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Patterns of Prejudice, 1979, 13 (6), 15-17.

WHITE SOUTH AFRICANS' VIEWS OF BLACKS



J. J. Ray

Three city councillors yesterday called on the responsible minister to act against the National Front organization for "fomenting racial hatred". In a letter to the minister, the councillors objected to a "scurrilous" pamphlet being distributed in their wards by the National Front. The letter said: "The tenor of this pamphlet is to the effect that the presence of 'non-whites' in apartment blocks in the area will result in "filth - squalor - racial fights'. This is incitement to racial hatred of the worst kind. "At this crucial time in history we ask you to take the appropriate action against this organization that spews such filth." They have asked the minister to act against the National Front in terms of the Riotous Assemblies Act. One of the councillors said Yesterday: "We object in the strongest terms to any persons or bodies prepared to use racial issues to incite hatred"


The above is a direct quote from a recent newspaper article changed only to omit names. Where does it come from? It could surely come from any British newspaper or perhaps even an Australian one. In fact it comes from the Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg's English-language morning newspaper, of 30 November, 1973. Is this the South Africa we all know about from our newspapers? Surely South Africans would welcome the National Front with open arms! What in fact are then the attitudes of South Africans to blacks?

A great deal of the research into South African attitudes towards blacks has been derived from surveys done among white South African University students (1). Such data, needless to say, tell us little about white South Africans as a whole. Because there is very little public support for university study in South Africa, South African students could well be even more a-typical than students elsewhere. For this reason, the data presented below are based on a random sample of South Africans resident in Johannesburg, contacted door-to-door and interviewed in their homes.

It is very clear that the rest of the world would expect South Africans to be extremely racist - the realities of Apartheid are well-known. What is missing, however, is actual details of how they do see blacks. In what way do they think that blacks are different? There is now some evidence that the attitudes of white South Africans have undergone a vast change in recent years (2).

` The questions to be asked of South Africans for the present purposes went back to a survey originally designed to document attitudes to Australian Aborigines (3). The set of ten questions were taken up by two South African psychologists and used by them in a survey of University student groups with the only alteration being that the word "Black" was used instead of "Aborigine" (4). Apparently the sort of thing that tended to be said of Australian blacks was also the sort of thing that tended to be said of South African blacks. On the present occasion, these ten questions were augmented by a further four having specific reference to South African conditions.

The fourteen questions, then, were administered to 100 randomly selected South Africans. The sampling was limited to South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg, which does in fact have one quarter of the total white population of four million living in and around it. The selection of people was based on random cluster sampling of geographical areas - the method used by all British public opinion polls. where it generally gives very accurate results. Only 100 people were sampled because of the statistical fact that relationships explaining as little as 4% of the variance will still be shown as significant with such numbers. Large numbers are needed only when very small effects are of interest.

The distribution of responses is given below beside each question:

..................................................................................................................Yes.?.No

1. Blacks deserve better than they get under the present Apartheid policy.....47 22 31
2. The blacks should be kept as separate as possible from other races..........22.13 65
3. The granting of wide educational opportunities to the blacks would be a dangerous thing...................................................................................................................9..7..84
4. Many blacks would probably be just as good at doing clerical work as white people are....................................................................................................................90..4....6
5. Blacks generally don't show much inclination to work................................. 39 27 34
6. Blacks have been unfairly discriminated against........................................36 24 40
7. Blacks are not very hygiene-conscious........................................................55 28 17
8. Drunkenness is one of the greatest problems with blacks..........................48 20 32
9. Blacks often get into fights with one-another...............................................74 17.. 9
10. Given the chance, the black will work as hard as the white man................72 11 17
11. It is only because they haven't had the same chance to get an education that blacks can't get work................................................................................................................. 37 14 49
12. Blacks are a kind and gentle people..........................................................28 35 37
13. The blacks are a rather ugly race..............................................................16 16 68
14. We could learn a lot from the way blacks share with one another everything they've got......................................................................................................................59 18 23

We see then some rather surprising things in the distribution of answers given: Everybody knows that the meaning of the Afrikaans word apartheid is "apartness" or "separate development", yet 65% of our South Africans disagreed with the proposition that the blacks should be kept separate. Only 22% agreed. The "Noes" outnumbered the "Yeses" 3 to 1! Since half of all South Africa's blacks live in "white" areas anyhow (5), this result would, however, only be surprising to a non-South-African.

Other surprises are the overwhelming support for black education (Q. 3), the predominant support for reforms in the Apartheid policy (Q. 1), the overwhelming belief in the fitness of blacks for clerical work (Q. 4), the overwhelming belief that blacks are good workers (Q. 10), the emphatic rejection of blacks being ugly (Q. 13) and the large majority believing that whites could learn from the blacks (Q. 14).

Even on the questions without such a clear pro-Black distribution of answers, opinions are fairly evenly split with pro-Black answers still being very common (e.g. Qs. 5, 6, 8, l l and 12). The most anti-black sentiments were the belief that blacks are not very hygeine-conscious (Q. 7) and that they are prone to fighting (Q. 9). The latter answer was often explained by the respondents with reference to inter-tribal fighting which does in fact still seem to happen from time to time.

Given that South African white attitudes seemed to be so similar to the attitudes of whites in other countries, it seemed of interest to compare their average attitude to blacks with the average attitude to blacks in other countries. Since the last ten of the above 14 questions were originally designed for and used in Australia, this was the comparison sought.

To get an average score for attitude to blacks among South Africans, the answers to each item were added up. In the summary above, answers have. for the sake of clarity, been given as simply "Yes" or "No". As administered. however, all questions had five possible points of agreement/disagreement --- from "Strongly Agree" (scored "5") to "Strongly Disagree" (scored "1"). It was then the numbers corresponding to these answers that were added up for the anti-black items. For the pro-black items, "Strongly Agree" was scored "1" and "Strongly Disagree" was scored "5" etc. When the total scores for all types of item are added together we then have a test or "scale" wherein the higher your score, the more anti-black you are. This scale showed an internal reliability (for ten items) of .73. The overall South African mean (and Standard deviation) was 29.74 (4.88).

By comparison, the means observed for the same ten items used on Australian samples (6) have been 28.55 (7.05. 28.63 (7.03) and 30.58 (5.59). These were three doorstep samples of three different suburbs in the Sydney metropolitan area comprising respectively 88, 90 and 68 people. They were, however, all fairly working-class suburbs.

Given that the Australian averages were not as representative as they might be, it would still seem that South Africans are not in fact any more prejudiced than Australians are. Critics may say that this tells us more about Australia than it does about South Africa but while it is true that Australia does have a record of racial discrimination, it is very doubtful if it is any worse than that of Britain or the U.S.A. It was in fact the first British settlers in Tasmania who made the only completely successful attempt at genocide. It may also be noted that Australia was one of the very few countries who took in a relatively large number of German Jewish refugees before World War II.

Another comparison of interest is to compare the present averages with averages from other groups in South Africa. Using a simplified 3, 2, 1 scoring system (for "Yes". or "No"); the South African psychologist, Patrick Heaven (7) has tabulated the mean scores for three groups of South African students -- again using only the last ten items above. He found that Afrikaans University students scored an average of 22.92. English speaking University students scored 15.14 and English-speaking schoolboys averaged 18.85. Breaking down the present results into language groups and using the same scoring system, we have comparable means of 21.13 (S.D. 4.14) for Afrikaners and 19.45 (S.D. 3.63) for the English speakers (8). Thus we see that the attitudes of Afrikaans-speaking students are very similar to the attitudes of Afrikaners generally but English-speaking students are more liberal. English-speaking schoolboys, however, are not noticeably more liberal than their parent population. Even in South Africa, then, at least the English-speaking universities can be looked to as a source of anti-discrimination attitudes.

How is it then that South Africans have such unremarkable racial attitudes but at the same time have such a racially discriminatory government - and a very popular government that gets a large share of the vote at that?

One element in understanding this is the distinction made by Banton (9) between "racism" and "racial discrimination". With the aid of a vast array of historical evidence, Banton points out that racism is a scientific or quasi-scientific theory. It is a systematic belief in black genetic inferiority. Banton questions whether much of the racial antagonisms of modern-day Britain are motivated by such a theory. He feels that they are simply due to the inevitable conflict between different cultures.

We must therefore not be surprised that South Africans can be hard on blacks without at the same time having any systematic conviction of their inferiority. In fact because the South African system keeps blacks "in their place". South Africans might feel more free to be generous in their sentiments towards blacks than members of many English communities would.

We might thus conclude that the situation in South Africa is simply yet another of those only too familiar cases where actions are out of line with attitudes. There are now many books in the psychological literature on the "attitude-action discrepancy" (10).

In a sense, however, the discrepancy on the present occasion is only an apparent one. It is only a discrepancy if we take the simplistic view that actions can only have one cause -- that it must be attitude X which causes action X. Thus one might argue that if John loves Jill then Jill should love John. In our complex world, however, things are more complicated than that. The hard reality often is that Jill will love John not because he loves her but because he dominates her. Instead of love giving rise to love, it may be dominance that gives rise to love. Similarly in South Africa, it is not contempt or dislike of blacks that gives rise to harsh treatment of them but rather some other motive such as fear.

There is now considerable evidence that authoritarian behaviour will be elicited not by authoritarian attitudes (11) but by perceived threat (12). South Africans are hard on blacks not because they despise them but because they fear them. There are no doubt good grounds for such fear. It is doubtful if sanctions and other international pressures will make white South Africans feel less threatened.

------------------------------

1. For example T. F. Pettigrew, "Personality and sociocultural factors in intergroup attitudes: A cross-national comparison". Journal of Conflict Resolution 1958, 2, 29--32. or P. Van den Berghe "Race attitudes in Durban, South Africa". Journal of Social Psychology 1962, 57, 55-72.

2. R. J. Quesnell, H. I. J. Van der Spuy & R. Oxtoby, "Changes in racial prejudice and authoritarianism of white South Africans 1956-1973": Chapter in The psychology of apartheid, by H. I. J. Van der Spuy & D. A. F. Shamley. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1978.

3. Ray, J.J. (1974) Are racists ethnocentric? Ch. 46 in Ray, J.J. Conservatism as heresy Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co.

4. P. C. L. Heaven & A. Moerdyk, "Prejudice revisited: A pilot study using Ray's scale" Journal of Behavioural Science, 1977, 2, 217-220.

5. M. Horrell & T. Hodgson, A survey of race relations in South Africa. Johannesburg: S.A. Institute of Race Relations, 1976, p. 38.

6. Ray, J.J. (1974) Are racists ethnocentric? Ch. 46 in Ray, J.J. Conservatism as heresy Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co. and Ray, J.J. (1976) Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? Human Relations, 29, 307-325.

7. P. C. L. Heaven, "Ray's ethnic attitude scale: A note on its reliability and internal consistency" South African Journal of Sociology. 1978, 18. 32-35.

8. The overall mean with this scoring was 20.06 (4.00). Note however that this scoring reduced the reliability to .65. Maximum reliability is achieved by using all fourteen items scored 5 to 1 -- with the present sample a level of .79. The mean in the same case was 39.19 (6.43).

9. M. Banton, "What do we mean by 'Racism'?' New Society, 10 April 1969.

10. Two papers that might be useful on the topic are: I. Ajzen & M. Fishbein, "Attitude behaviour relations: A theoretical analysis and review of empirical research" Psychological Bulletin, 1977, 84, 888-918, and J. J. Ray, "Ethnocentrism: attitudes and behaviour" Australian Quarterly, 1971, 43, 89-97.

11. Ray, J.J. (1976) Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? Human Relations, 29, 307-325.

12. S. M. Sales, "Authoritarianism" Psychology Today, 1972, 6, 94ff.



POST-PUBLICATION ADDENDUM

Replication is one of the cornerstones of science. A new research result will normally require replication by later researchers before the truth and accuracy of the observation concerned is generally accepted. If a result is to be replicated, however, careful specification of the original research procedure is important.

In questionnaire research it has been my observation that the results are fairly robust as to questionnaire format. It is the content of the question that matters rather than how the question is presented (But see here and here). It is nonetheless obviously desirable for an attempted replication to follow the original procedure as closely as possible so I have given here samples of how I presented my questionnaires in most of the research I did. On all occasions, respondents were asked to circle a number to indicate their response.




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