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Identity Construction and (Mis) Perceptions on Being Black in South Africa

Unpacking Socio-Economic, Spatial, and Political Dimensions in the South Durban Basin


Urmilla Bob, Munashe Furusa and William A. Little

Identity Construction and (Mis) Perceptions on Being Black in South Africa: Unpacking Socio-Economic, Spatial, and Political Dimensions in the South Durban Basin presents the research findings of a two-year empirically based study on the politics of race, ethnicity, and identity in Durban, South Africa, among Black or non-White groups, specifically the historical racial categories of African, Indian, and Colored. Research on race and identity politics tends to focus on Black-White relations. Thus, there is a gap in our understanding of ethnic and racial interactions among Blacks. This study challenges the tendency to reduce race to a Black-White binary. The research also recognizes that the examination of differences within and between groups is necessary to understand the complexity of the issues. Its key contributions are in relation to examining the question of identity politics (in terms of nationality, ethnicity, race, class, and gender); unpacking hierarchical and spatial relationships and interactions among and between communities and groups in the home, work places, social arenas, and other public spaces; and highlighting points of conflict/contestation. The main focus is on differential experiences, realities, and perceptions among and between groups.

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Chapter 6. Confronting (Mis)perceptions and Stereotypes


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The gap between perception and experience can have explosive consequences. Schaeffer (1984) indicates that perceptions of race and ethnicity are very important because people act based on their resultant beliefs no matter how misguided. Perceptions influence behavior and attitudes even if they are not rooted in real experiences. Perceptions and preconceived opinions are not aspatial or objective. Place and subjectivity (personal experiences and perceptions) play central roles in people’s understanding of themselves and others in society. Furthermore, perceptions considerably influence people’s behaviors, attitudes and actions. This chapter examines perceptions and stereotypes among the different groups under study. Specifically, two broad aspects are considered: perceptions of the level of influence and privilege among the different racial/ethnic groups, and perceptions of different racial/ethnic groups. In terms of influence and privilege, four aspects are examined: influence on the economy, job opportunities, access to education and who commits crime. The first section provides a brief review of the relevant literature. ← 93 | 94 →

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