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Whiteness Is the New South Africa

Qualitative Research on Post-Apartheid Racism


Christopher B. Knaus and M. Christopher Brown II

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.


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Post-apartheid South Africa is often celebrated as a global exemplar of polit- ical transformation from the bitter depths of racial hatred into an egalitarian and harmonious utopia of togetherness. From the commercialized language proudly proclaiming South Africa a “rainbow nation” to the sociopolitical enterprise of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the transcendent narrative in post-apartheid South Africa has privileged a thematic focus on harmony and hope. Despite the existence of township tours designed for White tourism, the reality of daily life in the nation-state is rife with a hegemonic struggle between White supremacy and Black subjugation. Many South African academics have critiqued the transformation process as creat- ing a softer replication of apartheid-era structures—“racism lite.” Similarly, too many enlightened South African residents remain conflicted about the absence of meaningful inclusion for many Black South Africans. An exam- ination of social, demographic, and economic data reveal sharp images of con- tinuing racism—housing disparities, economic inequity, concentrated crime, inexplicable poverty, and unequal schools. The struggle to reconcile beliefs about racial differences with the prin- ciples of democracy has plagued South Africa as well as other nations where skin pigmentation and racial/tribal identity are embedded in histories of 2 whiteness is the new south africa differentiation, discrimination, and occasionally, genocide. The nature of social structures in most Western societies places the burden of the quest for equality among “citizens” within the public functions—transportation, hous- ing, employment, and most importantly, education. As South Africa contin- ues its attempts to remedy the...

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