Identifying and counter-acting the communication of racist tendencies in the workplace in South Africa

De Vries, Vernon Charles (2001-12)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This mini thesis is being submitted within a few weeks of two important events focusing on racism. One is the World Conference on Racism (WCAR), which was held in South Africa from 31 August to 7 September 2001; and the other is the release on 30 August 2001 of Race relations and racism in everyday life, a summary report on the results of a national survey commissioned by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR survey). The WCAR, as President Thabo Mbeki said in his opening address to it, had "to indicate what is to be done practically" to bring about "a changed and changing world in which all human beings actually enjoy the inalienable right to human dignity". Instead, months of careful planning and fastidiously drafted declarations were undermined by undignified squabbling over whether or not the United States should send a delegation to the Conference. Right at the end, when it seemed as if the conference was going to close on an inconclusive note, a United Nations declaration and programme of action was drafted that set out the 10 most important commitments for continuing to combat racism. What the WCAR didn't do, however, was leave people with an understanding of subtly conveyed racism and how individuals can change their behaviour so that a culture of nonracism is developed. The SAIRR survey was conducted in response to a plethora of media reports of racial friction or conflict. Its overall objective was to establish the extent to which 'the attitudes and inter-action of people in the new South Africa (are) still structured by racial definitions'. Although the results (see paragraph 1.4.4) show that only 5% of South Africans regard race as the cause of problems they have with other people, 59% regard racism as a serious problem. Moreover, the section of the population most concerned with race issues is the white Afrikaans-speaking group, the group most blamed for previous racial discrimination. By contrast, black African people, who are generally considered to have been the main victims of discrimination, are much less concerned with race issues than the media have made them out to be. The outcomes of the WCAR and the SAIRR survey may be telling us that the attention given to racism by the media is excessive in relation to the time the South African public spends thinking about it. On the other hand, the outcomes also reveal that most people's understanding of racism is limited to their awareness of inhumane acts or blatant racism. People may indeed be experiencing most of the examples discussed in Chapter 4, but they may not be identifying them as racism. The main objectives of this mini thesis, therefore, are to: • provide a short theoretical overview of communication and of racism; • discuss the ways in which racist tendencies are communicated and explain how that causes communication barriers; and to • discuss and recommend strategies for developing a culture of non-racism. One of the main tenets of the thesis is that, despite the democratisation of South Africa, racism continues to be communicated in various ways in the South African workplace. Fourteen of these ways are discussed in Chapter 4. They include: devaluation of previous suffering; stereotyping; perceptions of self-superiority and negative expectancies of other races; and the creation of in-groups and out-groups. In each case the racism puts up communication barriers between the sender and receiver of messages. These barriers include: unwillingness or inability to understand communications because of resentment or a lack of trust; distortion or misinterpretation of messages; poor performance because of negative expectancies; and conflict that breaks down team spirit. In other words, apart from its dehumanising effects, racism also has a detrimental effect on communication between people. The combined effect is to undermine people's performance in the workplace. Accordingly, in Chapter 6, a package of strategies is presented for developing a culture of non-racism. The strategies operate on different levels, beginning with a focus on nonracism in a universal context. The focus then shifts to the national legislative framework before moving on to organizational policies and culture, such as diversity and inclusiveness. Finally, the focus falls on the individual, and ways are discussed of developing the individual's awareness of racism and also his/her ability to control hislher own communication. The concluding argument put forward IS that awareness and understanding of racist tendencies, together with control over what and how they communicate, will enable individuals to make non-racism the norm in their inter-action with other people in the workplace.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie mini-verhandeling word voorgelê binne 'n paar weke van twee belangrike gebeurtenisse wat op rassime gemik is. Een van hierdie gebeurtenisse is die World Conference on Racism (WCAR), wat vanaf 31 Augustus tot 7 September 2001 in Suid- Afrika gehou is; die ander gebeurtenis is die bekendstelling op 30 Augustus 2001 van Race relations and racism in everyday life, die opsomming-verslag van 'n nasionale opname wat deur die South African Institute of Race Relations opgedra is (die SAIRRopname). Soos President Thabo Mbeki dit in sy openingsrede by die WCAR gestel het, moes die WCAR aandui wat prakties gedoen moet word om 'n veranderde en veranderende wêreld daar te stel waarin alle mense onvervreembare regte op menswaardigheid geniet. In stede daarvan is maande van deeglike beplanning en puntenerige opstelling van deklarasies deur onwaardige gekibbel ondermyn - en dit het alles gegaan oor of die Verenigde State 'n delegasie na die konferensie moes stuur al dan nie. Toe dit geblyk het dat die konferensie op 'n onbeslisde einde afstuur, is 'n United Nations Declaration and programme of action haastig opgestel. Hierdie dokument sit uiteen die 10 belangrikste stappe vorentoe om aksie teen rassime te neem. Nieteenstaande hierdie dokument, het die WCAR nie vir mense 'n begrip van subtiele rassime gegee nie. Dit het ook nie aangedui hoe mense hul gedrag kan aanpas sodat 'n kultuur van nie-rassisme teweeggebring kan word nie. Die SAIRR -opname is opgedra in reaksie op mediaberigte oor rassekonflik. Die oorhoofse doel daarvan was om vas te stel in watter mate Suid-Afrikaners se begrip van ras hul houding teenoor, en inter-aksie, met ander mense beïnvloed. Die resultate (kyk paragraaf 1.4.4) dui aan dat slegs 5% van Suid-Afrikaners van mening is dat ras die oorsaak is van hulle probleme met ander mense is. Aan die ander kant beskou 59% van Suid-Afrikaners ras as 'n ernstige probleem. Wat interressant is, is dat blanke Afrikaans-sprekende mense die mees besorgd oor rassisme is - en hulle is die groep wat hoofsaaklik blameer word vir historiese rasse-diskriminasie. In teenstelling daaroor, is swart Afrika-mense, wat die meeste onder rasse-diskriminasie gely het, heelwat minder besorgd oor rasseaangeleenthede as wat die media voorgee. Die uitvloeisels van die WCAR en die SAIRR-opname wys miskien dat die media heelwat meer aandag aan rasse-aangeleenthede gee as die Suid-Afrikaanse publiek. Hierdie uivloeisels wys egter ook dat die meeste mense se begrip van rassisme beperk is tot bewustheid van onmenslike dade of blatante rassisme. Miskien beleef mense wel die soort gedrag wat in Hoofstuk 4 beskryf word, maar hulle besef nie dat dit op rassisme neerkom nie. Na aanleiding daarvan, het hierdie mini-studieprojek drie hoof doelwitte: • om 'n kort teoretiese oorsig te gee oor kommunikasie en rassisme; • om 'n bespreking te hou oor die kommunikasie van rassistiese neigings en dan te verduidelik hoe dit kommunikasie-versperrings veroorsaak; en om 'n bespreking te hou en aanbevelings te doen oor hoe 'n kultuur van nie-rassisme ontwikkel kan word. 'n Kernagtige leerstelling in die verslag is dat rassisme op verskeie maniere in die Suid- Afrikaanse werkplek voorkom, nieteenstaande die demokratisering van die land. Hierdie voorbeelde sluit in: die ontwaarding van voormalige lyding; stereotipering; persepsies van eie meerderwaardigheid asook negatiewe verwagtinge ten opsigte van anderkleuriges; en die skepping van sogenaamde ingroepe and uitgroepe. In elkeen van dié gevalle veroorsaak rassisme versperrings tussen die sender van boodskappe (bv. spreker) en die ontvanger van boodskappe (bv. luisteraar). Sodanige versperrings sluit die volgende in: • onbereidheid of onvermoë om boodskappe te verstaan vanweë gegriefdheid of afwesigheid van vertroue; • verdraaiing of wanvertolking van boodskappe; • slegte prestasie as gevolg van negatiewe verwagtinge; en • konflik wat spangees afbreek. Rassisme het dus 'n ontmenslikingde uitwerking én dit veroorsaak kommunikasieversperrings. Die algemene uitwerking daarvan is om mense se prestasie in die werkplek te ondermyn. In die lig hiervan, stel Hoofstuk 6 strategieë voor vir die ontwikkeling van 'n kultuur van nie-rassime. Dié strategieë werk op verskillende vlakke. Om mee te begin, is die fokus op nie-rassisme in 'n universele konteks. Daarna word gefokus op die nasionale wetgewende raamwerk wat diskriminasie betref. Dit word gevolg deur 'n bespreking oor organisasiebeleid en -kultuur, soos 'diversity and inclusiveness'. Uiteindelik val die fokus op die individu, spesifiek op hoe om die individu se bewustheid van rassisme te verbeter en hoe om die individu te leer om beheer uit te oefen oor sy/haar eie kommunikasie. Die slot-argument wat na vore gebring word, is dat bewustheid en begrip van rassistiese neigings, tesame met beheer oor hul eie kommunikasie, individue in staat stel om nierassisme die norm te maak in hulle inter-aksie met ander mense in die werkplek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52300
This item appears in the following collections: