Whiteness Is the New South Africa

Qualitative Research on Post-Apartheid Racism

by Christopher B. Knaus (Author) M. Christopher Brown II (Author)
©2016 Textbook XVII, 255 Pages
Series: Critical Qualitative Research, Volume 28


In 1994, the world joined South Africa in celebration of the results of its first democratic election. The results, emblazoned on the world’s memory with President Nelson Mandela waving to a multiracial crowd, signified the end of apartheid and an emerging new era of hope. However, Mandela’s recent death has given birth to a more critical view of his «Rainbow Nation.» No matter how examined, education in South Africa remains steadfastly unequal, with many White children retaining the educational privileges inherent to apartheid. White children in South Africa overwhelmingly attend wealthy, fully resourced schools, while the vast majority of Black and Coloured children attend woefully underresourced schools.
Based upon three sets of studies in schools in and around Cape Town, Whiteness Is the New South Africa highlights drastic racial disparities, suggesting that educational apartheid continues unabated, potentially fostering future generations of impoverished Black and Coloured communities. This book suggests that South Africa remains committed to stifling the intellectual, emotional, and economic development of Black and Coloured youth, while simultaneously investing in White children.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Whiteness and the Hegemony of Apartheid in the Quest for Educational Equality
  • Chapter 2. Making the Invisible Visible: Post-Apartheid Schools in South Africa
  • Chapter 3. Liphi Igumbi Langasese (Where Is the Toilet?): Documenting Racial Disparities in Schools
  • Chapter 4. Systemic Disparities, Differential Realities: School Principals on South African Education
  • Chapter 5. Can Umlungu (a White Person) Save Us?: Outside-In Education in the New South Africa
  • Chapter 6. A Colorless Rainbow: Nonracialism in the New South Africa
  • Chapter 7. The New South Africa: Building Blocks for Sustainable Transformation
  • Appendix A. Researching Racism in South African Schools: A Clarification of Methods
  • Appendix B. Statement of Nelson Mandela at His Inauguration as President of the Republic of South Africa, 10 May 1994, Pretoria
  • Appendix C. Excerpts from the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
  • Bibliography
  • About the Authors
  • Series index

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Both authors would like to thank Mr. Chris Myers of Peter Lang and Dr. Shirley Steinberg of the University of Calgary for providing us an opportunity to examine South African racism in education. Additionally, we would like to thank Chrysalis Consulting (i.e., Cultivate the Writer Within) and Dr. Vernetta K. Williams, who edited this entire volume with clarity and deep insight. The multiyear task of producing this volume included many friends and well-wishers; below, we try to acknowledge some of them.

Christopher B. Knaus:

This book is the result of a commitment to live in South Africa so that I could learn. I immersed myself in studying, reading, eating incredible food, listening to impassioned music, and connecting with beautiful people, all so that I could better understand how we collectively move from our global racism to localized solutions. This book is thus informed by thousands of students, educators, and residents of South Africa who, through side conversations, intellectual debates, formal interviews and observations, and the sharing of personal stories, helped shape the work. I will certainly fail to acknowledge everyone who played a role, but let it suffice to say that my entire purpose is to help support the continued effort towards South African transformation; just about every interaction during my time in South Africa deepened my resolve, helped me ← xi | xii → rethink what I thought I knew, and reminded me of the need for sustained, critical thought around South Africa’s racist past and future aspirations.

This research was conducted with support from the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program, administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, a division of the Institute of International Education, and the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Particular thanks are due to Dr. Kari Miller (current director of honors and scholar development at Howard University), who coordinated assistance for the technicalities of living abroad through the Fulbright Program. Christina Tilghman and Aloysious Gowne provided South Africa–based guidance and friendship throughout my time in South Africa (along with additional dance lessons from Aloy and a road trip through Swaziland with Christina).

Dean Zubeida Desai welcomed me into the University of the Western Cape (UWC) faculty of education and provided an incredible resource throughout my time in Cape Town. Dean Desai’s friendship and collegiality helped foster a critical grounding in South African race relations, and I’ll never forget the many incredible restaurants she introduced me to. Within the UWC faculty, Professors Sivakumar Sivasubramaniam, Sindiswa Stofile, Mokgadi Moletsane, and Vuyokazi Nomlomo provided support and educational contacts. Drs. Nadeen Moolla and Nazir Carrim provided particular insight and guidance, including introductions to students, resources, and critical observations and contexts as to the preparation of South African teachers. Mrs. Rhona Wales served as a tremendous resource for living and working within Cape Town.

I particularly want to thank Dr. James Lees for repeatedly modeling humility and critical presence in universities and school communities not used to such engaged teaching. Dr. Lees serves as an example of a culturally responsive teacher, and his approach to teaching about HIV beautifully integrates love into community lessons. Dr. Lees repeatedly reminds us of the role White educators can play in living with presence to decenter racism. Dr. Rajendra Chetty provided a wealth of resources and linkages, and served as a sounding board for the ideas contained within this book. Dr. Chetty’s support was essential in return trips, when he provided platforms for critical thoughts, and helped remind me to balance the emotional toll researching such oppression can take by taking hikes to beautiful places.

Mpho Letlape served as a key thought partner on the globalization of racialized inequalities, and her role at the Sasol Inzalo Foundation (and now at the University of Johannesburg) serves as a reminder of the importance of ← xii | xiii → South African Black-led efforts to transform schools. Muavia Gallie continues to deepen my thinking around school transformation and pushes me to continually focus on leadership solutions, not just critiques and criticisms. I especially want to thank Principal Ndoda, who allowed me to visit his school and teachers regularly, and served as an introductory partner to thinking about the structure of South African township schools. Additionally, Dr. Crain Soudien, deputy vice chancellor at the University of the Western Cape, helped inspire my interest in South Africa while teaching a course at the University of Washington in the early 2000s and supported my quest to understand South African racism in particular.

In the United States, Dr. Ray Garcia and Kyzyl Fenno-Smith provided support for my yearlong leave from California State University East Bay. The University of Washington Tacoma provided additional research support during the writing process and enabled a follow-up return trip to conduct final data checks. Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard kept our urban-centered work alive in Oakland and enabled me to refocus my energies to strengthen our collective understanding of global educational genocide. Dr. Rogers-Ard’s friendship also kept me sane enough to continue the work far from home.

Chris and Lisa Aquino’s initial invitation to visit them in Cape Town gave birth to this project. An unfortunate accident put the initial stages of the research on pause and provided a way-too-intimate look at South Africa’s health care infrastructure, while also reminding us of the fragility of life. The Aquinos provided innumerable referrals to support this work and, first and foremost, showed us how to enjoy the beauty of South Africa, and second, reminded me of the need to just chill and connect with good people.

Hanno Calitz and Martly Rademeyer comfortably housed us while reminding us of the hope that South Africa maintains, by keeping us laughing and eating well, and becoming lifelong friends. Sean Lane helped create our home, fed us regularly (and introduced us to Stuart!); our ridiculous late-night conversations dramatically expanded my notions of oppression broadly within South Africa’s White communities. Sisi Samukelisiwe Mkhize provided invaluable feedback on initial drafts and helped inform my understanding of Soweto, Johannesburg, the differences between Black South African communities, and the similarities between U.S. and South African racisms. Scott Clarke, the founding director of Amandla Development, also provided great feedback on a chapter, and continues to model community empowerment through intentional, humble, and collective approaches to transformation. Scott also makes the best jerk chicken in South Africa. ← xiii | xiv →

Teachers Alli Meyer and Johari Harris provided wonderful opportunities to make sense of South African racism while introducing me to Stellenbosch’s hyper-racialized communities. I also want to thank Elizabeth Jones, who accompanied us on a return trip to South Africa and was able to keep up with our extremely hectic work and social lives.

Pastor Marcel Mutapa Mbuyama and Luyanda Phillip kept me informed about the daily struggles of being Black in South Africa, and I will forever appreciate their gratitude, honesty, positivity, and warmth. Pastor Marcel’s church is exactly the healing space needed to work through the ravages of oppression, while Luyanda’s interests in voice and storytelling are precisely what made me elevate my interviews.

It is imperative to recognize all of the principals, teachers, administrators, and various other insightful South Africans for participating in this study. While they cannot be named due to issues of confidentiality, they played an immeasurable role in illuminating a pathway beyond South Africa’s racist past towards the hope of a truly equitable rainbow nation. Many of the principals welcomed me into their homes, introduced me to their families, fed me, and taught me way more than any book can capture about South African life. Their participation creates possibilities for better schools for all of South Africa’s children, but particularly for Black South Africans long denied opportunity. I also deeply appreciate the thousands of nameless children who allowed me access to their schools, classrooms, and lives to help document the racism they live.

It has also been an honor and privilege to collaborate with Dr. M. Christopher Brown II, a friend, colleague, scholar, and fierce editor. Dr. Brown has deeply shaped and informed this book and been a continually thoughtful voice in deepening my own thinking about racism, South Africa, and the work we need to do to move this world forward. Perhaps more relevantly, Dr. Brown has become a needed reference point in the world of academic drudgery and oppression, a healing reminder of our collective potential.

Lastly, and most importantly, Dr. Cyndy Snyder shared many of the experiences, exasperations, frustrations, and amazing beauty of conducting long-term research in a country far from our home. This research is as much a result of her love and tolerance of me as it is my own work.

M. Christopher Brown II:

As the child often assigned to write on the board the names of misbehaving students when the teacher was absent from the classroom, there is nothing that challenges me more than naming names. In this childhood ritual, the names placed on the board became your enemies, and the names left off, ← xiv | xv → even in the face of mischievous actions, became your friends. As an adult, naming names works in reverse—those persons you name are exuberant and those excluded (even inadvertently) take side-eyed umbrage. As an academic researcher, this applies to reference citations, and as an academic administrator, this often includes all and sundry.

Let me say, parenthetically, that it had been my intention to completely avoid acknowledgments. However, after the above treatise by my co-author, I am shamefully forced to engage in the daunting task of “naming.”

This project began for me in many forms, beginning with an Association for the Study of Higher Education paper presentation by Dr. George Subotsky (at that time, of the University of the Western Cape) prior to the turn of the century or launch of a new millennium. It was this session that called my intellectual attention to similarities and differences of segregation and desegregation across the U.S. and South African contexts. My curiosity was furthered by my colleagueship with Dr. James Earl Davis, who annually conducted a winter intercession education course in South Africa. He would return from the other side of the Atlantic with stories about the educational challenges that he asserted would benefit from my analysis and research.

My first visit to the African continent was with the late Dr. Vernon C. Polite (at that time, the Euphemia Lofton Haynes Professor at the Catholic University of America). Dr. Polite received a grant in 2001 from the archdiocese to evaluate the conditions and quality of instruction in parochial schools in Senegal. He extended an invitation for me to serve as a subcontracted research associate on the project. Having been trained as an organizational theorist and policy researcher, this was my first formal experience engaging in school-based site interviews, qualitative thick description, or postcolonial African education research. Each of these skills proved immeasurably important in my collaboration on this project.

Another colleague, Dr. Kassie Freeman (former president of the Comparative and International Education Society), introduced me to Dr. Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela (vice provost for international affairs and global strategies at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign). This subcommunity of higher education scholars working on transnational questions of race and power across the African diaspora gave global context to my research on issues of educational equity for persons with black skin around the world. This expansion of my academic portfolio led to meaningful educational research opportunities in Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Ghana, Liberia, Puerto Rico, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and of course South Africa. ← xv | xvi →


XVII, 255
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (February)
Whiteness Race White Color
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XVII, 255 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Christopher B. Knaus (Author) M. Christopher Brown II (Author)

Christopher B. Knaus is Professor of Education at the University of Washington Tacoma. A respected race scholar, educational practitioner, and community advocate, Dr. Knaus is committed to the non-standardization of schools, cultures, and public spaces. He is the author of the celebrated school-based book project Shut Up and Listen: Teaching Writing That Counts in Urban Schools. M. Christopher Brown II is Executive Vice President and Provost of the Southern University System. Regarded as an international scholar, Dr. Brown is known for his studies of historically black colleges, university governance, educational equity, professorial responsibilities, and institutional contexts. He earned the Phillip Chinn Book Award for The Children Hurricane Katrina Left Behind: Schooling Context, Professional Preparation, and Community Politics.


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