From Biological Hierarchy to Cultural Diversity



A white South African, sitting down to breakfast at the end of the 1980s, might have come across an ‘educational’ comic strip entitled ‘Did You Know?’ on the back of his or her cornflakes packet which explained to a white audience the peculiarities of black behaviour. ‘Kelloggs believe that “to know more is to understand more” — especially when it comes to other languages, cultures and customs’, ran the explanatory tag. ‘Hence the “Did you know?” series… a lighthearted but hopefully helpful bridge of communication and understanding’. One cartoon strip shows a white man greeting his black servant. ‘Why does she look away whenever I greet her?’, he wonders. Kelloggs provides the explanation: ‘Traditionally, the senior person greets first. And, in black cultures, it is often a sign of respect to avoid eye contact and not raise one’s voice when talking to one’s senior.’


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© Kenan Malik 1996

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