A Brief Look At The Colorful History Of The White South African Culture


A body of water with a mountain in the background

Many whites in South Africa are often surprised by the non-racism of the White South African Culture. It is a culture which does not depict a black or coloured man as evil or even as bad, as it portrays them as highly evolved and progressive. Although the society is demarcated into separate races, yet the culture is bound together by a common bond that has transcended all differences.

Existence Of White South African Culture Can Be Dated Back To The Times Of Apartheid 

A body of water with a mountain in the background

The first sign of the existence of this culture can be dated back to the times of Apartheid when a massive resistance movement was formed against Apartheid. The white Afrikaans, who were brutally attacked by the Apartheid regime, demanded for their rights and this is where the two cultures merged. In many towns, you will find an exclusive Apartheid style theatre and inside this you will find a mixed crowd made up of whites and coloureds. This is because the Apartheid government severely restricted the freedom of speech and an educated white population wanted to defend their views and heritage. Thus, a sort of social contract was signed between these two disparate groups to preserve their own communal identity and their past traditions.

Even during the Apartheid era, there was a strong white presence in the towns, especially in the Afrikaans owned business enterprises. Most white South Africans came from mining, farming and construction industries. The only exception to this rule was that there was a steady growth of Indian and Chinese communities who came to the city to find work. However, most of them settled around Durban, Cape Town and Orange Farm in the middle of the Apartheid era as they were far away from the capital and had no connection with the political scenario back home.

Stark Racial Divide Between The Haves And The Have-Nots

A view of a rocky mountain

The cultural divide was further highlighted during the Apartheid era, as there was a stark racial divide between the haves and the have-nots. The haves were predominantly white, while the have-nots were mostly coloured or indigenous. Thus, at the time of the introduction of colour consciousness into the country, there was an expansion of a concept of the coloured community and an associated culture. In other words, we could talk about a north/black African or a coloured/ white’s cultural continuum. This has been a contentious issue for many years but it finally came to be accepted as a reality.

A striking feature of the coloured community was its rejection of the idea of the white man as the protagonist of the black man’s story. In fact, some even went as far as to claim that the concept of the white man as the hero of black history did not exist in reality. There was a general belief that the coloured people were equal to the white man and were destined to live in harmony with him. This is reflected in many songs that express the feeling of togetherness, brotherhood and trust between the coloured people and the Afrikaners. Such sentiments extended to the national unity and at times to the sociopolitical structures of the country.

Abolishment Of The Coloured Community

In this context, the famous case of the abolishment of the coloured community by the apartheid government is instructive. The white population, supported by a right wing political party (the ruling party in effect), presented the case that the removal of the coloured people from the position of citizenship was necessary to protect white South Africans who was subject to the apartheid government. Though the verdict was challenged by the courts, the governing party pressed on with the legislation. This marked the definitive break with the past and separation of a racial group from the rest of society.

However, the separation did not end there; nor did it reduce the sense of belonging to South Africa altogether. Though the ruling party tried to legalise the removal of the coloured community, it was opposed by organisations such as the Afrikaans, whose view was that the removal of their people was unjustified, and that their culture had enriched South Africa in many ways. The situation was further aggravated by the fact that many in the coloured communities felt that they were being sidelined and robbed of their cultural heritage. This led to an influx of immigrants from western countries into the country, some of whom were in direct competition with the blacks. This increased social tension within the community, and fuelled a sense of identity consciousness amongst the blacks who remained true to their cultural roots.

Final Words

Today, the situation is different. Though there are still pockets of tension between the races in the country, there is no longer any feeling of race or tribe when it comes to membership in the black communities in the towns and cities. Most of the coloured people live in the suburbs of Soweto and Orange Farm and are very integrated into the mainstream society. The worst problem is, however, that there is no longer any space for the black South African communities in the elite South African industries, as well as in the academic and scientific institutions of the country.

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