The reproduction of racism in the private recruitment industry.
"But you've got to make sure you communicate in the right way [laughs] so that no one else knows what you're talking about. [Laughing]" (Interview I) The study examines the rhetoric of 'racial' exclusion used by South African private recruitment consultants to justify racist practice, criticise employment equity and deny racism. The dilemmatic nature of clients racially based requests is understood in a context that socially and legally forbids "unfair discrimination" and racist practice. The reader is provided with an overview of the legislation as it pertains to recruitment and the psychological study of 'race' in order to locate this study within its historical context. An historical context of segregation and resistance to changes in employment practices. We examine how South African psychology has investigated 'race' and racism - past and present. Psychology has traditionally explained 'white' resistance to transformation in terms of 'racial' prejudice. These attitudinal approaches fail to explicate the role of language in the reproduction and conservation of these historical patterns. By providing the reader with an historical overview "interpretative connections" (Wetherell and Potter, 1992) will be established that assist in the analysis of the text. Transcribed interviews with nine private recruitment consultants in two urban centres in South Africa serve as textual evidence. The analysis demonstrates the rhetorical strategies employed by consultants in their conversations, discussions, negotiations, criticism and justification of the conservation of historical employment patterns. Private recruitment consultants engage in a number of rhetorical manoeuvres that appeal to 'white' norms and construct' black' as a requirement and deficient. The construction of' white' and' black' serves as a platform for justifying the historically established 'racial' hierarchy and conserving 'racial' privilege. Consultants construct their practice as a 'reasonable' response to clients' blatant 'racially' based requests for candidates. This is done by splitting racism into 'reasonable' and 'unreasonable' racism. 'Unreasonable' racism is defined as explicit I blatant acts that are located externally and in the past. This splitting functions to distance recruitment consultants from the racist practices of their clients and to counter potential accusations of racism. Their arguments function ideologically to defend the historical status quo in employment and criticise social transformation in South Africa. The study concludes with recommendations for the private recruitment industry in South Africa and suggests future areas of study using a discursive approach. The analysis highlights the need for external auditing of the private recruitment agencies to ensure the enactment and successful implementation of the Employment Equity Act of 1998 and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000. Furthermore, more detailed analysis of the object of racism, namely the construction of 'whiteness', could be useful in understanding resistance to transformation in the private sector and the (re)production of racism.
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