The other day someone accused me of perpetuating racist stereotypes, by reporting on the latest findings of the Institute of Race Relations.
According to their latest stats, white South Africans have a considerably higher quality of life than coloured, Asian or black South Africans.
The institute’s Quality of Life Index was released last week and obviously some people like its outcome.
On the radio last week, I got a very angry SMS from someone saying the report is talking nonsense.
I had two more SMSes within the hour saying roughly the same thing with varying degrees of disgust and anger.
The SMSes also contained a not-so-obvious element of fear. More so the first message, which went on to accuse the Institute of Race Relations of inciting racial hatred at best, and a race war at worst.
Another one of the texts was very determined to help me understand the extent of the black elite and how very well they live.
To these people, the report can’t possibly be true, and if it is, the media shouldn’t be reporting it because it may lead to dangerous black-on-white hostility.
Well, obviously the latter is just complete rubbish, because historically South African media doesn’t know how to ignore or sugarcoat controversial stories, simply for the sake of keeping the peace.
Besides, such hostility cannot be created, only triggered; it has been simmering just under the surface for years.
That brings me to the truthfulness of the report. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind the report is accurate, perhaps even understated.
I have the same kind of distaste for people who use the race card in political arguments, as I do for those who want to sweep truths under the carpet using race.
I used to feel exactly the same about those people who want to blame apartheid for everything that’s wrong with life.
But I’m afraid I got caught up by the propaganda for a bit. While there is absolutely nothing racist about recognising a sad truth about our society, it is also about time that we start accepting that apartheid is still very much with us.
Yes it is a sanitised, more socially acceptable form of apartheid, but it’s definitely still here.
You may not have special entrances for coloureds, or benches for whites only or curfews for blacks, but there are still parts of daily life from which certain people are excluded.
And the reason for that, is because of a past that excluded people from economic activity.
When I see a white guy younger than me having brunch and later dinner at a trendy coffee shop, before walking to his beachfront apartment left in a trust for him, I understand our history best.
He lives that well because apartheid made it easy for his grandfather to accumulate wealth, so his offspring may never have to work ever again.
The law prevented my grandfather from doing the same. There’s a lot of old money like that still making decisions today and we still haven’t found a way to redress it adequately.
And that is really what the institute’s report is pointing to. It’s not racist. It doesn’t incite!
And it’s not lies. It’s a very uncomfortable truth for some.
The fact is, inherited wealth automatically leads to social capital and both those are still very much dominated by whites all over the world. But only because of past immoral and inhumane denial of access, rather than advanced or skilful ability.
As long as the modern “whites only” sign applies to material wealth, darker skinned people will feel resentment.
So if we want to avoid future civil unrest and maybe even an all-out civil war, then we’d better talk about it and find a way to fix it.