Using CMM (the co-ordinated management of meaning approach), this article investigates differences between white and black first-year students’ interpretations of personal experiences of racism, emphasising the degree to which respondents construct these as linked to past systems of oppression, specifically apartheid. In the narratives thus collected, students racialised as white focus on encounters with restitution, while black respondents relate personal, face-to-face confrontations with racism in public spaces. In the themes that emerged from participants’ reflections on factors such as the motives/causes of prejudicial treatment, white respondents construct restitution as institutionally-sanctioned racism. Black participants link perpetrators’ motives directly to apartheid, but concurrently resist interpreting these as symptoms of a pervasive culture of racism among whites. Examining the results for correlations with Steyn and Foster’s (2008) work on white talk among much older white journalists, suggests that the discursive repertoires that mark these discourses impact the efforts of both white and black students (born in or shortly before 1994) to negotiate their experiences. As such, the findings offer insights into some of the prevailing beliefs that circulate in the sample under study, and are liable to affect efforts at social cohesion in a country where university spaces are considered as increasingly telling barometers of transformation (Soudien 2010).


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pp. 81-105
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