Professor Jonathan Jansen, the former vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, has spoken out against the barring of white people from suppers at the University of Cape Town "decolonising” winter school. But organisers of the event remain unrepentant for calling for suppers for "POC only" (People of Colour only). The winter school is scheduled to start on Sunday 24 and run through to next Saturday.
Jansen described UCT's "decolonising" winter school blacks-only suppers as "racist, anti-democratic and unbefitting an open university. To restrict the suppers to "people of colour" is crass and offensive, and should be condemned out of hand. The winter school itself should be decolonised, if the word still has any meaning at all. We need a genuinely critical, left and progressive position in higher education; not this kind of racial backwardness."
In another post, not aimed particularly at the winter school Jansen - who now lives in the Western Cape - said:
"The most effective rebuttal of this creeping racism from all quarters is when those in the community of origin speak up first and speak out boldly. When progressive black people condemn the EFF's racism; when white Afrikaans speakers condemn these pathetic "genocide" tours of right-wing whites (Afriforum visiting the US);" when UCT's left condemns the racism of the "decolonised" pseudo-left; when Coloured activists condemn anti-African violence on the Cape Flats; when progressive Jews speak out against the murder of Palestinians.....and so on."
The Cape Messenger reported on Friday that the University of Cape Town had landed itself in the political poo, so to speak, again. The organisers of its Winter School programme sent out an invitation inviting participants in the Decolonised Winter School to attend suppers – but they had to be “POC-only”. This apparently meant people of colour.
While the university ordered the organisers of the winter school to retract the POC requirement in the programme, saying that this was in fact, unconstitutional, the organisers remain entire unrepentant.
The DailyVox, a populist website reflecting radical student views, responded to the outcry on the social media to the new form of racism as follows:
An objection to the People of Colour (POC)-only space at the University of Cape Town Winter Decolonial School is shifting the attention from the objection of the school to white fragility, organisers of the school said.
Senior student Alex Hotz said that the school would be "a historical moment" and an important commitment from the university to change and transformation.
"UCT recognised the need to create a space within the university to talk about decolonisation," said Hotz, described as an organiser of the winter school.
The Vox continued: "An hour-long POC supper break on the programme (each night of the week) has caused controversy among white people and liberals who believe this move is unconstitutional and racist.
The Decolonial School itself - on its Facebook page - described the "intended POC supper break" as "a space where black people can come together to communicate their experiences of the day without having to shelter white fragility". There was safety in the "black only spaces, resultant from the trauma and oppression of the past and present".
Hotz was quoted as saying further that the space was important "because the burden of decolonisation is on POC".
"As usual white people have monopolised the discussion and come out in fire and fury around POC supper space when they were dead silent about - and continue to be silent about - the privileges that they have received under apartheid and continue to receive as a result of apartheid and under colonialism," said Hotz.
Hotz, a leader of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign which led to the toppling of the statue of Cape Colony Prime Minister and founder of the university Cecil John Rhodes, said further: "In the decolonial school we have academics deconstructing the constitution and how the constitution constructs racism to protect whiteness and not to see how racism is structural and systemic. It challenges white people who call black people racist when we don't have any systemic or structural power."
Hotz was quoted on News24 as saying: "In these spaces that involve white people, we often find that black people are forced to censor themselves to protect white fragility. It was meant to be a space where black people can decompress."
Responding to the university's statement that entrance to events at the campus could not be restricted on the basis of race, she said the university's response to the controversy was an example of problemmatic behaviour that needed to be addressed. "This is an example of how power works in terms of the pressure that the white masses have - to call the university and question the authority of black lecturers."
The Cape Messenger carried this story on Friday:
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