Is Education Being Used as the New ‘Slegs Vir Blankes’?

In the last few months, I was called ‘uneducated’ on Twitter and following that conversation I received an e-mail calling me an ‘uneducated k****r’. I was also subsequently called a ‘dom d**s’ and my education was thereafter questioned on Facebook. A lot more was said in between and I received a lot of racial based abuse focused on my lack of education following a post which the author subsequently removed (after it served its purpose, I assume). All who have pointed out my lack of education are interestingly white, white folk who disagreed with some or other opinion I had.

I have had many black people disagree with me; none have ever questioned my educational background. So it really baffled me why anyone would need a qualification to have an opinion, as we all have a story to tell irrespective of our educational backgrounds. Education is seemingly an innocent excuse to keep people off the opinion scene. After all, at first glance it suggests that one only wants well-informed commentary. But dig a little deeper and you will find that higher education is not exempt from the influences of white privilege, after all:

- A white youth is more likely to attend an institution of higher learning than a black one, since white privilege ensures that less white youth are under pressure to immediately earn (or at least attempt to earn) an income;

- Admission policies at higher institutions of learning are easier for a white youth to attain, merely by virtue of the majority of black youth coming from an obviously failing education system and

- A white youth is likelier to complete their higher learning studies than a black one, by virtue of their differing experiences at that level. Black children often lack the educational and financial support required as compared to their white peers.

What this means though is that the use of education as an excuse to silence an opinion ‘coincidentally’ makes it easier to keep opinion spaces white, which to me smacks too much of an effort to relive ‘the good old days’ when opinion was only fit for some to have. Some may see my connection between the ‘being educated’ dictates and race as rather sketchy, but consider this, merely by virtue of being black and disagreeing with white opinion- I was assumed to be uneducated by white people who do not know me.

The Twitter ‘spat’ in which I was first told of the need to educate myself revolved around my use of language. There is no doubt that language has over the years been used as a tool of power by oppressors, but in the same way that happens, language can also become a tool of empowerment for the oppressed. By that, I am not referring to changing one’s manner of speaking to suit anyone. I am referring to the use of language to share one’s story and make oneself heard expressing one’s truth. My truth may be invalid in the academic world, but that should not mean that I should not speak it. As Dr. Nomalanga Mkhize said in an interview with the Mail and Guardian earlier this year, “We don’t have the luxury of being tourists, because we lead ‘black lives’”. In the same way, I do not study my truth- I live it. The study of black struggles cannot and should not make one’s opinion or view of it more ‘valid’ than that of those who actually live it.

We recently saw One in Nine campaigners physically assaulted and verbally abused at the Jo’burg Gay Parade, following their disruption of the march to request one minute of silence for those slain in hate crimes. As has happened with many other movements in the past, the event was depoliticised and redefined in terms of whiteness. Gillian Schutte describes events at the Jo’burg Gay Parade as “…just another form of black-bashing, another manner in which to show just how little most white people empathise with black issues, black bodies and black emotionality. The inherent mantra of ‘white is right’ was written all over this event…”

What happened to the One in Nine campaigners, though more obvious, is increasingly happening to a lot of good movements and even in much needed processes. The insidious manner in which it is happening allows it to go by unchecked, further perpetuating white supremacy and privilege.

Educated or not, the black story must be told by us in our own words- irrespective of how anyone feels about it. Instead of dictating to others how to tell their stories, those who want to read academic writing should just read Dr. Dan Roodt’s work instead…

24 thoughts on “Is Education Being Used as the New ‘Slegs Vir Blankes’?

  1. Whites will always use something like education – that they struggle to monopolize – to attack you, as if education were value-free. These Whites suffer from their education in that it makes them think they are always right simply because they have been educated in a White supremacist system. If there were equal education for all, Whites would never use education as a stick to beat those they try to deny an education to.

  2. An interesting read, Disappointing that black or white our fear leads us around in the same circles back to the same places. Those who launch any attack on another trying to establish a position of authority are merely afraid, as you label so called “whites” conveniently tarring all with the same brush. But do not let their fear become your fear; let us rather build a nation through education where we are all empowered through information. Let us all be educated by information not by institutions so that we mat all make decisions based on information and on the fear of the colour of another person’s skin. There is no judge here, but let us rather cease to sow the seeds of discontent based on another’s skin colour. Let us rightly view education as a tool for all and focus on how we can work together to create a more equitable system as opposed to fighting amongst ourselves along racial lines.

    • I have no doubt that there are white people who see beyond race and I am fortunate enough to know some of them. I also understand that you are trying to acknowledge your individuality, and therefore find racial generalizations problematic.

      But they are called for at times. You see, because of apartheid, whiteness is not a race- but rather an institution. It evidences itself in many ways, some of which are unconscious and some of which are coded in things like being ‘uneducated’. We often think of racism as the use of the work k****r, but racism manifests itself in many other ways- some of which are very insidious- except to the one who experiences it. As much as we should be paving a way forward together, things won’t change unless each of us- black and white alike denounce racism in all its’ forms and everywhere we come across it- be it social networks and even our homes…

  3. I disagree with your admission policies. It is documented fact that white children are “forced” to obtain a higher mark for admission than a black child. White children have to obtain nothing less than a Matric pass of 90% while a black child only requires 80% (to study medicine). Often black supporters of this racial bias cite the lack of resources a black child faces in rural or only black schools, a point I wholeheartedly agree with. However, the racial bias also stretches to those black children who have studied amongst white children since Grade 0.. just because they black.

    What is also perturbing is the noticeable omission of the black middle and high class. Writing about the bad whites and the “forever enslaved under-trodden blacks” as if there is no black people enjoying the fruits of their labour living in coexistence with their white neighbours. Children playing together, friends, life long friends. People integrating naturally. The landscape forever changing, daily..

    But yup, “most” white people are…[insert favourite generalization]

    It irritates me when people, in their articles, feel they speak on my behalf. Or lump me in some generalised basket with phrases such as “most whites”, or “majority of…”, “white people”. Stating their opinions as if it were fact.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion :)

    Look, I am sorry that some white guy or even a lot of white guys racially and verbally attacked and insulted you, I really am embarrassed by the actions of those types of people. It saddens me when I see that type of behaviour from apparently better educated people (or so they think). Sadly this will continue from SOME quarters for a long time, racism is taught, it is learnt behaviour, it comes from a place of extreme ignorance. All I ask, in that when you are faced with that, deal with the individuals involved and refrain from painting everyone with that same goddamn brush that South Africans love to use.

  4. I have no idea what level of education you have. But you write well and clearly in English, and thus have linguistic tools to tell your story. Go for it!

    I suspect that those who criticise your level of education probably have a rather low level of education themselves. Their comments don’t seem very educated to me.

    And you are probably articulate in more languages than they are, including English.

    • Precisely, I think a lot of white people forget that the majority of black people in SA can speak at least 4 languages.. English, Afrikaans, their mother tongue and at least one other African language.

      Luckily, due to schooling they had the opportunity to learn English and Afrikaans. I hate the fact that I was schooled during Apartheid and thus never had the opportunity to learn isiZulu (I live in kZN). I have taught myself over the years, but without proper guidance and teaching it is a very difficult language to master.

  5. This leaves me with such sadness and frustration. Those who attack you are threatened by their own position, their own privilege, and are desperately seeking to maintain their (own) perceived higher ground – they are desperate – and scared!

    Neither the detail of tertiary admission nor the number of languages we speak is of consequence here, and I have to support Maths Ace’s comments (at least the the majority of them). Allow those who are willing to work towards a brighter future the space and time to seek not only our educational , but all our solutions together.

    Unfortunately, the issue of skin colour clouds our very existence to the point of the level of abuse you have suffered. As much as one likes and needs to move away from the issue, as they say “he who is deaf, blind, and silent will live a hundred years in peace,” not owning the problem because you refuse to hear it is not an option – it is a cheap cop-out that too many South Africans hide behind.

    Your courage, dedication, pride and down to earth hard work go far beyond any advantages others may think they own through privilege. Your use of language makes me envious. Allow us to encourage and support you, mother of children, mother of our future.

    • Your words of encouragement are greatly valued and appreciated. I do agree about the ultimate goal being where we work side by side towards common goals. But until we stop the ‘cop-outs’, getting there is going to be difficult- if not impossible.

      We need to stop being ‘politically correct’ and call out racism for what it is, no matter how subtle.

      Nevertheless, the others will not tarnish the few. We will indeed continue this path…

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  7. Unquestionably believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification
    seemed to be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of.
    I say to you, I certainly get irked while people consider worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  8. To all the “indignant” white folk responding to this post: One simple question: how many years do you think it should take to right the wrongs that your forefathers perpetrated in South Africa and in Africa in general. You don’t want to be “lumped” with the racist boorish elk, but truth remains that after years of expolitin blacks and disenfranchizing and dehumanizing them on their land, white privilege is real entrenched and unless you face it, there will be no justice or recompense. Therefore rather than get indignat, challenge those of your white connections who continue to harbour racist and bigotted attitudes, then DO something positive.

    • And apart from recognising and accepting that white privilege exists, this should be translated into action. Action in which that privilege is not protected and hoarded and also action that denounces racism in all its manifestations- obvious and insidious…

  9. I am sorry about what you experienced & wish it was different.

    I also want to say something about Dan Roodt. He is a modern white supremacist and hate-monger with links to extreme like-minded fringe groups in the US and Europe. His academic qualification is irrelevant to what he does. He is not even respected by many traditional Afrikaners.

    I often suspect he is given prominence by English newspapers in SA, in a malicious attempt to misrepresent Afrikaners and what we stand for. (I hope I am very wrong about this)

    • I am inclined to agree with you. I also appreciate the fact that you recognise and denounce this, more Afrikaners should come forward like this.

      But I would like to point out that by advocating that only ‘educated’ people occupy the opinion space- we are in fact giving a space for the likes of Roodt to gain an even greater audience.

      • I agree with you that everyone should be heard in the opinion space – someone arguing that only educated people should have voices wants to entrench his privileges.
        But I don’t think that is what happened in the Roodt case. After writing columns for Naspers papers for a few years, they got rid of him (probably about 10 years ago), as they found his hatemongering and tricks to be unacceptable.
        I say tricks, because he also did annoying things like registering the maxdupreez.com domain name, and proposing to start a Volkstaat campaign at the Hector Pieterson memorial.

        After Naspers dropped him, the Anglophile press started publishing him, and in doing so I say they are up to no good. At best they are publishing him to stir up controversy, which sells. At worst, they may be publishing him because of some anti-Afrikaner agenda.
        In either case, he is not given a place in the opinion space because he is educated, but because he is a way out and ridiculous attention seeker.
        He is not the right person to represent us in anything.

  10. I am sorry that people, white people, were so disgusting and disrespectful towards you. As a white person I can only hang my head. What you say about education and white privilege is true, but those people who insulted you literally do not have the intelligence or the skills (the education in fact!) to know how to refute an opinion that differs from theirs, without resorting to personal attacks. I hope you dismiss them for the uneducated people that they are, even with all of their advantages.

  11. Hey, I just want you to know, when I call someone uneducated it is always on the subject that they think they know about. Schooling is irrelevant. Eg. Someone who breeds dogs are undeucated on the current dog over population in south Africa. Those people can have as much schooling as they want but are uneducated on the subject.

    Just a point of view you should consider.

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