals
'When a group of postgraduate students dresses up racism with faux academic language, beware'
It was Steve Biko who said that “being black is not a matter of pigmentation; it is a reflection of a mental attitude”.
The group therefore not only misinterprets Steve Biko – he was no racist, either in his choice of friendships or in his understanding of black consciousness – they also read the man out of context.
To begin with, Biko did not have “a decol theory”. But in the context of apartheid Biko was indeed against the kind of integration where “whites do all the talking and the blacks the listening”. That was the 1970s. From the list of speakers on the 2018 Decolonial Winter School programme it could be said that blacks were doing all the talking.
Biko wanted a genuine integration but, he asks, “does this mean that I am against integration?” No, says the man who was killed for his ideas. “If by integration you mean there shall be free participation by all members of a society … then I am with you.”
You could easily have missed it. At the end of each day of the Decolonial Winter School programme of the University of Cape Town, there was a single line: “18:00-19:00 SUPPER BREAK (POC ONLY).” Somebody must have told the university management that POC stood for “persons of colour” and all hell broke loose. A blacks-only dinner this side of apartheid? A racially exclusive gathering on a public university campus?The university’s leadership made the rather mild point initially that “entrance to UCT events may not be restricted on the basis of race”. But then, perhaps because of the growing outrage, the vice-chancellor followed up with an “executive statement” to condemn some of the inflammatory language used by those running the event. In the meantime the organisers relented to a change of wording but not without unleashing a barrage of self-justificatory statements. Blacks need “a safe space” – from threatening whites presumably. Blacks need to “decompress” without the burden of “the...