As is made clear by its title, the latest book from self-described “accidental writer” and critic Eusebius McKaiser is an uncompromising critique of racism in post-apartheid South Africa and particularly the political climate since last year’s #RhodesMustFall activism.
The book launch was held in the Eden Red lecture theatre on the evening of the 25th February, where McKaiser addressed the almost-full theatre on the ideas explored in the book, and took time to engage with those present on notions of institutional racism, radical identity politics and what it is to be racist in present-day South Africa.
Highlighting key chapters from his book, McKaiser discussed topics surrounding racism and its contemporary manisfestation, defining a racist action as one that expresses a “vicious ill-will” towards a person of a different racial category to themselves. The implications of a definition of racism according to the quality of will are that even in isolation, a racist remains a racist, regardless of whether their views are expressed in the form of a racially-motivated comment or action against a person of another race.
From this foundation, McKaiser attempts to build a critique of a deeply racist society, and examine how best it might be dismantled. Sparing none from such a critique, including himself, McKaiser’s address interrogated in his engaging style notions explored in the book, such as those of “race receipts”, whether black people can be racist (and whether such a question is important) as well as other highly controversial issues.
Unapologetically political and philosophical, McKaiser used the Q&A session after his address to engage with the audience, sparing none from his acidly honest and astute responses. Distancing himself from positions he finds unacceptable on both ends of the political spectrum, McKaiser’s accessible style and willingness to engage was well received by those present, and will no doubt impact on the success of his book.
As for those unwilling to engage in conversations of race, the so-called “colour blind”, McKaiser could only state how he maintains that such a position is entirely unhelpful, and the mere result of an unwillingness to engage with hard questions concerning racial identity.
“For me, the real project is that we want an anti-racist society, we don’t want a non-racial society.”
Run Racist, Run is available at Van Schaik Bookstores on High Street.
Words by Pierre Durandt