Letter to the SRC president: A response by Saul Musker

Saul Musker, a first year Bachelor of Arts student at Wits wrote an open letter  to Wits SRC president Sibulele  Mgudlwa’s .  Mgudlwa wrote what he called a “Closed Open letter to an illusory white friend“. Below is Musker’s response to Mgudlwa’s letter. 

Dear Sibulele,

Firstly, you will note that this is an open letter. I mean, actually an open letter, not a closed open one. You lamented in last week’s Wits Vuvuzela (“Closed” open letter to an illusory white friend”) that you do not have a white friend. I was terribly sorry to hear this; I could see how it pains you. I was also sorry to discover that you are “suffering from an incorrigible personality characterized by traces of mild ignorance and largely baseless stereotypes”.Acceptance is the first step to healing, they say.

[pullquote]why can’t black people befriend me?[/pullquote]Let me start out by saying that I have read many similar letters before. Each represents an honest reflection on their prejudices, a well-intentioned attempt to understand their racial isolation. Yours, though, is the first such piece I have seen by a black writer. Indeed, most white folk will find your argument familiar; the number of times I have had to endure lectures by white acquaintances about why they have no black friends is beyond count (because they’re just so different, we have no common ground and the ever-present ‘why can’t black people befriend me?’). Each time I cringe, and, believe me, I cringed no less reading your frank confessional.

The truth is that, much like your white intellectual kin, your charming ‘honesty’ is no more than a clever shroud behind which to obscure a deep and noxious prejudice. I see a broader problem with your words. Your letter reduces race elations to a clash of the classes, a case of the divide between poor black students and their rich white counterparts. It does not matter how statistically accurate this picture may be. What you have accomplished is to reduce people, human beings, to the sum of their economic context. You establish a dichotomy in which poor black res-dwellers find it impossible to forge relationships with wealthier white suburbanites. This dichotomy is precisely what prevents meaningful inter-racial dialogue on campus.

You suggest that you need a white friend “for financial benefit, which includes getting a lift to Bree taxi rank whenever necessary”. With that glib sentence you unfairly relegate black students to the users of taxi ranks, refusing to allow them the dignity of being defined by other measures.  You unfairly relegate white students (who may well have been born into unearned privilege) to the ranks of the rich, denying them the right to be something more than that. Walking around Wits, one encounters a variety people.[pullquote]You suggest that you need a white friend “for financial benefit, which includes getting a lift to Bree taxi rank whenever necessary[/pullquote]r

One sees poor black students and their white private-school counterparts who have transcended their differences to develop profound and rewarding relationships. One also sees people like you, who remain so rooted in their one-dimensional, self-congratulatory racism (and laziness) that they cannot.

I only wonder how you, now a self-confessed racist, managed to become our SRC president. We needed better.
Your white brother, who could have been your white friend,

Saul Musker