Race is a myth

Tariq Khan | Nov 06, 2021
The National Party sought to inculcate a culture of fear among white voters by talking about “die swart gevaar”. Today many politicians continue to exploit racial identities for political gain.

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Race is a myth

For centuries, race has been used by politicians in South Africa to mobilise the public, exploiting racial dogma to gain support in elections. During the National Party’s reign over South Africa, for example, the organisation sought to inculcate a culture of fear among white voters by talking about “die swart gevaar”. Today many politicians continue to exploit racial identities for political gain; Julius Malema singing the song, “shoot the boer” and the DA erecting posters with dubious messages in Phoenix demonstrate this idea in action. The truth is, however, that race is a myth; it was socially constructed to divide the country and should be rejected – here’s why:

  1. Racial identities are an inheritance from the Apartheid government. This is a point that many figures on the Left have a hard time disagreeing with. The racial categories that the South African government of today uses in documents and policies were created by the Apartheid government. If you do not believe this, consult the cornerstone of Apartheid policy, the Population Registration Act. This is the source of the current government’s obsession with the concepts of “black”, “coloured”, “white” and “Indian”.
  2. Classes are no longer racialised in South Africa. In the past, the Apartheid government implemented race-based policies to keep the majority of black, coloured and Indian people in poverty. Due to this, classes became racialised. Today, however, every economic class has diversified. Black South Africans now constitute the majority of the middle-class, and a growing share of the country’s highest income earners are from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. This means that politicians can no longer suggest that one’s economic circumstances are synonymous with one’s racial identity.
  3. Race has no basis in science. During the nineteenth century, an intellectual tradition in the West argued that every individual’s character, body, temperament and talent were influenced by their race. According to this tradition, the white race was viewed as having superior qualities, while the darker races were viewed as having inferior qualities. According to an article on race by Harvard University, human beings as a species share 99.9% of their DNA. What this means is that the idea of “different” and “distinct” races is a socially constructed myth with no bearing on the intellect and capabilities of individual humans.
  4. Race does not account for a person’s individual identity. Even though South Africans might identify with specific racial identities, these social constructs do not account for their identities as individuals. Each person has a different temperament, combination of personality traits and vision for their life. It’s incorrect to assume that someone’s race forms the substance of their personality or character.
  5. A person’s destiny is not determined by their race. As South Africa changed as a society, there were more opportunities for upward mobility, enabling people, whatever their background to build wealth, buy houses, cars or other assets, and invest money in their education. What this shows is that hard work and merit, and the opportunity to make the most of them, are the key influences in every person’s destiny. When there are opportunities, people can improve their material circumstances.

South Africans should disregard and resist politicians’ appeals to racial identity. It has been shown that race is a myth in South Africa and that politicians obsess over it for their own purposes. Every South African is an individual with a unique identity.

 

Cover image source available here.

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