Why Chris Hart got an easy ride
Eusebius McKaiser welcomes economist Chris Hart, who came under public scrutiny after a “racist” tweet, to the world of black bodies.
Thoughts on Chris Hart’s qualifications: So Drum magazine somehow obtained Chris Hart’s academic transcript. The results are really poor.
Now let me say a few things I had mulled over about this:
1. I personally do not care for people’s academic transcripts WHOLLY. What I mean is that I can and do allow for exceptions: someone like Pallo Jordan is academically and intellectually brilliant and has no degree.
And I’ve met folks with degrees from world class institutions, people that I’ve personally regarded as pedestrian – many at best having baseline knowledge in their majors but little evidence of enviable excellence.
But of course academic qualifications do matter as they give us a sense of what you’ve successfully completed.
And what baseline knowledge and skills we can assume you have.
I want my doctor to be academically certified. And I want my liberal arts teachers to have enviable academic credentials.
Even then I resist academic snobbery: With our history, it would be deeply unjust and just empirically false to think that academic transcripts are the final arbiter of brain power.
Given the history of colonial and apartheid education and the lack of opportunities for black people in particular, we have an ethical obligation to test academic and intellectual acumen and competency through means that are faithful to this historic exclusion (an obligation that should NOT lazily be misread as a demand to “drop standards”).
So, given all of this, I did not rush back to social media when I heard that Chris Hart had his academic transcript revealed.
And as we know I know what it is like to be trolled about your qualifications – despite three degrees with distinction.
So I was inclined to be sympathetic specifically on this transcript issue.
BUT… 2.My goodness. Having now caught up with the FACTS, I am flabbergasted that he has had a full career and indeed been referred to as “renowned” and “well respected”.
3. There is no doubt in my mind that Chris was never doubted, professionally, in large part because serious-looking straight middle-aged white men in suits are the look of competence in our world.
4. I have no doubt that networks open to Chris could ensure that he gain “experience” despite his academic woes.
5. I have no doubt that it is extremely unlikely that a woman or a black person with these grades would ever be employed by one of the top banks on the continent in such a senior and strategically important position.
In other words, Chris was allowed to be mediocre. Because in our society that’s enough to get by if you’re a white man.
If you’re black – even with three degrees each one with distinction and a list of other achievements on your CV – you still wake up to a world that doubts your excellence.
I am sure Chris feels like the last few days have been rough.
And that’s because Chris doesn’t know what it is like for life to be rough, daily.
He doesn’t know what it’s like to walk into a lecture theatre and students assume you’re unqualified. He doesn’t know what it is like to be told you can’t be Chief Economist unless you have a Master’s degree in Economics plus 10 years of work experience.
He doesn’t know what it is like to fear being busted even though you have obtained that Master’s degree anyway.
Because Chris doesn’t go through the world feeling like an impostor.
He doesn’t know what it is like to be mocked because you can’t say “epitome” even though you understand the meaning of the word.
And so all that is going on in the world of Chris Hart right now will feel unfair and unnatural. Because a white male body isn’t a regular subject of public scrutiny.
Chris, welcome to the world of black bodies. May I call you Jabu?
* Eusebius McKaiser is the best-selling author of A Bantu In My Bathroom and Could I Vote DA? A Voter’s Dilemma. His new book - Run, Racist, Run: Journeys Into The Heart Of Racism - is now available nationwide, and online through Amazon.
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