Racism writ large on pages of un­com­fort­able read

CityPress - - Voices - PHUM­LANI SITHEBE LANGA phum­lani.sithebe@city­press.co.za

Run Racist Run by Euse­bius McKaiser Book­storm 211 pages R210 at takealot.com

White lib­er­als will take is­sue with Euse­bius McKaiser’s new­est book, Run Racist Run: Jour­neys Into the Heart of Racism, which is not sur­pris­ing – it’s a fierce cri­tique of their priv­i­leged po­si­tion. And sea­soned po­lit­i­cal read­ers and an­gry young ac­tivists will de­cry its pop po­lit­i­cal ap­proach.

But I’m nei­ther of these peo­ple. I’m a reg­u­lar, young, black guy read­ing one of the well-known po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and broad­caster’s books for the first time.

Run Racist Run res­onated with me – I’d even call it a page-turner.

It pro­vides a raw and, at times, cyn­i­cal ac­count of the cul­ture of racism and the chal­lenges of life in a postapartheid so­ci­ety that still seems to refuse to ac­knowl­edge race as a prob­lem as preva­lent to­day as it was dur­ing apartheid.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the myth about us “born­frees” who have ap­par­ently not been around long enough to know what lived racism is. McKaiser says there is a per­cep­tion that to­day’s youth need to chill out, as race is not the is­sue it once was. I’d find this eas­ier to ac­cept if I weren’t black.

He uses the stu­dent move­ment as a point of ref­er­ence through­out this col­lec­tion of es­says that tries to re­think some of the as­sump­tions made in his first book, A Bantu in My Bath­room. Cross-class sol­i­dar­ity was one of the many pos­i­tives in these protests and McKaiser says this is long over­due.

He am­bi­tiously tries to get in­side the mind of a racist to fig­ure out how such ar­ro­gant nar­cis­sism works. He ar­gues that apartheid racism was so overtly and vis­i­bly vi­o­lent that our per­cep­tions of daily racism are im­paired – racists might not even be aware of be­ing racists in to­day’s so­ci­ety be­cause they aren’t be­ing vi­o­lent, but more sub­tle and sub­lim­i­nal with their ha­tred.

In his view, there is no dif­fer­ence be­tween vi­o­lent racism and “non-bloody”, “at­ti­tude-based” racism.

Racism is a daily grind for a black writer, he says, while white writ­ers have the lux­ury of be­ing able to fo­cus on lighter is­sues. Biko lied, he says. Black writ­ers can­not write what they like be­cause of the ur­gent need to fo­cus on dis­man­tling the cul­ture of racism.

Run Racist Run clev­erly nav­i­gates its way through prob­lems that rarely get the pub­lic at­ten­tion they de­serve: black women in academia, the “apartheid ge­og­ra­phy” of our towns and cities...

Yes, McKaiser is an ag­gre­ga­tor. He takes the ex­ist­ing ideas of a new gen­er­a­tion and ex­pertly repack­ages them. But it works. There are talk­ing points on each of his very well-writ­ten pages. Some peo­ple will find Run Racist Run an un­com­fort­able read. Others will find it as eye-open­ing as I did.

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