South African Affirmative Action Talking Points

By Malena Amusa May 16, 2007

I’ve been closely following South Africa’s affirmative action debates that have galvanized that country in recent years and months. Like America, South Africa has the power to define and set global precedents on racial justice advancement due to its history of apartheid. So I was happy to read "We dare not erase ‘race’ from debate," a recent commentary in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper. While South Africa’s national discussion takes on many forms, I think its progressives are moving in the right direction. Columnist Adam Haupt writes:

Once you erase the term “race” from debate on equity and social justice, you underestimate the impact of apartheid; the country’s large class divide is still split along racial lines. When you erase “race” from talk of social justice, you strip subjects of a vocabulary that allows them to articulate their continuing experiences of marginalisation and discrimination. This vocabulary is vital in an apparently post-apartheid nation that has to contend with pressure from the likes of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation, whose economic policies widen the racialised class divide between North and South. If we are to make sense of these global iniquities and their impact on UCT, then we dare not erase “race” from debate on social justice.