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Whiteness has undermined the value of black communities, in this black people are no longer accurately represented by their own beliefs and culture. This essay will focus on why these negative perceptions have come about, look at a way to resolve them and restore Black African communities’ true identity. “Whiteness” has been defined as a series of traits or characteristics associated with white race. Mentality is described by Merriam-Webster (2019) as an outlook or way of thought. These two concepts are important to understand in order to grasp what is meant by “whiteness mentality”. In this context “whiteness mentality” can be understood as the perception white people have on black communities due to the characteristics associated with white people, along with possible advantages or different way of life experienced by white people, especially in South Africa. Whiteness affects how people see the world and move within it (Berlak, 2008).
African communities have been socially constructed based on the views of those surrounding them and potentially leading to the views amongst themselves, of themselves. Colonisation is where social construction begins, as that is the beginning of how the African communities were affected. White colonies from Europe came to Africa and colonised numerous Black communities. Violence, guns and machinery were used to take land and people for the benefit of the white population. Whites were now rich in resource and power and blacks the exact antithesis. This power allowed for perceptions of black people and stretched so far as to white children viewing blacks in a negative manner. If black children were to go to schools in White Africa, they would be undermined and treated as though they were ignorant to the world in which they live, made to feel inferior. Black Africa was perceived as slow, inhuman, vicious and a number of other notorious traits by the colonisers (Fanon, 1963). These remarks were potentially made due to their acts of polygamy, the way in which they lived their lives, their beliefs and their culture. Children of white colonisers would call black people “Negro’s”, this displays how much reckless power whites had. The settlers’ thrived to dehumanize these ‘brutal’, ‘illogical’ and ‘barbaric’ people, the settlers’ instilled a psychology upon the natives that if the colonisers were to leave, African’s would revert back to their uncivilised ways. Africans’ would then believe that their colonised life is the ‘right’ way to live.
Social construction affected the way in which African communities understood themselves and how they now conduct their lives, however culture played and still today plays a fundamental role in describing black African people’s identity. A major challenge the natives faced during colonialism was potentially a loss of identity through the loss of culture. With the power of the colonisers customs, values, beliefs, traditions and essentially culture was influenced by the beliefs of Western culture. Black people went to Christian, Western churches and heard Western cultural myths and spiritual beliefs, this was potentially the only beliefs and culture blacks were able to practice and therefore lost contact with their own beliefs and culture. Intellectual natives would seek to defend the existence of their culture and realise that this requires them to fight physically and that fighting would give their past value again. Fanon (1963) states that the extent to which natives defend the existence of their culture is amazing and that the unrestricted affirmation of African culture is great, an African Cultural Society was created in evidence of this. However fighting for culture poses a challenge within itself, fighting for one’s culture during colonialism meant risking one’s life and therefore at risk of losing their culture anyway. In light of this several natives withdrew from Western ways and turned toward any culture in avoidance of the western one and this lead to a loss of identity.
Fanon (1963) responds by stating that the upholding of tradition, or lack thereof is not exclusively because of colonisation but also due to the national middle class having what he suggests is ‘intellectual laziness’ and spiritual poverty that the natives mind is set in. Fanon (1963) also acknowledges an extent of this ‘laziness’, in the post-colonial world. The economy is poor and natives set out to create a capitalistic society, focusing on activities that are secondary and tertiary. Activities such as business, agriculture and liberal professions rather than industrialists, production and labour, this expresses the ignorance they have of their own countries economy (Fanon, 1963). The challenges are therefore multiple, the ability to function in a society where your life has been overthrown. In a place ruled by people whom aim to rule your mind and your possessions Fanon (1963), to rule your beliefs and your identity. Somewhere in which it is difficult to remain alive, where your existence is to serve someone else, these are challenges which may pose threat to one’s psychology and may lead to a vulnerable and extremely sensitive existence. This shows how social constructionism and challenges faced on African communities through mentality of white people, can create implications which are not only physically but emotionally and mentally susceptible.
Psychological effects would be in the colonised towns were dust bins were not emptied and there was no electricity Fanon (1963), this makes the basic means of living difficult. Wealth distributions is not equal among the levels of society and this lead to a large proportion of the native population starving to death Fanon (1963). Fanon (1963) explains that mental development is uneven, old traditions are unfamiliar, perceptions are tainted and young African people are unstable and at risk of western assault, all due to colonisation.
The natives, in post-colonial times, are exposed to a country with little economic power and therefore are not able to obtain immediate needs. This may also be long term as to obtain those basic needs may prove difficult in a slowly developing economy. To acquire a spiritual and cultural identity of what black communities once had will be a long process especially with those mentally affected by colonisation would need to alter back to concepts of which are no longer familiar to them.
Race is an integral part of the world today, especially in South Africa. Race facilitates every facet of a person’s life, from what job and opportunities are available to you to politics and law. Race is understood to be a social phenomenon meaning the association between physical features and assuming personal characteristics, this is a way of explaining, understanding and acting in the world. Race has been socially constructed and in doing so personal characteristics have been associated with it, a flat nose, woolly hair and darker skin complexion determined your place in slavery. However this worked in both ways, white people are also affected by the social construction of race (Haney Lopez, 1994) not all whites believed in these tests to determine one’s nature and not all whites believed slavery was correct, so it is clear personal characteristics do not align with one’s race. This also follows into Apartheid South Africa, not all whites condoned this era and fought against it.
It is clear how social construction has stemmed from days of slavery into a new age and still being used for negative associations towards African communities. In Apartheid South Africa race determined your place in society and for Black African’s that was a status of great inferiority, intellectually and otherwise (Dubow, 1992). Every separation in every part of South Africa and the uneven resource distribution enabled the negative perception people had of black South Africans to develop. Apartheid segregation allowed the state to maintain land in its use, possession and occupation of the land, the Group Areas Act reinforced this claim. The land segregation also restricted Blacks in educational services.
During Apartheid Black communities underwent human rights abuse. The National Party and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission allowed the health professionals to become complicit to the variety of human rights abuses that took place of a daily basis in healthcare institutions. These health professionals at times used their knowledge to help the state in the fight against the opponents of Apartheid by manipulating access to healthcare. Healthcare of masses of people were either ignored, or violated through moral and ethical codes during apartheid and colonialism. There has also been an extreme lack of support for organisations and individuals who oppose Apartheid and are often victimised for doing so. The entire health sector was corrupt due to Apartheid affecting all facets of the industry and explicitly affecting the opponents of Apartheid, largely the black African communities.
Another major challenge black people experienced during Apartheid was racial groups were segregated and educated separately, by separate departments of education. The resources received and quality of education was determined by which racial group to whom you belonged. ‘Whites’ received First World resources whilst the other racial groups received Third World resources. The resources the majority received were facilities filled with too many people, therefore overcrowded and uncomfortable learning conditions, the teachers were underqualified or not trained well and the content learned was to reinforce the racial segregation and classification experienced in the current Apartheid society (Nates, 2010).
During Apartheid and colonialism African language was defined as ‘tongue’ as opposed to recognised as a ‘language’ which the term in itself held value, rights and esteem whereas the associations with the term ‘tongue’ did not bestow such high remarks, in fact the opposite. African languages did not have equal status to that of Afrikaans and English. Despite the efforts of South Africa’s New Constitutions and policies, there has not been significant improvement in the use and status of African languages in education. It is recognised that the only way for a positive change to occur for African language use and status to change would be to change social construction, change in language attitudes, teacher training and incentives.
In Post- Apartheid South Africa the implications of Apartheid are vast and still in the process of rectification. Education systems were designed to suit white communities and therefore need major transformation to meet the needs of the rest of the population in this black communities are affected by educational systems in Post-Aparthied era. Implications of Apartheid were discussed by Punt (2010), Punt (2010) expressed that Apartheid affected human dignity, black communities are suffering from the lack of self-respect and self-esteem. These communities also did not benefit from the acquisition of fundamental life skills Punt (2010). Punt (2010) goes further to explain the inadequacies of today’s society and says that there are high statistics in teenage pregnancies, substance abuse, breakdown of relationships and HIV/AIDS within communities is explained by the unhappy past of Apartheid. However this does not explain the presence of the same inadequacies experienced in other communities in South Africa and throughout the world.
There are initiatives in place to transform the education system. Employment Equity Policies are implemented to reconstruct the racial composition of student and staff bodies to reflect a true population composition. The New Constitution and Bill of Rights were incorporated to change the Apartheid laws, and therefore set out to rectify the racially classified educational system (Nates, 2010) and dismantle the unhinged health sector. There were statutory bodies put in place to protect human rights. The Bill of Rights and New Constitution however, are not yet infiltrated into the Post-Apartheid society (Punt, 2010). The new laws have not been tested and there are no clear plans for implementation within the health department. The new laws and protection of human rights requires resources this is not easily available in a struggling economy such as South Africa.
The Promotion of Equality and Prohibition of Unfair Discrimination Act is a part of the New Constitution in which prohibits discrimination. There was focus on the fact that is accommodates for socio-economic status discrimination (Liebenberg, 2015) and this will benefit previously disadvantaged African communities and with this hopefully regain self-esteem. The New Constitution enables all people to have rights, freedom and benefit of the law. The New Constitution allowing for fair human rights to everyone will allow for fairness in treatment and negative social perceptions to diminish. The socio-economic rights are seen as a way to enable all people to have equal opportunities. Redressing inequality and social rights is important for equal resource distribution that has stemmed from colonial and Apartheid eras (Liebenberg, 2015) however the focus of doing so has to be on social factors such as race and dismantling those who benefit more and reaching those who benefit less to equal levels rather than trying to equate them through disadvantaged people receiving more social services and rights. These aspects of change could potentially allow for an equal society and therefore a relief on negative association and perception on those disadvantaged, largely black African communities.
The Employment Equity Act was developed Post-Aparthied to amend the effects of unjust discrimination and allow equity in the workforce. Companies claimed to employ the policies under the Employment Equity Act but were later discovered that numerous higher positions were held by whites and few black people were employed into higher positions (Martin & Durrheim, 2006). This displays that although laws have been assigned to Post-Apartheid South Africa that does not always mean they are implemented correctly and effective. The challenges and implications black African communities have faced due to colonisation and Apartheid is vast and extensive. Changing social construction and perceptions associated with “whiteness mentality” will require far more than new policies and programs, it will require the change in the internal mind of everyone in the world, true acceptance and essentially allow Black African communities to reflect who they truly are in the scope of South Africa and the world.
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