Saturday, October 8, 2016

Who is the racist when two people accuse each other of racism?

An exchange on Twitter between Democratic Alliance MP Belinda Bozzoli and Economic Freedom Fighters spokesperson Mbuyeseni Ndlozi MP over the students shutdown of South Africa's universities went like this*:
- "All responsible organizers [of the protests] have condemned arson. There is no need for you and the DA to do a petition."
- "No need? Nobody has exclusive rights to wanting a peaceful solution."
- "It's not rights, but needs [I] am aiming at ... You are the white brain behind it. Always preferring an apartheid response to protest."
- "Wow, your repertoire of cheap shots is endless."
- "Yes, nothing is cheaper than a white brain! Brains should aim at being human! Not white! To be white is to presuppose black inferiority!"
An anonymous reader found the language about 'cheap non-human' brains and other pejoratives 'in use by some' to have 'no basis in science' and 'very ugly'. S/he asked if anyone had any clue 'where this language is coming from.' This is one answer:
It comes from multiple sources, in the most general terms from our evident differences and prejudices. One strand of thought there would be physiogomy, the notion that character can be deduced from physical features, the shape of jaw, the size of nose and skull. In late 19th century Europe there was a considerable science in the measuring and mapping of skulls to explain different characteristics.

This easily joined hands with Social Darwinism and the imperialism of the age in an account of black 'backwardness' and is now borrowed and adapted by Mr Ndlozi to account for the backwardness ('non-humanness') of whites. It is due to a white brain. We have to weigh that against others busy today measuring the cubic capacity of brains to make the case for differences in sense and sensibility.

Perhaps your puzzlement is like mine: the impossibility of actually knowing whether Mr Ndlozi believes what he says, or is just being mischievous, or, could it be, superstitious?

For another source, overlooked in modern times, is magic: 'magic' here being merely science that does not work, and the beliefs and explanations that are offered in the absence of scientific experiment and testing.

Magical thinking is very plainly at work in the beliefs of the Nation of Islam you refer to; in the existence of Lizard People; in conspiracy theories of Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Freemasons, Illuminati, controlling the world; in religious fundamentalism in all its multiple and bizarre forms.

There is a more humdrum source: insult - at one level the above is no more than an exchange of insults, no more meaningful or to be analysed than one person calling another a stupid idiot.

Personally, I put it down to politics (which includes racism as a necessity today). To my way of thinking, the simple explanation is not only the most reliable, but the best way to preserve one's own sanity.

*Reported in Raceballs 2, Politicsweb October 6 2016

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