South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki denied yesterday that the attacks on foreigners in his country in May were the result of xenophobia, but rather the result of “naked criminal activity”. Mbeki seems to claim that he can not possibly be so out of touch with reality that he would have missed how xenophobic his people are. I restrain myself from further commenting on this hand given penalty shot…
The fact is that we foreigners, who live or have lived in South Africa, very often do not feel welcome by South Africans. This feeling is consistence all across the board (or as South Africa so neatly has classified all across the “races”), and the pain that this treatment inflicts starts long before people are being physical harmed or burned to death because of their origin. Consequently, the attacks in May are just the most extreme and media exposed events of an unsustainable situation in South Africa.
Claiming that the violence in May was not xenophobia, but criminal acts is just like saying that the things seen on the videos from Free State University earlier this year was not racism but just a prank. And the similarities between these two ugly happenings are greater than some want to admit. Whether one chose to call it pranks, xenophobia, racism, criminal activities or any other fitted name, it all comes down to a “we versus them”-mentality, where the victim suffers because of things outside his/hers control, namely their origin. And for me that is nothing but plain racism.
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