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Bernard Magubanes The Making of a Racist State Revisited: 20 Years On

Journal of Black Studies

Published online on


The year 2016 not only marks the 20th anniversary of Bernard Magubane’s classic book in historical sociology, The Making of a Racist State: British Imperialism and the Union of South Africa, 1875-1910, but it is also a year in which White South Africans engaged in racial bigotry on social media. A number of commentators, together with South African politicians, have argued that racism in South Africa should be "criminalized." This review essay argues that such an approach is not only ahistorical but that it also mistakes the unessential for the essential. In particular, the review essay conducts a close reading of Magubane’s book in an effort to gain insights on how best to understand racism.