In South Africa, Chinese is the New Black

by Latoya Peterson

“S Africa Chinese ‘Become Black’”

I spotted this headline while surfing the BBC newsfeed last week – at the time, bloglines was behaving badly, so I didn’t have a chance to post about it.

No worries though – at least six of you sent me the tip, as well as the article in the Wall Street Journal.

For those of you who may have missed the news:

The High Court in South Africa has ruled that Chinese South Africans are to be reclassified as black people.

It made the order so that ethnic Chinese can benefit from government policies aimed at ending white domination in the private sector. [...]

The association said Chinese South Africans had faced widespread discrimination during the years of apartheid when they had been classified as people of mixed race.

The BBC’s Mpho Lakaje in Johannesburg says the Broad-Based Economic Empowerment and the Employment Equity Acts were designed to eradicate the legacy of apartheid which left many black people impoverished.

The laws give people classed as blacks, Indians and coloureds (mixed-race) employment and other economic benefits over other racial groups.

Now this story has gained international traction, probably because of the ham-fisted way the government decided to deal with the issue – by adding the Chinese to an existing ethnic group, rather that just adding Chinese people to the protected classes.

But what struck me most wasn’t the article – it was the reaction of many of the other readers around the web.

Check out this comment from the Wall Street Journal’s coverage, from the ever brave Anonymous:

Well, I think its wrong to discriminate against whites. Ummmm…………..HELLO! The whole slavery thing was years and years ago…..it’s about time to get over that. What ever happened to not being racist? Afica has no right to be racist against the whites just because of the slavery ordeal. African tribes still till this day have slavery. Infact the stronger tribes take people from the weaker tribes and make them slaves. So if thats the reason why whites are disciminated against then the people in South Africa are being hypocrits!

Dear readers, turn off your socialist spell check for a moment.

Ignore the strawman arguments.

Look past the stupidity.

And think, for a moment, on what is missing.

Oh yeah, the discussion surrounding Apartheid.

Why half the commenters on the WSJ site were discussing African slavery, I don’t even know. What, did people forget about Apartheid? What did they think Nelson Mandela was doing? He’s just some black guy famous for being in jail?

(Wait, don’t answer that. *sigh*)

Apartheid ended in MY lifetime. I was barely politically conscious at the time, but I do remember it was a big deal and I still was not supposed to buy gas from Shell, even though I was about 8 years away from driving. Did no one on the WSJ watch that very special Road Rules where they sent Kefla to stay with a white family who had never had a black man in their home before? Even though at the time of filming that episode, Apartheid had been officially over for seven years?

And yet, for some reason, the conversation goes right back to slavery.

We can’t even blame this one on poor schooling – I would assume most people commenting on the WSJ are adults. If you are under eighteen, you may not know. (And school may or may not teach you.) But for those of us who were alive then – WTF?

My head hurts.

Stephen Colbert on the South Africa name change

(Photo Credit: the BBC)