In March 2015, an individual’s outraged protest against the display of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town (UCT) led to a tsunami of angry protests and expressions of pain, mostly from black students and some staff, though white students and staff were readily persuaded of the offensiveness of Rhodes’ presiding position on campus.
The explosive response signalled that the #RhodesMustFall movement was not just about the statue. It was testimony to a growing sense of anger and alienation with “the system” among many students – mostly black – who live with a sense of being outsiders who are just tolerated at UCT.
How did this happen on a campus that for decades has been aspiring to nonracialism or, at the very least, to racial equity and redress? Was it down to the racism of white lecturers and students? I don’t think so – although, no doubt, some of that exists.
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