CHALLENGES OF RACISM-DISCRIMINATION GLOBALLY
by Joel Netshitenzhe
I wish to join others in congratulating particularly the co-chairpersons of Global Watch for this initiative, which indeed is long overdue. I will make a few remarks to introduce the discussion – brief because, as we'll all agree, the many luminaries who spoke yesterday did frame the questions aptly, including the context within which this Summit is being held. Added to this are the wise words, this morning, from the President and the Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Our task as this Panel is to reflect on Challenges of Racism-Discrimination Globally. It is a theme that spans many matters of epistemology, history, sociology and economics – which a brief discussion such as we are having today cannot adequately address. But I do hope that at the end of this panel discussion, we'll have identified the critical sub-themes.
At the turn of the 1900s, WEB du Bois opined that the problem of the 20th Century is a problem of the colour-line. We can quote many other sages on this issue, not least among which are Pixley ka Seme, Kwame Nkurumah, Edward Said, Olaf Palme, Marcus Garvey, Mahatma Gandhi, Frantz Fanon, Ho Chi Minh, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela. Central to their articulation of the problem of racism and discrimination was not only their abhorrence of the theory and praxis of prejudice; it was not only their determination to mobilise for resistance to defeat it; but also to posit the anti-thesis to this scourge. Thus Mandela stoically declared that in fighting racism, he was prepared to die.
Du Bois' observation, we'll all agree, came to pass in various contexts and various epoch-making events of the 20th century: in the struggles and victories of the peoples of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas to attain self-determination and civil rights. The slaves were bound to revolt. They successfully became agents of progressive change; masters of their own destiny.
But, as co-chairperson Sexwale illustrated yesterday, in relation to football in particular, Vashka the Cat continues eating, as the Russians would put it (about a spoilt cat). Ideologies to justify racism and discrimination have been refined. Religious texts and allegiances, and the so-called clash of civilisations, are conjured up to seek justification & rationalisation for social prejudice.
Yet, are we correct to confine the manifestation of this phenomenon to a problem of the mind – one that can be resolved simply through civic education? Sociologists and political economists have, quite correctly, identified access to power and resources as the material genesis of racism. Natural endowments have chased owners of capital across the globe, and so all manner of rationalisation was and is used to justify conquest, oppression and discrimination. Arising from this correct observation is the injunction that Global Watch cannot ignore – that is, how do we change power relations in politics, economics, culture and indeed sport, such that the current objects of racism and discrimination can become masters of their own destiny, in all these areas of human endeavour.
GLOBAL WATCH SUMMIT
Joel Netshitenzhe (Executive Director, MISTRA)
21 November 2014