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“Racism is a Big Challenge; It’s Even Bigger than We Think” – Eusebius McKaiser Launches Run Racist Run

Eusebius McKaiser

 
Eusebius McKaiser and Redi TlhabiRun Racist RunThere is only one word to describe the recent launch of Run Racist Run: Journeys Into The Heart Of Racism by Eusebius McKaiser – explosive.

Redi Tlhabi joined McKaiser in conversation at Exclusive Books Rosebank, and people arrived in droves to hear the two political trendsetters speak.

CEO and publisher of Bookstorm, Louise Grantham, welcomed over 200 guests to the biggest Bookstorm launch ever, and those who were unable to attend the event participated actively on social media.

Before the launch began, McKaiser sent out a challenge to the racists and bigots of the world (scroll down for more tweets):

 
McKaiser’s provocative new book explores the long-overdue conversation of race and racism in South Africa that was ignited this year by the #RhodesMustFall debates and its spin-offs.

Why this book? Why now? “If you work consciously as a writer you can’t ignore the context in which you live,” McKaiser said about the deep racial injustices in South Africa. “Part of white privilege is that you can afford to give race a break and I couldn’t.”

“When I saw the title of your book I had expectations. It’s funny but you’re not joking,” Tlhabi said. She commented on the distinction McKaiser makes in the book between violent, overt racism and insidious, hidden racism. McKaiser said it’s interesting to grapple with racism that is more difficult to label and presented the crowd with a philosophical problem: “If Max du Preez tells Steve Hofmeyr to fuck off, does it make him less of a racist?”

Eusebius McKaiser“What interests me are acts of racism that don’t announce themselves as racism,” McKaiser said, adding that he’s more curious about English liberals than Afrikaans ones. There’s a chapter in Run Racist Run entitled “Reporting from the racist heart” which deals with these non-bloody forms of racism. Whatever shape it comes in, however, “racism is a big challenge; it’s even bigger than we think”.

Speaking of liberalism, Tlhabi said that the theme permeates the text. “You’ve fucked up the idea of liberalism,” she said, “almost like you’re telling us we’ve missed the project”.

“I feel compelled to write about my lived racial experiences,” McKaiser said. The author grew up in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape where he attended St Mary’s – a school “on the wrong side of Grahamstown’s inequality divide” – and later the wealthier Graeme College. In his book, McKaiser reflects on the violence against black bodies in private schools.

“I don’t think our generation of coconuts were unaware,” McKaiser said, but “we didn’t have the sharp language of the students today”. There’s also a chapter that deals with his memories and perceptions – then and now – of his experience at Rhodes University. “I thought I was self-aware but I walked around Rhodes campus with blinkers on,” McKaiser said, explaining that he remembers a Rhodes that never existed. “These spaces were always violent,” he said.

On the issue of whiteness, McKaiser said: “Whiteness is so ubiquitous; I even started writing Run Racist Run with an apology to white people on why I’m writing about race.” One of the chapters in the book deals with the question that white people ask: “What am I supposed to do?”

“It’s a moral failure to ask that question, what must I do? It’s lazy and it means you haven’t done introspection,” McKaiser said. “The biggest volume of racism is committed by white people, so they have to deal.” The author shared the titles of the two essays in the book that were most painful to write: “For coloured people only” and “Black people and Xenophobia”.

“Has your anger dissipated?” Tlhabi asked towards the end of the conversation. “No!” McKaiser exclaimed, “it’s important to get angry”. Reflecting on the instrumental usefulness of anger, he said: “I was pissed off that I had to justify my anger and I’m not more calm now.”

“If you’ve lived with underprivilege all your life, even those of us who are brave are quite tame,” McKaiser said in conclusion. “We are required as writers to engage with these realities; you can’t write poetry about what’s in your garden.”

 

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In between signing books and meeting old friends, McKaiser tweeted pictures of the star-studded audience:

 

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Annetjie van Wynegaard (@Annetjievw) live tweeted the event using #livebooks:


 

 

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Facebook gallery

 

 

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During and after the launch, the #RunRacistRun hashtag trended! Have a look at what the Twitterati have to say about McKaiser’s new book:
 


 

Book details

 

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