Neville Alexander addressed the Wits Democracy Debate on October 30, 2007. A summary of his presentation follows:
Affirmative Action and the Perpetuation of Racial Identities in Post-Apartheid South Africa
While Alexander recognizes that affirmative action may serve a purpose, and that only conservatives are outright against it, there are some serious problems with this policy. He argues that the problem is that affirmative action is based on a racial ideology that perpetuates racial identities; hence, the issue is how to do affirmative action without perpetuating racial identities? He is quick to add that while he may end up in the same camp with white conservatives who want to protect their racial privileges, he believes South Africa is stuck with affirmative action policies because no social revolution was implemented.
The ANC in government applies affirmative action and continues with a racial ideology to show to a majority of black people that the new regime has something to offer to them. Otherwise, the current regime would just be seen by black people as a neo-apartheid regime. However, in order to work towards non-racialism, what is needed is to re-imagine socially constructed identities and communities.
The maintenance of a racial ideology through race classification contradicts the constitution which requires non-racialism. Race thinking is entrenched through racial classification when in fact the real issue is disadvantage, not race.
Under the current regime, broad based poverty reduction is neglected and preference is given to policies that support the advancement of the black middle class. Alexander asks why it is that a white capitalist is seen as a foreigner and not one of ‘us’, but a black capitalist should be belonging to the people? This shows that racial awareness and racial ideology is still very much present and the task is then to problematize racial identities.