Race card


Some thoughts on race, from the US

By Ruth C. White, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.W.


“In this country built on the most ugly forms of racism, specifically the genocide of indigenous peoples, and the enslavement of imported ones, race is a word spoken very gently and quietly – though with passion and intensity – among friends, if at all. Polls show that white people rarely think about race and non-white people spend a lot of time thinking about it and they think about it in different ways. This imbalance creates a hostile environment that leave non-white people raging and white people either scared or indifferent. Because in their eyes, for non-white people it’s ‘always’ about race. And perhaps it is.”

“The problem with the race card is that noone is allowed to use it. When a white person suggests that a black person is using it, the white person is accused of being ‘in denial’ about race, racism, discrimination and history. When a non-white person uses it, they are accused of defaulting to race as an ‘excuse’ for whatever it is that transpired. Noone can win with the ‘race card’ and yet there it is: Ready to be ‘played’ and everyone in fearof what will happen when it does get played. A stand-off much colder and more volatile than the Cold War.”

Bongani Mbindwane, CEO of mining company Platfields:

Those of us who have a voice are duty bound to sensitise our fellow countrymen to understand that some of the acts they do are, in fact, racist and injurious.

“After saying this, we hope the perpetrator will take a step back, will not argue and will hear the victim out,” Mbindwane said.

He said that, unfortunately, victims of racism are shut down, told to keep quiet or told they are playing a game – a card game, the trump card being the “race card”.

“The use of the term ‘race card’ is offensive, racist and harmful. It aims to shut the victim down, rob the victims of a voice whilst delegitimising their complaint as worthless. Black lives are not a game, there is no trump card. There are real experiences of abuse, oppression and there are great anxieties,” the columnist said.

“It is not easy to live in a black skin across the world…The hardship is racism. Blacks are regarded as ‘black savages’, ‘coup plotters’, ‘thieves’, ‘backward’, ‘lazy’ and ‘corrupt’ among many other very negative stereotypes.”

“Laws have been passed, with our Constitution being supreme, abolishing all discrimination. However discrimination persists and suppresses the black body,” Mbindwane said.

He said that it now operates in a form of economic, media and education segregation. “This combination leads to many writers and the media being desensitised about what they publish. It should be a simple thing to settle if one person says you have offended them and have racially stereotyped them.

“Explicitly racism is gone, however, the victims of racism are still the experts in identifying racial undertones where they exist, be it consciously or unconsciously.”


‘In a follow-up column, du Preez said he was becoming concerned about the phenomenon where some black commentators, intellectuals and politicians give themselves license to insult the white minority.

“I sometimes get the idea that some of the gross insults dished out are the result of a form of bravado; saying, look what a brave African and militant I am, I fearlessly tell whites that they are evil intruders, rapists and murderers who should go on their knees to thank us for not taking their property or chasing them into the sea.

“It’s as if black people aren’t the overwhelming majority in South Africa; as if the political power hadn’t shifted into the hands of the majority 21 years ago,” he said.

“I believe there is a duty on politically aware black citizens to continue to challenge ‘whiteness’, to assert themselves, to take the lead and tailor our society into something that acknowledges and represents them fully.

“I’m asking whether it is reasonable and fair to expect the white minority to just take more and more extreme and generalised abuse in passive silence,” du Preez said.’

Sources and further reading:

Why it’s hard to be black in South Africa


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