Previously Advantaged Are No Longer Privileged

In attempting to dispute my argument that white privilege is a matter of history, (Daily News, May 21), Martin Gardiner (Daily News, May 29) appears to have difficulty in distinguishing between the faults of the past and those made since 1994 which have exacerbated rather than alleviated social inequalities.

While Gardiner rightly states that his generation benefited from white privilege, his theory that once privileged means privilege in perpetuity is a fallacy. Today there are white people living in squatter camps around Pretoria. There are many whites who are living on the margins of poverty. Having been a ward councillor until 2016, I encountered a great deal of poverty among whites in my Bluff ward. Moreover, the new job reservation rules that require demographic representivity, discriminate strongly against whites and other minorities. Gardiner’s claim that the economy is “still very firmly in white hands,” is also inaccurate. Only 14% of the wealth of South Africa is in the hands of individuals of all races. 38% is controlled by foreigners and 48% by institutions like banks and conglomerates.

In deploring the bleak social circumstances that face the vast majority of South Africans who are not white and contrasting that with the favourable circumstances he and his family enjoy, Gardiner’s theory of adversity perpetuating poverty is challenged by the experience of the Indian community.

Marginalised as settlers during colonial times and subjected to discrimination until 1994, through their own initiative and enterprise the Indian community uplifted itself from the servitude of the cane fields and achieved prosperity and success in many areas of life.

Most whites do not “go about their lives unchanged” as Gardiner claims. They are acutely aware of the collapsing state of governance and society that impacts us all in a variety of ways. Those previously advantaged are no longer automatically privileged.

Living in a state of permanent self-abnegation because of the advantages his white skin has given him, is Gardiner’s choice. But it is not going to alleviate the circumstances that prevail in the country or change the past.

Sent into The Daily News and published, 30 May 2018.

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