Aislinn Laing, Telegraph (London), April 5, 2013
A student newspaper at the University of Cape Town has prompted outrage after conducting a poll to determine the “most attractive race”.
The survey of 60 students – 10 each of whom described themselves as white, Indian, East Asian, mixed race, black or “coloured”, was carried out by student Qamran Tabo to go alongside an article she wrote for Varsity newspaper entitled “Is Love Colour Blind?”
It recorded that 38 per cent of students thought whites were the most “attractive” race, followed by coloureds, and Indians. The lowest percentage by race was blacks, with eight per cent of votes.
The poll prompted calls for a full apology from the newspaper. The Young Communist League of South Africa’s UCT branch lodged a complaint with South Africa’s Human Rights Commission, saying the article incited racial division and caused psychological harm to students.
As well as an apology for publishing such “filth”, it called on the university to dedicate a month to a “race relations building” programme among its students.
“The article and its alleged survey were always leading to inculcate a culture of one race being the jewel of all others. It is despicable to read,” it said in a statement.
UCT’s Student Representative Council said greater sensitivity should have been shown to an issue that had “painful historical significance”.
Outside the university, those who voiced their disapproval included the celebrated human rights activist Zackie Achmat, who tweeted that it was “racist nonsense”
Frans Cronje, of the South African Institute of Race Relations, said the survey was not racist.
“Funny how the sometime proponents of free speech change when they don’t like what is said,” he said. “The survey simply reflects what we see in the media and advertising.”
Alexandra Nagel, Varsity’s editor-in-chief, issued a qualified apology to anyone who was offended but stressed that the article and survey was in the paper’s opinion section so should not be taken as fact.
“I am aware of the controversy surrounding the sensitivity of race and I understand that the right to freedom of expression has its limits when used unnecessarily to discriminate against others, slandering religion, race, sexuality,” she said. “However, Varsity feels that the writer was not abusing this right nor had the intention of issuing an attack on individual racial groups, but simply pinpointing a matter that is still affecting the lives of South Africans.”