Dear white people

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This is the first contribution in LitNet’s mini seminar on structural racism.


Yep, I’m broad-sweeping, because every time a black person (broad term) says that they have experienced racism at the hands of white people, your tribe questions whether we are sure we have read the situation correctly. The response: “But no one called you a ‘hotnot’, ‘kaffer’, ‘slams’ or ‘koelie’, so what’s the issue?” should be your first clue that you are engaging in one of two things:

  1. Structural racism (lauding it over black people in hierarchical structural spaces (schools, universities, corporates, work spaces), or
  2. Institutional racism (lauding it over black people because you are still scared of the swart gevaar that was created in your brain and still lives there; you are not in charge anymore, but you need an outlet for your superiority complex).

If you have never ever been racially stereotyped purely for being any other colour but white and privileged for more than 400 years, shut the front door. Listen and learn, and then sit down.

Allow me to introduce you to political activists Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael before he changed his name) and Charles Vernon Hamilton, who in 1967 brought these two concepts into the public sphere after the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. They inferred:

Institutional racism is defined as:

processes, attitudes and behaviour(s) which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage ethnic people. Structural racism shapes and affects the lives, wellbeing and life chances of people of colour. It normalises historical, cultural and institutional practices that benefit white people and disadvantage people of colour. It also stealthily replicates the racial hierarchy established more than 400 years ago through slavery and colonialism, placing white people at the top and black people at the bottom. (Source:

I work in the media space and have worked for companies like Media24, New Media Publishing and kykNET television, on various shows and talk radio, and am currently the co-owner and editor-in-chief at Mikateko Media. I have been overlooked for many positions, and been appointed in many positions in the media since I entered the space. I once famously said that Sarie magazine is for white women, and was then taken to task by the editor, the brilliant Lizette Rabe (who became one of the best mentors in my life), with an opinion piece in said magazine. Of course, people said I was delusional, but was I? And so, I was catapulted onto the speakers list at festivals and gatherings to talk about Afrikaans, the media, the players, marginalisation of brown/black Afrikaans people, “agtergeblewe versus gevestigde skrywers”, etc. And I’m still here. I was told I was a Johnny-come-lately by the “brown old-boys club” (it was a thing). I came from the teaching fraternity, had a voice and the skill of writing, and was the new kid on the block. I was told I was a coconut for working and speaking at predominantly Afrikaans-dominated spaces. So many labels at different stages in my life. I’m still overlooked in many of these spaces, but I have stopped caring whether they want me there or not. I have stopped yearning and fighting for a place at the table. I have realised that we are enough and that we don’t need permission to do anything.

When we started Mikateko Media about 15 years ago, we were three senior black women who had nowhere else to go in the white spaces. We decided to create our own table and employ our own team. We are still here, hanging on through magazine closures, lockdown and the digital takeover. We have stopped begging to be included. Mikateko fast-tracked my platforms and stance on “I’m black and I’m proud”, and I have never looked back.

During the lockdown, when we were all sitting at home and I watched jobs and careers go up in flames, one of South Africa’s ambassadors and a good friend, Ruby Marks, asked in a Facebook post when our food stories would be told in the glossy magazines of South Africa. I responded with a “Let’s do it”. And so was born a Facebook page called “The lockdown recipe storytelling book”, which morphed into a movement from which a book with the same name, as well as a series of magazines called Koe’sister, were launched. It promised our participants that their komvandaan food stories would be published, and we did it. It’s as if the floodgates opened and stories were pouring out of people. We created our own table. No permission required, no white benchmarks. The deliberate omission of the “k” (in “koeksister”) was a disruptive, subversive Molotov cocktail behind which the force of our ancestors stood with raised fists.

The reason for this article came about when I was asked by Bettina Wyngaard to write about structural racism in the media space. I told her I have moved on and it doesn’t occupy my mind anymore. I’ve put my anger at these spaces behind me by speaking about black excellence where we are. Am I blind to the nuanced or overt racism in these spaces? Not by a mile. I have chosen the black consciousness mantra of self-reliance and truly believe what Steve Bantu Biko argued: “True liberation was possible only when black people were, themselves, agents of change.” In his view, this agency was a function of a new identity and consciousness, which was devoid of the inferiority complex that plagued black society.

In conclusion, should Bettina Wyngaard have walked away from what was clearly an action of institutional racism? I would argue, no. Don’t walk away and wait for someone to change and leave their racist behaviour behind. That’s on them, not on us. Stay, address the elephant in the room head-on, beat them with your excellence, raise your fist and create your own spaces. Show up for our ancestors.

So, dear white people, if your response is: “Maar ons is nie almal so nie” (We are not all like that), you are part of institutionalised racism. Try some Bikoism: “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Free your mind.

Read the other contributions here.

LitNet se miniseminaar oor strukturele rassisme

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  • Melvina Mason-Engelbrecht

    Ja, Ingrid Jones het presies verwoord wat ek ook voel. Ons gee egter nooit op om kataliste te wees en om inklusief te wees nie. Ons haat nie, alhoewel ons weet wanneer ons onreg aangedoen word. Onthou, ras het niks met intelligensie te doen nie. So ons weet wanneer ons onbehoorlik benadreel word, maar verkies om dit te laat gaan. Dankie LitNet vir die plasing van die artikel.

  • Barbara Vorster

    Thank you Ingrid. This certainly provides food for thought.

    Bettina, ek sien baie uit na die res van die miniseminaar!

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