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Carnegie Commission of Investigation on the Poor White Question in South Africa

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"The Poor White Problem in South Africa: Report of the Carnegie Commission" (1932) was a study of poverty among white South Africans that made recommendations about segregation that some have argued would later serve as a blueprint for Apartheid.[1] The report was funded and published by the Carnegie Corporation.

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White South Africans

White South Africans

White South Africans generally refers to South Africans of European descent. In linguistic, cultural, and historical terms, they are generally divided into the Afrikaans-speaking descendants of the Dutch East India Company's original settlers, known as Afrikaners, and the Anglophone descendants of predominantly British colonists of South Africa. In 2016, 57.9% were native Afrikaans speakers, 40.2% were native English speakers, and 1.9% spoke another language as their mother tongue, such as Portuguese, Greek, or German. White South Africans are by far the largest population of White Africans. White was a legally defined racial classification during apartheid.

Racial segregation

Racial segregation

Racial segregation is the systematic separation of people into racial or other ethnic groups in daily life. Racial segregation can amount to the international crime of apartheid and a crime against humanity under the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Segregation can involve the spatial separation of the races, and mandatory use of different institutions, such as schools and hospitals by people of different races. Specifically, it may be applied to activities such as eating in restaurants, drinking from water fountains, using public toilets, attending schools, going to films, riding buses, renting or purchasing homes or renting hotel rooms. In addition, segregation often allows close contact between members of different racial or ethnic groups in hierarchical situations, such as allowing a person of one race to work as a servant for a member of another race.

Apartheid

Apartheid

Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa from 1948 to the early 1990s. Apartheid was characterised by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap, which ensured that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation's minority white population. According to this system of social stratification, white citizens had the highest status, followed by Indians and Coloureds, then black Africans. The economic legacy and social effects of apartheid continue to the present day.

Background

Before the study, white poverty had long been the subject of debate in South Africa, and poor whites the subject of church, scholarly and state attention. White poverty became a social problem in the early 1900s, when many whites were dispossessed of land as a result of the South African War, especially in the Cape and Transvaal. It was not uncommon to find whites who were driven into wage labour managing a lifestyle similar to that of Bantu wage labourers. As white proletarianisation proceeded and racial integration began to emerge as an urban phenomenon, white poverty attracted attention and concern. In the 1870s, for example, a colonial visitor to Grahamstown wrote that "miscellaneous herds of whites and blacks lived together in the most promiscuous manner imaginable."[2]

According to one memorandum sent to Frederick Keppel, then president of Carnegie, there was "little doubt that if the Bantu were given full economic opportunity, the more competent among them would soon outstrip the less competent whites".[3] Keppel's support for the project of creating the report was motivated by his concern with the maintenance of existing racial boundaries.[3] The preoccupation of the Carnegie Corporation with the so-called poor white problem in South Africa was at least in part the outcome of similar misgivings about the state of poor whites in the American South.[3]

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Second Boer War

Second Boer War

The Second Boer War, also known as the Boer War, the Anglo–Boer War, or the South African War, was a conflict fought between the British Empire and the two Boer Republics over the Empire's influence in Southern Africa from 1899 to 1902. Following the discovery of gold deposits in the Boer republics, there was a large influx of "foreigners", mostly British from the Cape Colony. They were not permitted to have a vote, and were regarded as "unwelcome visitors", invaders, and they protested to the British authorities in the Cape. Negotiations failed and, in the opening stages of the war, the Boers launched successful attacks against British outposts before being pushed back by imperial reinforcements. Though the British swiftly occupied the Boer republics, numerous Boers refused to accept defeat and engaged in guerrilla warfare. Eventually, British scorched earth policies, and the poor conditions suffered in concentration camps by Boer women and children who had been displaced by these policies, brought the remaining Boer guerillas to the negotiating table, ending the war.

Cape Colony

Cape Colony

The Cape Colony, also known as the Cape of Good Hope, was a British colony in present-day South Africa named after the Cape of Good Hope, which existed from 1795 to 1802, and again from 1806 to 1910, when it united with three other colonies to form the Union of South Africa.

Transvaal Colony

Transvaal Colony

The Transvaal Colony was the name used to refer to the Transvaal region during the period of direct British rule and military occupation between the end of the Second Boer War in 1902 when the South African Republic was dissolved, and the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The borders of the Transvaal Colony were larger than the defeated South African Republic. In 1910 the entire territory became the Transvaal Province of the Union of South Africa.

Frederick Paul Keppel

Frederick Paul Keppel

Frederick Paul Keppel was an American educator and executive in the field of philanthropy. In education he served as dean of Columbia College, in government he served as Third Assistant Secretary of War, and in philanthropy he served as president of the Carnegie Corporation.

The report

The commission report encompassed five volumes that dealt, in turn, with the economic, psychological, educational, health, and sociological facets of the "poor white" phenomenon.

At the turn of the century white Americans and whites elsewhere in the world felt uneasy because poverty and economic depression seemed to strike people regardless of race.[4] White poverty contradicted notions of racial superiority and hence it became the focus of "scientific" study. The report recommended that "employment sanctuaries" be established for poor white workers and that poor white workers should replace "native" black workers in most skilled aspects of the economy.[5] The authors of the report suggested that unless something was done to help poor whites racial deterioration and miscegenation would be the outcome.[3]

Although the ground work for Apartheid began earlier, the report provided support for the idea that the maintenance of white superiority would require support from social institutions. This was the justification for the segregation, and discrimination[6] of the following decades.[5] The report expressed fear about the loss of white racial pride, and in particular pointed to the danger that the poor white would not be able to resist the process of "Bantu-isation."[3] In seeking to prevent a class-based movement that would unite the poor across racial lines the report sought to heighten race as opposed to class differences as the significant social category.[4]

Impact

The findings of the report helped bolster support for segregation and strict limits and laws for black South Africans. The hope was that the program of segregation would help poor whites, by giving them institutional assistance, and thus prevent race-mixing and maintain racial purity and economic power. Because of the "poor white problem" institutional racism in South Africa would differ from institutional racism in other parts of the world where scientific racism, which supposed intrinsic racial differences, played a more prominent role (many white Afrikaners have multi-racial ancestors).

Although scientific racism played a role in justifying and supporting institutional racism in South Africa, it was not as important in South Africa as it has been in Europe and the United States. This was due, in part to the "poor white problem", described by the report. The report raised serious questions for supremacists about white racial superiority.[7] Since poor whites were found to be in the same situation as Bantu in the African environment, the idea that intrinsic white superiority could overcome any environment did not seem to hold. As such, "scientific" justifications for racism were not as widely used in South Africa as they were in other parts of the world.[7]

Source: "Carnegie Commission of Investigation on the Poor White Question in South Africa", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, November 25th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_Commission_of_Investigation_on_the_Poor_White_Question_in_South_Africa.

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References
  1. ^ "First Inquiry Into Poverty". Carnegie Corporation Oral History Project. Columbia University Libraries. 2006.
  2. ^ Roos, Neil (2003). "The Second World War, the Army Education Scheme and the 'Discipline' of the White Poor in South Africa". History of Education: Journal of the History of Education Society. 32 (6): 645–659. doi:10.1080/0046760032000151474. S2CID 145424883.
  3. ^ a b c d e Füredi, Frank (1998). The Silent War: Imperialism and the Changing Perception of Race. New Brunswich, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0-8135-2612-4.
  4. ^ a b Slater, David; Taylor, Peter James (1999). The American Century: Consensus and Coercion in the Projection of American Power. Wiley. p. 290. ISBN 0-631-21222-1.
  5. ^ a b Stoler, Ann Laura, ed. (2006). Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History. Duke University Press. p. 66. ISBN 0-8223-3724-X.
  6. ^ Verbeek, Jennifer (1986). "Racially segregated school libraries in KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa". Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. 18 (1): 23–46. doi:10.1177/096100068601800102. S2CID 62204622.
  7. ^ a b Dubow, Saul (1995). Scientific Racism in Modern South Africa. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47907-X.

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