So what are the spears that inflict this woundedness? One spear is language and how it is used within this former British colony, the Cape, and its university. I know. For some strange reason my body reacts to white folk in the southern suburbs who speak high English with a pronounced English accent as if they were still in Nottingham or Salisbury. It is the same emotional reaction that I have when those anchors on Classic FM speak English as if they just landed from Europe; there is a searing communication of the superiority of race and class. My reaction is involuntary, a reminder of a bitter past.

It is a problem I could never quite grasp. The deep, deep anger of many black academics at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The puzzle was that these were really accomplished scholars in fields ranging from psychology to medicine to engineering. “What exactly are you seething about?” I would often ask. This was the other intrigue – nobody could quite put their finger on the problem. But they were and still are furious about the institution. So I set out to understand why. Now, after more than 60 informal discussions with black staff at our premier university, I am beginning to get some grip on the rage of black academics inside white, English institutions. There is some truth to the observation that white Afrikaner racism is crude and explicit. “Ek hou nie van k*****s of h*****s nie” is without mystery. From blackface incidents to the notorious Reitz incident, white Afrikaans speakers wear their racism on their sleeves. Not the English. It is much more subtle but equally devastati...

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