The 'Fuck White People' phenomenon in South Africa: a discursive and statistical analysis

SOURCE: Politikon
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2019
TITLE AUTHOR(S): S.Swartz, A-N.Nyamnjoh, B.Roberts, S.Gordon
KEYWORDS: PUBLIC OPINION, SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIAL ATTITUDES SURVEY (SASAS), STATISTICS, STUDENTS PROTESTS
DEPARTMENT: Inclusive Economic Development (IED)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 11158
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/15087

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Abstract

During the recent student protests in South Africa "fuck white people" appeared on T-shirts and walls. When understood only as anti-white sentiments, these words could cause panic and fear. However, we need to determine the extent to which these opinions are shared, by whom, and what should be done to people who propagated these views. To address these questions, an item was inserted in the 2016 nationally representative South African Social Attitudes Survey (n = 2988). An overwhelming majority of the adult population (96%) expressed a clear preference for how this phenomenon should be addressed. Of this, 26% recommended that those wearing/writing this phrase should be informed that they are hampering the prospects of peaceful coexistence between different race groups (the social cohesion argument), while 39% advocated refrain from such rhetoric. 16% adopted a retributive stance and little more than a tenth (13%) non-interventionist. Only a nominal proportion (2%) believed such behaviour should be praised for drawing attention to persisting white privilege in South African society. We discuss these findings and their socio-demographic variations discursively, as part of white fragility and rainbow nation mythology, observing the provocative and productive dimensions of this phenomenon.