Over the past few weeks, the news of a white student at Stellenbosch University in South Africa who urinated on the belongings of a Black student elicited infinite anger and condemnation. It was another episode of deeply entrenched racism in South Africa – episodes that habitually manifest themselves in a purported multi-racial and democratic post-apartheid South Africa.
There was an uproar of fury after a video emerged on digital media and online spaces showing a white South African student named Theuns du Toit urinating on the property of another student – a first-year Black student. The video, which went wildly viral on social media, shows the white student urinating all over the desk, books, and laptop of the Black student.
The shameful, hurtful, and vindictive racist incident happened on May 15, 2022, at around 04:00 while the victim of the racist attack was sleeping.
People clamored for the white student’s expulsion from the university. Stellenbosch then suspended the du Toit on 16 May saying that full investigations were to be conducted, with the possible final outcomes being likely expulsion or criminal charges. Stellenbosch University students, who staged protests in the wake of the racist incident, pushed for the expulsion of du Toit.
After initial internal investigations, the university said that it will refer the matter for a disciplinary hearing, while the police said that they are already doing their investigations. The South Africa Human Rights Commission also made clear its intention to look into the matter.
But such cosmetic and reactionary actions of the authorities – chiefly the university and the police – reveal a deeper problem, and how South African society is ensconced in acerbic racial relations where all systems are designed to benefit white people to the detriment of Blacks. The whole incident and the attendant responses from the responsible institutions prove that South Africa has been terribly slow in radically fixing its political economy for the achievement of an equal society.
The brutally dehumanizing policy of apartheid – racial capitalism in South Africa – fortified a ruling class of elite whites who unjustly enriched their generations off the cheap labor of Africans. And even with political freedom being realized in 1994, this did not portend a radical transformation of South Africa’s political economy.
All systems that were designed to benefit white people were left intact. And that includes the elite Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, which is a higher learning center dominantly filled with white students and academics in a country where Blacks are the majority.
Although significant and progressive inroads have been made in post-apartheid South Africa, Black people are still shut from Stellenbosch on a criminally massive scale. This means that racism remains an endemic moral affront to the dignity of Blacks in South Africa.
Racism is rooted deeply in South Africa. While a racist incident such as this one is egregiously infuriating, it is a reflection of an ailing society – a reflection of that society’s symptoms. Such racist incidents demand swift action aimed at overhauling the existing relations of production. Racism means that the world is currently designed in a way that benefits whites while prejudicing Blacks, who are considered undesirable elements with a perpetually inferior position in the world.
It is incontrovertible that racism is not humanity’s natural and default order of existence. It is a deliberate and well-calculated atrocity spanning centuries in history. It is an atrocity designed to create inequalities between whites and Blacks. This mirrors twisted hegemonic domination steeped in racial capitalism. Incidents like these show that whites – who “inherited huge advantages” as they “amassed capital and acquired skills that, for more than a century” were totally denied to Blacks – are intransigent in maintaining Black people’s shame of racial oppression under the pretexts of democracy, human rights, multi-racialism, and development.
Absorbing Black people into the system is not enough to cure the vice called racism which is deeply entrenched in South African society. The whole society needs to be changed. There should be a total transformation of the political economy in a manner that gives Blacks real power, dignity, and self-worth. Anger alone is not enough. Radical action is the answer.