A report which was the subject of a webinar displays the sort of racial sleight of hand one often associates with left-wing academia.

The study reflects an implied racism that uses facts and figures to illustrate a finding or thesis. The numbers and statistics are probably communicated correctly, but seem to imply that a reason for inequality or a lack of diversity is the fault of whites.

This process has been applied by apparently distinguished academics – Rob Gruijters from Cambridge University, Benjamin Elbers, a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University, and Vijay Reddy, a distinguished research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council.

The issue was the findings of their research as to the percentage spread of the different race groups in private schools and ‘elite’ public schools. The research is to be found in a report entitled ‘School segregation in postapartheid (sic) SA’.

The study has not been released publicly so I couldn’t delve into the detail. I could only rely on articles in the Sunday Times and Daily Maverick and the information referred to therein. I therefore cannot challenge the facts or figures, but for the purposes of this article I will accept them as presented, as nothing rests on them for the point I intend to make. The information was provided in a webinar held on 27 March 2022.

The first warning sign is the use of ‘segregation’ in the title of the study. ‘Gruijters said while former white schools are, on average, the most racially diverse, they also contributed most to segregation ‘because white and Indian children remain strongly overrepresented in these schools relative to their share of the population’. For a searing dissection of this language and more, I commend Dr James Myburgh’s article, ‘Time for the numerus clausus?’.

What the authors have done is to describe the numerical representation at ‘former white schools’ by white and Indian children as ‘segregation’. The implication, therefore, is that the formerly white schools have deliberately kept out black children or kept their numbers down.

Apartheid

‘Segregation’ is defined in the Collins Dictionary as ‘the official practice of keeping people apart, usually people of different sexes, races, or religions‘. It is also a word that we associate viscerally with apartheid, which presumably is intended.

The academics found that ‘White pupils occupy 62% of the spaces in elite public schools and 55% in private schools while their black African counterparts occupy 20% and 27% of spaces respectively’.

The lack of sufficient numbers in a school is not segregation by reason of official policy, but because the numbers of children in certain race groups are deemed to be insufficient in terms of demography. This is disingenuous because the use of the word implies that the lack of numbers is a result of a deliberate act by someone or a group. There may be a number of reasons why this discrepancy exists, but neither the white nor the Indian group is responsible.

I don’t dispute that discrepancies may be because of apartheid spatial planning, geography, wealth or other factors, but a matter of policy, deliberate or otherwise, they are not. 

But now the gloves come off. ‘Gruijters and his two colleagues argued in the paper that the political settlement that emerged in post-apartheid SA ‘was conducive to opportunity hoarding by the white minority’.

‘Hoarding’ is an academic term that came to prominence in the education hypothesis of Charles Tilly, an academic at Berkeley College, in 1998. Academics in the field of education mean ‘hoarding’ to include parental involvement from middle-class parents using their political, social, economic, and cultural capital to secure the best educational opportunities for their children.

The use of the word ‘hoarding’ has a rather nasty implication. In ordinary English it is a negative behaviour trait. In looking into its academic origins, I came across an academic paper that referred to the influence of Michel Foucault. Foucault was a historian and philosopher. Foucault’s theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. He is often cited as a postmodernist. His thought has influenced academics, including those working in sociology, cultural studies, literary theory, feminism, Marxism and critical theory.

Perversion of language

And there is why my discomfort was confirmed. Firstly, critical race theory (an off-shoot of critical theory) uses language, or rather the perversion of language, to define its intentions and to empower its proponents through repetition, accusation and the emphasis on victimhood. The aim is for its proponents to take over the power in a chosen environment such as a university or school.

Language is very carefully crafted to denote victims on the one hand and oppressors on the other. Victims are black (a minority in the American context) and other minorities. Whites are identified as the privileged oppressors from whom all power has to be wrested. All the language concerning whites is negative – white privilege, white fragility, white supremacy.

When one looks at the context of ‘opportunity hoarding’ in the two media articles above, the language clearly reflects critical race theory. The Sunday Times headline is ‘White “opportunity hoarding” divides SA schools on racial lines: study’ and Daily Maverick’s is ‘South Africa’s former white schools are the most racially diverse — yet one population group is conspicuous by its absence’.

The unavoidable implication is that ‘opportunity hoarding’ is a negative action that is consciously or deliberately performed by whites, rather than circumstances that exist as a result of a wide range of factors, many of which are caused by the government.

This is supported in the Sunday Times by a statement: ‘Gruijters and his two colleagues argued in the paper that the political settlement that emerged in post-apartheid SA ‘was conducive to opportunity hoarding by the white minority’.’ 

The implication (not subtle) is that the white minority deliberately somehow holds on to schooling opportunities at the expense of the black majority, and that the ‘political settlement’ somehow resulted in this unfair state of affairs. Be in no doubt that the ‘political settlement’ wasn’t to the ANC’s disadvantage: the ANC was always in control and had to concede little to the other parties.

‘School segregation’

The Daily Maverick reports:

Regardless of how we measure it, school segregation in post-apartheid South Africa remains very high along racial, as well as socioeconomic lines, and also from an internationally comparative perspective,’ said Dr Rob Gruijters, assistant professor in the education faculty at the University of Cambridge, during an online seminar on school segregation in post-apartheid South Africa on Monday.’

Unless we are living in a socialist utopia, schooling will always be divided on socio-economic lines. It is this, rather than race, that is the relevant determinant of the type of schooling a child may receive.

‘Segregation’, such as it is, is actually a result of poor government policy and administration. Racial discrepancies have much to do with the appalling effect that the government has had on basic education, the economic destruction wrought by the ruling party and the consequent widening of the inequality gap. The inequality gap is not between black and white; it is between the black middle class and the black poor.

If it is available, some middle class and upper middle class whites, blacks, Indians and coloureds will choose private or ‘elite’ public schooling if they can afford it. Implying that this amounts to white (and Indian) ‘hoarding’ suggests dishonesty and an agenda that is racially motivated.  

 [Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/crayons-coloring-book-coloring-hand-1445053/]

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editor

Rants professionally to rail against the illiberalism of everything. Broke out of 17 years in law to pursue my classical music passion and run the Joburg Philharmonic, but had to work with musicians. Working with composer Karl Jenkins was a treat. Used to camping in the middle of nowhere. Have 2 sons for whom no girl is good enough, says mom.