Race was major discussion point at the Franschhoek Literary Festival this year. During a talk called “Is Anger Underrated”, panelist Thando Mqgolozana discussed Khayelitsha township and the upliftment of people in poverty. Mgqolozana claims that donating clothes and helping out at soup kitchens doesn’t make a tangible difference to their lives.
“Stop the charity work, deal with racism at home,” he says. Mgqolozana had announced at Time of the Writer earlier this year that this would be his last appearance at a “white colonial” literary festival.
An audience member disrupted Mgqolozana numerous times by shouting: “That’s bullshit!” The woman, an HIV/Aids specialist, who worked in a community badly affected by the disease, said she was tired of feeling guilty for being white.
“I was born with white skin in this country. And this is not about me, but I have tried my whole life to make a difference,” she said, adding, “I’m so tired of feeling guilty for being white.”
Eusebius McKaiser, a South African political commentator and author who moderated the panel, posted about the incident on Facebook, saying that the incident had “affirmed for me the importance of us learning to talk better about anger and other emotions”.
“It requires difficult, personal, private work to focus on the vestiges of racism in myself and see the ways I’m implicated by our noxious history of racism. Mgqolozana is right to ask the doctor to do this work. Just as victims of colonialism and racism have to aim at the kind of self-determination he was talking about,” he wrote.
To read more about the “Is Anger Underrated?” session at the Franschhoek Literary festival, check out the BooksLive blog on the event.