I sat down with a teacher the other day. She told me the story of how she was humiliated in front of her colleagues by a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant.

The teacher had been at that school for almost two decades. During a mandatory racial literacy training session, she explained to the anti-racism expert (a white man) that she was saddened by the sudden breakdown of race relations at her school. She wanted to know why this was the case. Before she got to the end of her statement she started to cry. Immediately, the expert interrupted her to say that her white tears ‘were not needed here’. Admonished was the word she used to describe the expert’s display of his expertise. He never allowed her to complete what she was saying and for the remainder of the session, her ‘emotional outburst’ was repeatedly used as an example of white fragility.

A certain kind of person

There is a certain kind of person who thinks that what happened to this teacher is something worth celebrating. A step on the road to liberation. A timely intervention. I am going to call this person Dizzy Goldenheart on account of the crippling acrophobia he endures while watching the rest of us potter around below him.

Sure, Dizzy might feel a bit bad for the teacher, for a little while at least, but ultimately considers what happened to her as progress along the road to utopia. He might think that by crying, the teacher was trying to bring attention to herself – centring the conversation on her feelings – rather than just sitting and listening to how black and brown bodies are systematically oppressed in her elite private school.

Say one thing for Dizzy Goldenheart, say he ‘gets it’.

So Dizzy, putting pen to paper, as it were, on a sunny afternoon in a leafy suburb, would find great joy in pointing out the irony that by displaying her white tears in public, the teacher answered the question the expert never allowed her to ask. People like her with their ‘internalised white supremacist ideas’ are responsible for the sudden breakdown in race relations at their schools.

And as evidenced by the hefty price tag that schools are willing to pay for such insight, Dizzy is not alone.

Say one thing for Caiden, say he’s confused.

Expert’s behaviour

I think that the expert’s behaviour was rude, callous, and he should never be allowed to ‘train’ teachers on anything to do with diversity, equity and inclusion. This man is a religious fanatic. He means well, sure. He thinks that telling white teachers that if they show emotion, they are demonstrating that they harbour unconscious racial animus towards black people – and that this will help us achieve racial equity. He is wrong.

The true irony here is that he answered the teacher’s question without her even being allowed to ask it. His way of thinking is the reason race relations at schools are deteriorating.

But this incident is not an outlier, as I will point out in a series of articles. Stories like this one are popping up all over the country.

For the past year, I have been researching social justice initiatives in some of the country’s most prestigious schools. I have interviewed teachers and administrators, pored over anti-discrimination policies and social justice curricula. I have spoken to diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants and constitutional law experts in an attempt to understand this new secular religion and its emergence in our schools. On that score I have a long way to go. However, it is very clear that social justice ideology is deeply embedded in most of South Africa’s top schools.

An illiberal idea

To be clear, this illiberal idea of social justice is not held by the majority of teachers or the majority of schools, but soon that won’t matter because the religious, woke types are generally in charge of social justice initiatives. And boy, have they  been busy. The more they evangelise, the more teachers will be converted, leave, or just sit down and shut up. It’s hard to blame the latter. Who wants to be humiliated by an empty suit, one that is morally titillated by telling kind-hearted and empathetic women that if they are sad about the breakdown of race relations it is proof that they are racist?

According to the teacher I spoke with – ‘When other teachers were really honestly trying to express their thoughts, the trainers seemed to merely be listening to condemn … and reacted, and shut the speaker down as soon as a “trigger” word was used, which, as we well know, [will] change and grow and narrow our language just as Orwell predicted … rather than trying to really listen to the heart of the person.’

Trigger word – really? Perhaps the panel of experts wishes that it didn’t fall on them to tell this group of professional adults what words they are and aren’t allowed to use. But alas, it is a burden they are willing to bear so that the rest of us poor souls don’t have to.

I shudder to think what drivel this panel disgorged all over the students when they had their training session. Sadly, I may never know because no teachers were allowed to attend, neither were they permitted to discuss the training with their students – a common theme in the diversity training handbook. Isn’t this outrageous?

Not the way forward

This cannot be the way forward. It will destroy race relations by promoting tribalism and race consciousness. It will vilify good people – people whom we want to teach our children.

This country has been through so much and a vast number of its citizens are still dealing with the legacy of its racist past – emotionally and materially. This new cause masquerading as social justice will do nothing to help the country heal. It is not the panacea that activist teachers and diversity consultants think it is. It is homeopathic nonsense.

Nothing has made this clearer than my meeting with that teacher. While opening up to me about her experience, she fought back tears. And eventually lost. They were not tears of remorse. They were tears of sadness without colour.

But to Dizzy Goldenheart, these coffee shop tears must be reduced to tears manufactured by a white woman. A woman who refuses to learn her lesson despite having the privilege of attending anti-racism training run by an organisation whose website reminds us in bold letters: ‘Nelson Mandela based his entire life on the principles of dialogue and the art of listening and speaking to others; and the art of getting others to listen and speak to each other.’

If telling a woman in her 60s to shut up and calling her a racist without knowing anything about her is this organisation’s version of ‘art’, it is a stick figure without substance, drawn by a child who thinks that because his mommy gave him a pat on the head, he has achieved artistic enlightenment.

Mandela reminded us to listen to each other’s stories. To appreciate and empathise with the lived experience of our fellow humans. To act with compassion. Generally great advice. Maybe that diversity trainer should forget all of that and start with fairy-wheels. Something like ‘don’t be rude’ might work.

Because, when considering the art of listening and speaking, I don’t think Mandela was referring to the colouring-in of tears.

In upcoming articles, I will discuss the viral spread of social justice ideology in schools. You will read about the difference between liberal and illiberal ideas of social justice; why saying ‘we should just trust and respect each other’ and ‘if you work hard you will get ahead’ have been included on a school’s list of anti-racism ‘nevers’; schools deliberately misrepresenting the Constitution; heads of transformation committees lying about their pedagogical practices; girls’ schools where teachers are forbidden to say ‘good morning girls’; bogus accusations of racism and sexism; speech bans and self-censorship; racial segregation; the emergence of a thriving consultancy industry which depends on perpetuating racism for its survival; the reason one of the most prominent schools in the country feels comfortable announcing that its curriculum is informed by the work of a Marxist educator/spiritual leader; schools that are resisting social justice ideology and how; and much, much more.

I am going to take Dizzy along for the ride. His insights could prove useful. He will be deconstructing the hearts and minds of people like me – liberals – and our liberalism, so that we are left naked, with no place to hide our catechism of ‘logic’ and ‘reason’, and our assertions of ‘I don’t see colour’.


Say one thing  for Dizzy Goldenheart, say he’s ‘anti-racist’.   

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Caiden is interested in human well-being from a scientific perspective. He believes in humanism and classical liberalism. He holds a master's degree in philosophy from Edinburgh University.