Dullah Omar Institute co-hosts Seminar on ‘race’ and racism

On 26 September, the Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape partnered with ASRI and the District Six Museum to convene a seminar on ‘Race’ and racism in post-millennial post-apartheid South Africa: unmaking the past, making the future. The seminar was chaired by Jaap de Visser, the Director of the Dullah Omar Institute and featured influential researchers and thought leaders on ‘race’ and racism.

The discussion kicked off with Rustum Kozain, a freelance generalist, who interrogated the manner in which the problematic language of race still dominates public and private discourse in South Africa. He challenged the ‘laziness’ of using racial categories to achieve economic redistribution and essentially concluded that identity politics based on race is a dead end.

This was followed by Asanda Ngoasheng, who lectures journalism at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, shared her experiences in engaging youth in Cape Town on issues surrounding racism. She concluded that too many opportunities are lost to meaningfully engage the youth on ‘race’: “We don't engage our children about what it means to be in the skin they live in”.

Desiree Lewis, a lecturer in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape examined the shifts, both domestically and globally in the debate around identity. She concluded that the claiming of identity has become the 'be all' and 'end all' of struggles but that it is not clear what it is expected lead to. She also pointed out that notions of multiculturalism, used in the global north, are often based on notions of a dominant so-called ‘neutral’ culture accepting ‘backward’ and ‘irrational’ cultures.

Angelo Fick, the Director of Research at ASRI, challenged the dominant narrative and language surrounding ‘race’. He likened it to a ghost story that, simply because many believe in it, has real consequences for how society works. He argued that insufficient attention is being paid to 50 years of critical race theory that forcefully rebuts the way politicians practice race-based identify politics. He argued that politicians are the least well-placed to lead the debate about race in a productive way. He also pointed out that criminalising racism might be important but certainly not enough.

A full report back of the seminar will be published shortly.

Follow this link to view pictures from this event

Follow this link to view the video from this event