Whites are less likely to remember the oppressive nature of apartheid than other citizens, according to the 2014 SA Reconciliation Barometer released on Wednesday.
Only 53% of whites who took part in the survey agreed with the statement that apartheid was a crime against humanity.
This was compared to 80% of blacks, 77% of Indians, and 70% of coloured citizens who agreed with the statement.
Whites were half as likely as black South Africans to agree with redressing the injustice of the past.
The barometer, published by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), looked at 10 years of data collected between 2003 and 2013.
The report was titled “Reflecting on Reconciliation: Lessons from the Past, Prospects for the Future”.
It was found that in 2003, 86.5% of South Africans agreed that apartheid was an inhumane crime compared to 76.4% today.
Data was collected during face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample across all provinces. The 2013 sample was around 1989 metro inhabitants and 1601 non-metro inhabitants.
According to the report remembering the oppressive nature of apartheid encouraged citizens to be aware of its legacy and allow for transformation, rather than reproducing unequal relationships.
The barometer’s project leader Dr Kim Wale said the findings perhaps spoke to how history was being taught and that there was a real need to engage white South Africans on what their whiteness meant in relation to the lived experiences of other races.
IJR director Fanie du Toit said the barometer was not “anti-white” but anti-racist.
“Racism is an illness that can destroy a society. We can’t afford it in South Africa.”
Asked about how the findings related to a seemingly increased trend of racial attacks in Cape Town, Du Toit said one needed to look at how representative the attacks were of the general mindset of the white population.
“One way to look at it is that the bigger interracial contact is smoking out the racists. It is exposing people who have not adopted [this trend] and it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold onto,” he said.
“That is not to say that this is exceptionalism.”