Liberal South Africans are ‘good-hearted racists’

White liberal South Africans may have expressed a desire to see justice done, but as “good-hearted racists” they did not want to give up any of their wealth and privileges, says Micheal Hiltzik, columnist for the LA Times.

Hiltzik admitted earlier to posting under false names on multiple sites, using pseudonyms to smear people, but he is nevertheless still writing for the newspaper.

During the waning days of apartheid, I had dinner with a group of liberal South Africans.

And they were liberals in relative terms: Cape Town residents of Anglo descent, they had lived and done business in the closest thing to a multicultural community South Africa offered, geographically and socially remote from the Afrikaner traditions prevailing in Johannesburg and Pretoria, some 900 miles to the north.

They were optimistic about the future of their country and about building a multiracial nation, and free of evident resentment about the political ambitions of their black fellow citizens. They agreed that the blacks deserved equal opportunity and a representative voice in government.

And yet, listening to them talk, I couldn’t avoid reflecting that the tenor of their discussion would have been treated as profoundly objectionable in any but the most reactionary, racist precincts of the United States.

It’s not that they sounded like Bull Connor or members of the Klan. It was more their well-meaning and unapologetic condescension. They wholeheartedly endorsed black majority rule — in principle. But they were also convinced that it would take years, even generations, for black South Africans to gain the education and experience necessary to lead their country in the modern world — to grow up, in other words. In the interim, of course, the blacks would continue to be dependent on the knowledge and support of my dining companions’ own tribe of white Africans.

My hosts were hopeful and uneasy, confident in the rationality of a black community they didn’t really know but which, they were certain, shared their desire for a peaceful transition of power.

The root of their uneasiness was economic. South Africa, which for so long had considered itself a rich, economically thriving country, was just then coming to grips with the fact that it was a small economy that only seemed big because its wealth had been concentrated in a very few white hands. There was simply not enough money in the country to bring black educational standards up to the level of white schools after decades of systematic impoverishment; the only path to equivalence involved diminishing the resources provided to white pupils while improving those for black kids, meeting somewhere in the middle. Would either race be happy with the consequences?