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Diamond Fields Advertiser - - OPINION -

IF I DE­SCRIBED some­one as well-spo­ken but shy, fully trust­wor­thy and de­pend­able and an ex­am­ple to all who come within his aura, you would be suit­ably and cor­rectly im­pressed.

The de­scrip­tion pro­vides re­as­sur­ance that there are ad­her­ents to the ba­sic val­ues of good cit­i­zen­ship.

If I added that he was black, would that al­ter your re­cep­tion? Even in the most mi­nus­cule way?

Would you be hon­est enough to say that your ini­tial re­ac­tion to the val­ues de­scribed were in­stinc­tively ad­justed, then quickly re-ad­justed to patch the fis­sures in your first re­sponse?

This is not a test for any­thing. It is just a re­al­is­tic ad­mis­sion that we are al­most ir­repara­bly dam­aged by in­flicted cat­e­gories, be they racial, gen­der or so­cial.

The fact that we state our readi­ness to ac­cept dif­fer­ences, ac­com­mo­date “oth­er­ness” and, à la Thabo Mbeki, rel­ish in our di­ver­sity is just ques­tion­able ex­pe­di­ency. We need to face the facts as they present them­selves and move from there.

For me, re­defin­ing what is rel­e­vant is the way to go.

We tend to judge and treat every­thing against a white, en­trenched and non-ne­go­tiable model.

If a white man seeks a darker skin by ex­po­sure to the sum­mer sun, it is ma­cho and ac­cept­able.

If a black man seeks to lighten h is skin via chem­i­cals or what­ever else is avail­able, the ex­er­cise is judged less gen­er­ously.

Qof the other.

An­other lit­tle test would be what I call the “tip­ping” scale. Do you find that you ad­just your gen­eros­ity up­wards or down­wards de­pend­ing on whether the men­di­cant is white, black or coloured? (Are there In­dian beg­gars in Cape Town?). Does in­creased pig­ment re­sult in re­duced gen­eros­ity? It re­quires some courage to ap­ply this test rig­or­ously. Of course, one can see where this is go­ing. We have laws forc­ing em­ploy­ment of­fers based on race. We have in­flated salaries to at­tempt to level the ma­te­rial in­equities. We have mis­placed work­ers who suf­fer more as a re­sult of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness in­stead of fill­ing suit­able niches in the job mar­ket. In gath­er­ings we have eth­nic nest­ing.

Granted, this could be for pro­tec­tion and com­fort.

A herd in­stinct.

But we should not de­fine our­selves against (an)other tem­plate.

It is my per­sonal con­vic­tion that we should eval­u­ate and as­sess our­selves hon­estly and buy into that value.

We should be sen­si­tive to pa­tron­age that is only ex­pe­di­ent.

Be brave. Be who you are.

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