The Segregation Fallacy and Other Papers - White Students and Black Students

From the book: The Segregation Fallacy and Other Papers by D.D.T Jabavu

All true Christians in South Africa will have just cause for gratitude over the consummation of this first All-Student Congress held under the auspices of the National Union of S. A. Students. A Bantu Christian like myself must also join in this feeling of gratitude as well as appreciate the honour of being asked to address a brief word to such a conference. Some appropriate exhortation will doubtless be forthcoming from the right indivi­duals in regard to the subjects that appertain to the aims of this congress. For my part I have chosen to say something about, the relation of such a conference to the black and coloured indigenous people of this our common homeland.

The Bantu in the Union have an aggregate of three or four thousand students in secondary and higher schools engaged in work that leads up to the Ministry, Teaching, Medicine and other professions. From these are drawn all types of leaders that play an important part in the progress of the black race. These are never brought into direct contact with white students of their corresponding school grade, because of the social conventions of the country. Politicians regard this as a, good thing. The result is that both white and black leaders grow up and attain to maturity in absolute ignorance of each other and each other's aims in life They only come to know one another late in adult life after they have independently settles their views on the question of what sort of race-relationship they shall cultivate toward each other. The resulting' attitude is often one of groundless mutual suspicion, sometimes one of hostility, rarely one of cordial Christian friendship.

The circumstances that contribute to this dangerous exclusiveness are due to the social conventions dictated by politicians and accepted as the correct philosophy for the country. In my humble opinion it seems open to question whether this is as it ought to be. If we ask ourselves the following' questions:

Will time be finally on our side? Will the future justify it? What will happen when the three thousand educated black leaders become three million men and women growing up in an atmosphere of hatred and suspicion against the white people of the future? Will that be in harmony with the Christian principle of goodwill among' men white and black'? --we are at once landed in a quandary.

This is a phase of our race relationship well worth study by this conference because it has been entirely neglected by both the missionaries and politicians. It is the kernel of what is badly named the "-Native Question," a misnomer for what would be better understood if we renamed it '' Inter-racial Relationship."

One result of the present situation is that the best" educated Bantu never come into touch with the best educated Europeans until they have adopted toward each other an attitude based on theoretical and preconceived notions, or notions casually gathered from anywhere but the right sources. Our sole help today for correcting such notions lies in the Native Welfare Societies and Joint Councils conducted for adults long past their formative and impressionable years of life. Would it not make for improvement if tin's process of mutual understanding took place at an earlier stage of life? If so, under what circumstances and auspices could that he undertaken? How, and by whom? This problem is difficult because many Europeans in this land would shrink in anger at the idea of black students being brought into contact with white students even under Christian auspices, though they take not the slightest umbrage at a European-Bantu conference of forty white men and women discussing political, social and religious questions with forty educated black men and women, as happened at Johannesburg in 1923 and in Cape Town this year.

In such European-Bantu conferences, which have been exceedingly good, one is impressed by the belated efforts of many good people to overtake opportunities of learning about the other race rather late in the day of their lives.

One feels that if selected representatives of such an organisation as the Students' Christian Association, both European and Native sections, say one member from each district or centre, could be brought together in a conference under arrangements planned by the present committee, a great deal could be achieved in the way of influencing future generations towards a better understanding. This would help much in creating an improved tone in general public opinion and dispel much unfounded prejudice. In fact Professor Edgar Brookes after making his first personal acquaintance with Fort Hare and Lovedale last June threw out a suggestion on these lines to the European students at Bloemfontein.

The lead in such a movement will best a conference of the present type. And I humbly leave this suggestion to the meeting in the hope that it may develop like the Scriptural grain of mustard seed into a great tree of inter-racial goodwill under the shadows of which future white and black South Africans shall find solace and happiness.

The Segregation Fallacy