Saturday, August 19, 2006

Should your race affect the merits of your argument?

In an astonishing counterpoint to the article from Professor Xolela Mangcu who argued that race often stands in the way of things being said, Professor Anton Harber writes of arguments in an online forum that were questioned once the contributor's race was questioned. She claimed she was black and questioned many black contributors' claims in the forum. When they disputed her race, her arguments were then also questioned.

It is fascinating reading the two articles (both from the Business Day). To my mind it illustrates the very roots of discrimination. We naturally look for commonality or difference. It defines the earliest social interactions we have. At pre-school level kids might find themselves part of a group or out of it based on a subtle attribute such as an accent. That grouping becomes all the more stark when we argue and instinctively look for support from those like us. When the argument itself is about discrimination, we become intolerant of those like us taking a different view - because it threatens our sense of who we are.

Professor Anton Harber's article can be found on his blog, The Harbinger.

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