Op-eds

Has DA crisis burst white bubble?

  • Geoff
As the Democratic Alliance threatens to implode, the sense of security it has given the small white population of South Africans, many Jews among them, gets shakier. In spite of its flaws, its existence represented a political home in a confusing context where they struggle to find another. This isn’t ideological in terms of helping to build a great country to tackle the misery of the masses, but mainly about a personal standard of living and security.
by GEOFF SIFRIN | Oct 31, 2019

To put it more crudely, can they still preserve their box of privileged life amidst mass poverty? The DA seemed to offer this. Everyone knows that the white liberal minority on which the DA depends is small in number, but immensely powerful in wealth and influence.

Whites who teach in universities and work in managerial positions in business and elsewhere report a pervasive anger among young blacks today towards whites, and accusations of racism based on minor incidents. Whites who weren’t born during apartheid are accused of blocking transformation, and made to feel unwelcome in this country. Their response is, “Yes I know the terrible history of black oppression, but what do you expect me to do now? Is the only route for me to accept your rage and leave?”

After Sharpeville in 1960, some whites left the country because they felt it was destined to plunge over the precipice and didn’t want to raise families in such a place; others left for moral reasons because they didn’t want to be part of the racist apartheid system. Apartheid is gone, but the essentials of this racial disparity still exist.

Where do Jews stand in this scenario? Must they follow the white exodus, for safety or moral reasons?

Three categories of whites and Jews remain here. First, there are those who would like to leave, but for whom emigration is impossible for financial or other reasons. They are reconciled to staying and making the best of it, knowing they will never be truly African. They live in a bubble, developing their own communities and institutions, and limiting their engagement with broader society, government, and national bodies to a minimum. They build their own schools, welfare organisations, and financial institutions. In a sense they have “left” the country but remain here.

Second, there are those who aggressively stand their ground as African, declaring to all that they are fully South African in spite of being white, and intend staying. They insist on participating in the non-racial project and broader society on an equal basis no matter how much rejection they experience from black pan-Africanists, and in spite of the anger and accusations that they are still privileged white colonialists.

Third, there are those who drift around in the middle, bouncing between the poles in search of their identity, longing to leave but knowing they can’t, trying to feel more for the South African project but knowing that they will never feel truly African. It is this third group who are the most miserable.

And then, of course, there is a group which doesn’t have to be counted here: those whose applications for emigration to Australia or other places are already in process, and are simply waiting to go.

The fact that the debate about the predicament in the DA is happening every day around white dinner tables shows how unsettling the problem is. The party may yet regroup, but rather than see this crisis as a collapse of the political landscape that gave reassurance to whites, it could present a significant opportunity to realign the mindset of South African whites and clarify why and on what terms they are living here.

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