In 2008  four white students from a still segregated dorm (on the overwhelmingly white Afrikaner campus) of the University of the Free State in South Africa made a racist video “… meant to protest the idea of racial integration in student housing [The video] showed a young man apparently urinating into a bowl of stew. The food was then served to five black house cleaners … as they guilelessly cooperated in a mock initiation.” To forcefully change this culture,  the university’s new president (the first black person to hold the position), put as his first task to integrate the dorms.

A reporter from The New York Times set out to the university. Among the responses the reporter got from students was this gem from a young, white Afrikaner student:

Whites are generally fearful of [Professor Jansen’s plans to integrate residences and student life at Free State University]. “Why are we being made to give up our traditions?” asked Christiaan Steenkamp, a white student living in an overwhelmingly white residence hall. “It’s not races that are clashing; it’s cultures. We should be allowed to keep our culture.”

He thought hard to find an example. “Blacks are louder than whites,” he said. “That’s not race. It’s culture. It’s the way they are. Why can’t Jansen recognize that and quit treating us like we’re a bunch of racists?”


Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.