Still black or white

By Adwoa Ankoma

This article began as a survey of Rhodes students’ opinion on the seemingly ineffectual policy of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Has it become redundant and what is the white sentiment? However, the piece has created a platform for the exposure of two controversial and conflicting issues.


While there is still an alleged sense of black entitlement, the belief in unfair black entitlement engineers the first generation of white youth apparently freed of the burden of white guilt. The sense that white people must feel responsible or at least guilty for the colonising and repressive actions of generations before them is disappearing.

Journalism student Karen Thome said “BEE was necessary, but throughout my school career, black and white children were there. So we had the same education. So now it should be completely even, jobs are based on talents, education, not colour.”

Depending on your background and which strip of the rainbow you fall under, this may not be much of an eye-opener. The truth is most black youth are banking on at least one more generation of white guilt. Kholosa Loli, secretary to the United Nation’s Society said “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that whites feel some form of remorse for the advantages they continue to have because of the past.”

Without a little sense of moral obligation to undo nearly 400 years of advantage in favour of a minority, there is no real incentive for businesses to create the ripple effect that would bring more colour into the boardroom, the sports fields and neighbourhoods. Even if white guilt is gone, the issue still remains: is it justified? Grant Malcomess, a second year Bsc student said: “To be honest, white youth are pissed off about it. It’s a watered down form of apartheid. Let’s be fair, it’s straight out discrimination. I don’t feel guilty about apartheid, I barely benefited from it.”

During the survey, sociology student Candice Cupido said “It (BEE) doesn’t really affect you. Right now, the only thing that affects me is partying and getting through varsity.” In an environment of growing political apathy, have issues of race and the policy of BEE become obsolete? Catherine Jennings, a third year student said, “BEE causes a great deal of disenchantment amongst certain sectors of youth who feel opportunities are not the same, so it’s just reversed racism.” This encapsulates the understanding that white guilt is being replaced by a feeling of having being hard done by as the country’s democracy progresses

This argument is in serious contrast with the black sense of entitlement. “Basically, I understand the white sentiment. They didn’t do anything to deserve it, but at the same time, neither did black people. You can’t undo 400 years of advantage in 10 years,” said Trevor Moke, a first BSc student.

Racial transformation inhibits a perilous space. The demise of moral accountability to history makes rectifying the injustices of the past an unlikely scenario. BA student Wamuwi Mbao proposes, “Whites are ostensibly threatened. Still they should have no problem. Certainly some tenders and jobs are BEE, but it’s still not levelled.”

The survey

By Kyla Herrmannsen, Reyhana Mahomed and Tony Taverna-Turisan

A survey of 60 students was done on the subject of white guilt. Students were given three options to test their opinion of the subject, and to test the prevalence of the phenomena.

15% of students asked chose option one: Yes, how can there not be white
guilt, democracy is only 13 years old.

82 % of students asked chose option 2: No, this generation of white
people had nothing to do with it. Its time to move on.

3 % of students asked chose option 3: They felt uncomfortable with the topic and chose not to comment.
This is what a few of the participating students had to say:

” If we are going to remain stuck in the past then we’ll never move
forward. The concept of a Rainbow Nation will remain a concept”  –
Fifi Peters.

” We shouldn’t suffer for the sins of our forefathers” – Deshan Chetty .


3 Responses to Still black or white

  1. C. Cupido says:

    I am a Journalism student not a Sociology student. Facts facts facts…tsk tsk tsk

  2. Ian says:

    Sorry about that, Candice. Errors like that are easy slip-ups, but they shouldn’t happen.

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