Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, May 30, 2005

Language: Another nuance of racism
If there's one thing that consistently riles me, it's comments made by learned white colleagues about a black politician such as:

"Listen to him, he's clueless, he can't even speak English properly."
"He's such an idiot, you can see from how he speaks."
"How can we expect him to run the province when he can't even speak."

To me, this is the height of arrogant white prejudice. Why should a municipal or provincial politician even bother to speak English, when the overwhelming majority of his/her constituents speak Xhosa or Zulu? Why should any politician converse in English, when it's a second, third, or even an unknown language to the overwhelming majority of our population? And most importantly, why do these whites associate a skill of speaking a second, or third, language with intelligence? Let them try to converse in Xhosa, and let's see where their intelligence lies.

It's a simple comment, but it belies a significantly racist undertone. As I've said before, it's only when we challenge these nuances, that we will truly beat racism.