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The Black Man’s Place in South Africa
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Pages (PDF): 73
Publication Date: 1922
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A surprisingly sympathetic account of the South African people here. The author sets out a question; can the natives of South Africa be assimilated into Western culture. He then goes on to detail a few things such as the mind of the native, their achievements, etc. He eventually comes to the conclusion that despite white people being essentially no better than their African cousins, people will fail to see this and so separation of the two races will be for the best.
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The white man has taken up the burden of ruling his dark-skinned fellows throughout the world, and in South Africa he has so far carried that burden alone, feeling well assured of his fitness for the task. He has seen before him a feeble folk, strong only in their numbers and fit only for service, a people unworthy of sharing with his own race the privileges of social and political life, and it has seemed right therefore in his sight that this people should continue to bend under his dominant will. But to-day the white man is being disturbed by signs of coming strength among the black and thriving masses; signs of the awakening of a consciousness of racial manhood that is beginning to find voice in a demand for those rights of citizenship which hitherto have been so easily withheld.
The white people are beginning to ask themselves whether they shall sit still and wait till that voice becomes clamant and insistent throughout the land or whether they shall begin now to think out and provide means for dealing with those coming events whose shadows are already falling athwart the immediate outlook. The strong and solid feeling among the whites in the past against giving any political rights to the blacks however civilised they might be is not so strong or as solid as it was.
The number is growing of those among the ruling race who feel that the right of representation should here also follow the burden of taxation, but while there are many who think thus, those who try to think the matter out in all its bearings soon come to apprehend the possibility that where once political equality has been granted social equality may follow, and this apprehension makes the thinking man pause to think again before he commits himself to a definite and settled opinion.
Taking the civilisation of to-day to mean an ordered and advanced state of society in which all men are equally bound and entitled to share the burdens and privileges of the whole political and social life according to their individual limitations we ask whether the African Natives are capable of acquiring this civilisation, and whether, if it be proved that their capacity for progress is equal to that of the Europeans, the demand for full racial equality that must inevitably follow can in fairness be denied. This I take to be the crux of the Native Question in South Africa.
Before we attempt to answer this question it is necessary to find out, if we can, in what ways the African differs from the European; for if it be found that there are radical and inherent differences between the two races of a kind that seem certain to remain unaltered by new influences and changed environment then the whites will feel justified in denying equality where nature herself has made it impossible, whereas if the existing difference be proved to be only outwardly acquired and not inwardly heritable then the coming demand for equality will stand supported by natural right which may not be ignored.
The question, then, before us is this. Is the African Native equal to the European in mental and moral capacity or is he not? We must have an answer tothis question, for we cannot assign to the Native his proper place in the general scheme of our civilisation till we know exactly what manner of man he is.
We of to-day are rightly proud of our freedom from the sour superstitions and religious animosities of the past, but these hindrances to progress and general happiness were only dispelled by the light of scientific thought and clear reasoning. Let us then bring to bear that same blessed light upon our present enquiry into the reasons, real or fancied, for those prejudices of race and colour which we still retain, for it is only by removing the misconceptions and false notions that obscure our view that we can come to a clear understanding of the many complex issues that make up the great Native problem of Africa.
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