Racism in SA Universities… and the church?

This recent report on racism in South African Universities is alarming.  But it is more alarming because, my experience on a University campus and anecdotal evidence from many students seems to confirm that there is much truth in this report.

Here are some excerpts:

“There clearly is a problem. Much of this problem emanates from the too-close association of the university with the project of Westernisation – and the ever-present danger of articulating this in narrow Eurocentric terms as, to put it bluntly, a ‘white’ project – and a patent difficulty faced by the university to confront the challenge of opening itself up to different bodies and traditions of knowledge and knowledge-making in new and exploratory ways.”

“The report was based on surveys, university data, questionnaires and interviews with students, staff and administration. It uncovered the following forms of discrimination:

  1. Discrimination in enrolment, where African and coloured students have lower levels of access to institutions, and less success.
  2. University structures ignored the “real-life realities” of many of the people in the institutions. (Big YES on this one)
  3. There is covert discrimination towards black staff and students, many of whom have complained, in class, of the way they are assessed and with regards to promotion.
  4. Institutional cultures favour white experiences and marginalise black ones, which results in feelings of alienation, and even a fear of speaking out.
  5. University cultures are largely incapable of engaging with the experience of Africa, socially, scientifically and culturally. (Another big TRUTH here)
  6. There is discrimination in residences and many institutions – both historically white and black – have failed to create nurturing environments for black students.

Students and staff had made comments suggesting that black people felt they were “simply being tolerated”, the report said.

“There clearly is a problem. Much of this problem emanates from the too-close association of the university with the project of Westernisation – and the ever-present danger of articulating this in narrow Eurocentric terms as, to put it bluntly, a ‘white’ project – and a patent difficulty faced by the university to confront the challenge of opening itself up to different bodies and traditions of knowledge and knowledge-making in new and exploratory ways.

Read the whole thing here

What concerns me the most about this survey is not what it actually says about the University campus.  But rather how true many of these comments are about the reformed/evangelical church in South Africa.

By and large the issues we deal with are white, eurocentric and western.

The courses taught at our seminaries are ideal for England or Australia but  can have little impact on the realities, issues and struggles of Africa.  The question I like to ask is – how would this course look different if it were taught in London or Cape Town?  If there is no difference we have to ask whether we truly are living the Word of God in our context or another.  Each theological issue raises different questions, idols and challenges for each culture – if we are not addressing these then we are playing academic games.

This pains me to say it but I think we have an obsession with European and Western culture and African culture/ways of doing things is tolerated or regarded as second best.

The lack of black men in key positions in reformed and evangelical churches in this country is wrong!

What is equally frustrating is that much “transformation” is focused at happening at a regional or national level, in the form of denominational or organisational leadership.  When there are not found to be appropriate black men or women for these positions, we do stop and question why this is so.  If we are serious about transformation and about black leadership in this country we should be pouring our best men and woman, our money, our time and our expertise into the Townships, the Cape Flats and the Eastern Cape (for example).

Instead who goes to these places often – those who are “left over”, who cannot get a job at a white suburban church with multiple staff members (yes I am stirring here!).  Where does our money and time go – to maintaining these self same churches.  Conferences and training events are aimed at the needs and issues faced by these churches.

This is Africa!  We are here to minister in Africa, but most white people do not even no what Africa really looks like.  Do I?  Are we actually closet racists?

We live in different Africa’s!  And white people kid ourselves about our relevance in Africa.

Things must change.

Advertisements

~ by John on May 17, 2009.

5 Responses to “Racism in SA Universities… and the church?”

  1. Wow – I look forward to hearing how people respond.
    I hope this causes all sides to engage on the issue (see Tim Chester’s recent blog re Don Carson http://timchester.wordpress.com/2009/05/17/one-of-the-dangers-of-blogging/)…

  2. I read the post by Tim Chester but I cannot quite figure out which category I fall into…

  3. I want to say that transformation is a difficult thing to try and handle. It is reversing the effects of evil filtered down from the apartheid regime.I think the thing that has disturbed me so much about transformation in evangelical churches in South Africa is that it has actually lagged transformation taking place in the marketplace of our country. One of the reasons for this could be that transformation in the church has to be relationally instituted. But if we as the church have the holy Spirit living in us then surely we should seek Gods guidance and be able to progress. It is very disturbing.

  4. There is so much racism in a church than outside. I prefer to be in the world, because the world does nt catch me by surprise. Im not expecting people in the church to be holy&sanctified, but atleast I expect them to be the light and display equality for God does not show favoritism. I recently been attending a church that always speak about their heart for the poor and lost…and I dont see that happening all of that is a lips service..

    Thank for writing a blog like this

  5. @ D boy, I know that the church often disappoints and it is tempting to walk away but when I read the Scriptures I see a beautiful, radiant picture of what the church could be and one day will be. You may enjoy this post on my new blog – http://johnscheepers.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/i-love-the-church-like-i-love-the-stormers/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: