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The continuing salience of race: Discrimination and diversity in South Africa

Year: 2008
Author: Seekings, Jeremy
Unit: SSU
Journal: Journal of Contemporary African Studies
Volume: 28
Issue: 1
Pages: 1-25
DOI: 10.1080/02589000701782612

The end of apartheid has brought a resurgence of research into racial identities, attitudes and behaviour in South Africa. The legacy of systematic racial ordering and discrimination under apartheid is that South Africa remains deeply racialised, in cultural and social terms, as well as deeply unequal, in terms of the distribution of income and opportunities. South Africans continue to see themselves in the racial categories of the apartheid era, in part because these categories have become the basis for post-apartheid 'redress', in part because they retain cultural meaning in everyday life. South Africans continue to inhabit social worlds that are largely defined by race, and many express negative views of other racial groups. There has been little racial integration in residential areas, although schools provide an important opportunity for inter-racial interaction for middleclass children. Experimental and survey research provide little evidence of racism, however. Few people complain about racial discrimination, although many report everyday experiences that might be understood as discriminatory. Racial discrimination per se seems to be of minor importance in shaping opportunities in post-apartheid South Africa. Far more important are the disadvantages of class, exacerbated by neighbourhood effects: poor schooling, a lack of footholds in the labour market, a lack of financial capital. The relationship between race and class is now very much weaker than in the past. Overall, race remains very important in cultural and social terms, but no longer structures economic advantage and disadvantage.

Keywords: racial discrimination; racial categories; racial redress; race and class

Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02589000701782612