‘Criminalising racism is not the answer’

The Wits School of Governance recently held a panel discussion on criminalising racism in support of Anti-Racism Week where Advocate Thuli Madonsela was the moderator.

Panelists comprised Professor of Law at Wits, Cathi Albertyn; Simamkele Dlakavua, producer of the Big Debate; Faraaz Mahomed of the South African Human Rights Commission; Momodou Jallow, vice chairperson of the European Network Against Racism; and Milard Arnold, the executive director of the South African Business Schools’ Association.

Madonsela kicked off the evening’s discussion and expressed her hopes that the panel would define what racism is. The panel discussed this and the main concerns relating to the issue.

“We are avoiding a deeper question – the question of decolonisation and dismantling whiteness,” said Dlakavu when asked about her opinion on the topic.

Jallow explained his views of racism and the injustices thereof.

“When privilege becomes the norm, equality feels like an injustice,” said Jallow.

He added that civil society plays a huge role in tackling racism and pointed out that finding common ground is important to build South Africa.

Madonsela added, “At the end of the day, everyone wants a South Africa where everyone’s humanity is affirmed. I am appealing to young people – don’t assume if someone is white that they are on the other side. The Constitution is going to be the ‘bridge’ to the future.”

Mahomed, however, warned on how racism filters through everybody’s life in different ways. “We need to start becoming aware of our own behaviour. Just by having this dialogue there is progress,” said Mahomed.

Special guest, Advocate George Bizos shared his view that criminalising racism is not the answer and asked society to be careful about criminalising generalisations.

In wrapping up the discussion, Madonsela reaffirmed that there is a lot that needs to be done around racism.

Details: www.wsg.wits.ac.za

Shanice Naidoo

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