Many South African whites have strong opinions about how they are regarded by the blacks who form the vast majority of the population. But they are often astonishingly wide of the mark.
Even the security police, who employ strings of informers to monitor black thinking and to watch for signs of "trouble," seem to fail miserably time and again.
But now a professor of economics at the University of Cape Town, Prof. J. D. Simpson, has compiled a report on the attitudes of representative urban blacks. It emphasizes how deeply blacks and whites are divided, and the hostility that appears to be growing toward whites.
According to the survey, blacks are deeply suspicious of white motives, even when the whites appear to be doing something in the interests of the blacks.
They also believe that whites have an "inborn hatred" of blacks, and that whites consistently desire to dominate blacks and be "superior."
One man said: "The whites try to maintain superiority even when they are stupid."
Curiously, the blacks interviewed preferred the Afrikaners to the English-speakers, whom they regarded as often more polite but "insincere." The Afrikaners (those of European, especially Dutch, ancestry) were more openly hostile, said the blacks, and consequently easier to deal with.
The blacks also tended to lump all whites together as essentially "cold" in their personal relationships -- even with other whites. They commented on how seldom whites actually laughed -- in contrast to the hearty laughter of "friendly" blacks.
The blacks also said they were appalled at the whites' bad manners, especially by the "disrespectful" way they treated old people.
If there is comfort in the survey for whites, it is that the blacks apparently regard violence as "futile" as a means for advancing their position. Nor do they wish to integrate with the whites.
Said a representative black: "We should live like them, not with them. We are not interested in living with them. We do not like them, and we are bitter about the way they treat us."
The blacks are bitter about the standard of black education, and time after time emphasized that this had to be improved if blacks are to be able to make any worthwhile advance.
Without a good education, they do not believe they will be able to compete for better jobs against whites, improve their economic and social position, or gain an effective political voice.
Blacks also appear to be yearning for a strong leader. And they are angry that potential leaders are in jail, or "banned," or in exile.
Because of the way they are treated, the blacks associate capitalism with "selfishness, greed, and exploitation," the survey finds. "Free enterprise" was something that "does not affect me, because I am black."
And a communist "is a real Christian. Because everybody should be equal."
Meanwhile, the urban black is "very cynical" about talk of "changes" to the South Africa system of apartheid, which enforces economic, social, and political segregation.
At best, as one man said, "The government is giving us half a loaf. I would rather have no bread. And I want to see a change in my lifetime, not when I am dead."