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The Unspoken Form of Racism


Ever since the first two humans started interacting with each other, discrimination was born.  Discrimination can take on countless different forms, from racism, to sexism, to homophobism all the way to discriminating based on someone’s preference of pizza toppings. Discrimination exists so that the descriminator can feel superior to the discriminatee based on some useless property. With enough people discriminating and enough people being hurt by the discrimination, oppression exists. In this post I want to focus on one specific type of discrimination… racism.

Racism is discriminating against someone based on the colour of their skin or more correctly, their ethnicity. Here people of a specific race get preferential treatment above another race, or people of a specific race are assaulted/murdered by members of another race just because of the difference in ethnicity, etc.  Growing up as a white male in South Africa (post-Apartheid), racism was and still is rife in the streets and homes of many Cape Tonians.

Many white individuals (Cape Town is the focus here) still believe they are superior to other races just because of their ethnicity. They believe they should get more opportunities, treated better and served first above other races. These people always seem to mention how things were better in Apartheid, how crime was non-existent, jobs were available everywhere and their mood was much better. However these very people completely seem to miss the point that even though their lives were better, more than 85% of South Africans’ lives were not better back then. In fact, it was terrible. But racism doesn’t just stop in Cape Town with white people, I have seen coloureds and black individuals racist towards each other, but the main culprit for this could still be the lingering effects of Apartheid, where the white government indoctrinated all cultural groups and ethnicities to discriminate against each other as a way to keep them from unifying and fighting against the whites. Racism as a whole is pathetic and sickening, but there is one part of racism I particularly want to focus on. That is silent racism.

Silent racism is when an individual makes a conscious or subconscious decision to avoid a member from another race because of their race. This sort of racism doesn’t require use of vulgar language or violence, but it is more the actions of the person that hurts. Here are some examples.

A white man arrives at an airport. There are a few empty seats available, but each seat has only one person sitting next to it. He either has to sit next to a black man, black woman, Indian woman, Indian man or a white woman. The white man decides to sit next to the white woman.

A black man and white man approach a white woman to beg for money. The white woman decides to rather give money to the white man because she feels the white man will be more responsible with the money.

An Asian woman begs for money, but only approaches other Asian people, and refuses to beg from other races.

A black woman crosses to the other street when she sees a coloured man walking into her direction, but does not do so when white men or black men approach her.

The list of possibilities goes on. Here we see a member of race make a decision based on the presence of a member of another race, whether that is walking to the other side of the street, begging to your own race or helping only your own race. None of these people necessarily said anything racist or were even having ill thoughts, but their decisions still enforce their discrimination.

Silent racism is the form of racism that I see a lot in Cape Town, especially among white people. Even though some of these silent racist decisions might be subconscious or harmless to the perpetrator, the effects it could have on the perpetrated are disastrous. It’s important for us to teach ourselves to let go of silent racism and be more respectful and receptive of anyone. The only way we can completely kill racism is to let every part of it go. While silent racism still exists, explicit racism exists and it just lies dormant until the person is ready to let it all out. You can stop silent racism by correcting yourself when you realise yourself or someone else doing it. It will take a lot of work, but we can get there 🙂

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