Are white men being jumped on?

31 October 2005

It's a hot topic that's slowly moving out of the corridors, raised most recently in the satirical Not the Monday Paper.

And last week, the "endangered" white male was again the talking point, if only by default. The occasion was the seminar on Institutional Culture and Constructions of Race in a Post-Apartheid South Africa.

This was the third in the series on institutional culture and transformation hosted by the Department of Institutional Planning and Transformation.

The choice of topic was a direct follow-up to a previous seminar where issues of being black at UCT were discussed, says Nazeema Mohamed, UCT transformation manager.

"There's also a need to speak about whiteness and what it means, about the fears and insecurities and hopes of white people, and the concerns about the impact that transformation has on whites that we need to address."

Professor Robert Morrell of the University of KwaZulu-Natal kick-started the meeting, speaking first about the greater authoritarianism at universities, and the growing divide - in power and also remuneration - between executives and academics.

He also argued that in a post-apartheid South Africa all white men are being tarred with the same brush, regardless of the vocal opposition of many to apartheid.

"Not all white men benefited from [apartheid's] patriarchal and race rule," he said.

Assoc Prof Melissa Steyn, director of intercultural and diversity studies at UCT, countered this, saying that white men may not have it all that bad.

"White men are being regraded and promoted and getting research grants around me all the time," said Steyn.

Rather than circle their wagons, she suggested, white men should make more effort to contribute to transformation, in which they have a huge role to play on account of the power many still wield.

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