"Being colourblind is dangerous"

The concept of a rainbow nation has been questioned post-1994 and perceived by some as an idealistic attainment.

Author and human rights advocate Sisonke Msimang has provided critique on the first ten years of South Africa's democratic dispensation and the reconciliatory approach used to attain this.

She explores why the sentimentalism associated with diversity is problematic in the face of deep inequalities, as well as injustices.

This is my constant quest no matter what I am writing about.... part of what compels me is this idea that I am always interested in what is happening underneath the news stories and the skin of the politics.

Sisonke Msimang, author

On romanticising the values of multiculturalism whilst acknowledging the differences that persist, Msimang says she is still grappling with it.

She does, however, believe that the terminology used to define diversity is a starting point.

Misimang says South Africa needs to find a broader means of building social cohesion without ignoring racial divisions and tensions that exist.

It is very difficult thing to do in part because the rainbow project has been discredited, because multiculturalism, diversity and all these sentimental words are often used to prop up people who want to continue to be unjust.

Sisonke Msimang, author

To put it bluntly lots of white South Africans love the terms, because in lots of societies those are the words used to protect minority rights....in the South African context its kind of upside down. In this context the white minorities are very powerful, the white minority has the vast majority of economic power.

Sisonke Msimang, author

Pluralism sort of lets people off the hook and that's part of why people want to throw out the rainbow nation idea.

Sisonke Msimang, author

Being colourblind is dangerous.

Sisonke Msimang, author

Being aware of different races does not mean we can't build a nation together, she argues. Race is a reality and needs to be part of the analysis. Black people cannot afford to ignore race, she adds.

Part of my interest in diversity is talking about the other South Africans who we never talk about, Coloured people, Indian people, black people. How do we get along without whiteness always being the reference point, the central part of our narrative.

Sisonke Msimang, author

Speaking on recent anti-Zuma protests and a general response from groups who refused to partake criticising those marching for protecting their own interests, Msimang says politicians have often exploited this.

Jacob Zuma did not create the divide, South Africans are so divided that we do not even know how to protest together yet.

Sisonke Msimang, Author

So my question is what is the basis upon which we are South Africans if we continue to be so deeply divided?... Where else do we look to find bonds of solidarity?

Sisonke Msimang, Author

Click below to listen to the full interview on why being colour blind is dangerous...


This article first appeared on 702 : "Being colourblind is dangerous"


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