Friday, August 7, 2009

Race Remains a Big Issue in South Africa

Even Americans, who generally are intellectually challenged when it comes to international relations, know that South Africa has race issues.

Well, those race issues haven't gone away with the end of the "apartheid" system that kept the minority whites in control of the government from 1948-94. The award of the 2010 World Cup hasn't made things all hunky-dory, either.

Earlier this week, Julius Malema, leader of the African National Congress Youth League, got lots of attention for complaining that the ANC-run government has "too many minorities" in the financial sector.

"Minorities," in South Africa, being non-blacks.

The Johannesburg Sunday Times, my favorite newspaper in South Africa (at least, from evaluating Web sites), did a story about Malema's comments, and days later it remains the "most popular" story on the site.

But the Times put a headline on the story that would not pass political-correctness muster, in the U.S.

"Too many Indians, chief" is the Web headline. Apparently a reference intended to make the paper's English-speaking readers think of American Indians. (And perhaps the old "too many chiefs, not enough Indians" idiom.) When, actually, the Indians involved in the story appear to have ancestral ties to India, the country. And the other minorities appear to be of European origin, just by guessing from their surnames.

The gist of the story:
That the ANC Youth League leader believes South Africa president Jacob Zuma is perpetuating anti-black-African stereotypes by putting non-blacks into positions of authority in the business/finance part of his government. While giving all the security-related government positions to black South Africans.

The upshot: That the black president of South Africa is contributing to the perception that black Africans can handle guns ... but not bank accounts.

What is just as interesting as the finance/security aspect of things ... is that the head of a major ANC political arm can complain about "too many minorities" in the government -- and thatit is considered a fair and proper topic for discussion. Compare that to the U.S., where not much of anyone outside the Ku Klux Klan would complain in a public forum about "too many minorities" in the government. And, note, that it is the South African government that is on the defensive here, not the ANC Youth League boss.

The point of this being, on this blog, that race is a major, major issue in South Africa, and we need to keep that in mind to even begin to understand the nation that will hold the 2010 World Cup.

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