How We Understand Racism
The roots of racism are in power and policies. Multiple forces, both past and present, act to create unequal experiences of the world for different people.
Racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value based on skin color. Racism is a complex interwoven system impacting all aspects of life. When defining racism, we use a “both/and” perspective:
- Racism is both Personal and Systemic (perpetrated by individuals and through policies)
- Racism is both Intentional and Unintentional (believed or perpetrated consciously and unconsciously)
A four-fold understanding of racism can be helpful for more fully comprehending the problem. Racism is simultaneously:
- DESIRE – Racism begins in the heart, it is fueled by all kinds of desires including wealth, greed, arrogance, and pride, as well as willingness to exploit the vulnerable and seek comfort or luxury at the expense of others.
- NARRATIVE – Throughout history various lies have been told and adapted to justify certain actions that have perpetuated racial injustice and inequity.
- STRUCTURE – Systems, laws, and processes have been intentionally created throughout history to support the myths of racial superiority, and to restrict the access certain people have to education, wealth, and power.
- FRUIT – The effects of racism continue to wreak havoc on our communities and our ability to love our neighbors.
We acknowledge that white privilege and everyday racist abuse negatively impact our communities by reinforcing inequity and injustice.
- White Privilege means having unearned and greater access to power and resources than people(s) of color in the same situation; this is both a legacy and a cause of racism.
- Everyday racist abuse means persistent, often subtle, slights and indignities that marginalized people experience in daily interactions with others, which negatively impact health and well-being.
The Historical Context of Racism:
Discrimination is an age-old human problem. The modern concept of race, and its role in systemic forms of prejudice, started emerging in the 1400s as a sociological concept that was created to justify conquest, slavery, and colonialism. Racism is a global problem; the construct of racism has been validated and reproduced in societies worldwide. Racism played a central role in the establishment of the Cape Colony, and has remained detrimental throughout the growth of South Africa.
The heinous Apartheid system was intentionally designed to keep people apart with social engineering that included separate schools and medical facilities, as well as other segregated social and economic spaces. The Apartheid spatial planning system was particularly effective in keeping people isolated from each other, and as a result people remained ignorant and oftentimes fearful of one another. Because South Africa is still affected by the scars of Apartheid era spatial planning, many people remain isolated from people with a different skin color.
We believe the lack of proximity to one another, particularly to those who continue to experience the oppression and exclusion of the systems of racism, has a direct impact on our ability to form deep relationships, express empathy, and act in informed ways to dismantle systems of racial injustice. Statistics lay bare the vast divisive inequity in South Africa, much of which is magnified in Stellenbosch.