A political satire using two of today’s South African buzz-words in a combination that lampoons an emerging desire.
Racial discrimination under the euphemism of empowerment may appeal to some as a form of revenge but it will neither truly affirm nor empower those who are loath to give up the disadvantaged label.
History has adequately recorded the fact that even well-intentioned intervention in the economic and behavioural arenas usually invites abuse or other unintended consequences.
For example incentive bonus schemes and tax incentives have to be very carefully thought out or given limited duration to avoid people finding ways of working the system to their advantage while defeating the corporate or fiscal objective.
Advantages enforced with the intention of redressing former disadvantages of race have not been immune to this historical tendency. In the case of Affirmative Action while the intervention aims to afford opportunity to specified races previously denied such opportunity, it has done very little to tackle the disadvantages of poor education, poor work ethic and other obstacles.
It has unintentionally enhanced the value of the label ‘disadvantaged’. This is especially true for those who have little hope of overcoming the obstacles mentioned. For a few in South Africa it has worked so effectively through the Black Economic Empowerment programme that some have prospered rather well and so can hardly continue to lay claim to the label.
For the hordes waiting to be employed skilled or not, this label, critical to ‘employment equity’ policy, is a valuable privilege not to be lightly given up. The fact that a new generation of work seekers has now enjoyed the advantages of more than 16 years of democracy, serves to underline the racial rather than the ‘disadvantaged’ nature of affirmative action.
Perhaps Jimmy Manyi’s recent wish to drop white women from the disadvantaged list further underlines some peoples’ view that race rather than disadvantage is the real criterion. At the same time dare we hope that Black Management Forum’s utterance might presage the gradual exclusion of categories which in the foreseeable future could see this intervention phased out? Not very likely?
The wish to have the privilege of disadvantage sustained indefinitely is an enormous obstacle to normalising society.
This wish is understandable. Who would easily discard an advantage offered even if it discriminates against other races? That is exactly what was happening in the ‘bad old’ days.
However to perpetuate a policy of racial discrimination under the euphemism of empowerment may appeal to some as a form of revenge but it will neither truly affirm nor empower those who are loath to give up the disadvantaged label. It will do nothing to disabuse anyone of the tendency to expect handouts. It is simultaneously a blow to hopes that in time, merit alone might be seen as an objective worth striving for.
The apartheid regime dictated paternalistic policies seen as appropriate to an under-class of people. Continuation of racial profiling through Affirmative Action and so called Equity laws, while purporting to help those very races, runs the risk of permanently classifying and labelling them but now with their own acquiescence.
This does nothing to uplift or empower anyone in the spiritual or the psychological sense. There will be those who will wallow in the self-pity of disadvantage long after no one living can remember it. There will also be those who feel some shame for taking advantage of disadvantage, so to speak, even where they may have earned advancement through merit.
On a grander scale the preoccupation with racial profiling runs the risk of unfair stereotyping of individuals by associating them with the woes of a whole continent. Experts tell us that such stereotyping can even be self inflicted, often resulting in a lack of self esteem and occasionally generating a form of self-hatred.
Surely de-racialisation of policies would normalise society more effectively and would free the human spirit to strive for pride of achievement through merit; for genuine personal endeavour rather than to cling to the snivelling notion of sustainable disadvantage.