Another year, another showing of racism in our fair country, South Africa and yet another series of instances that have left me feeling revolted, annoyed but above all, disappointed. By what, you might wonder? Here, let me tell you…
I was revolted by the vile comments that several S.A. social media users posted several days ago and by the racially charged and violent online responses that followed. Because then, instead of it just being a ‘white problem’, it automatically became a black one too.
With what I am about to write, I risk being villified or judged as holier-than-thou but really, since when did fighting fire with fire help anyone?
Just for the record, I cannot believe that either racial group was ‘right’ or justified in their words and ways… I strongly feel that both have been disgraced and are equally guilty in this regard. Sorry but there is really no right or wrong here… Everyone was just grossly wrong, full stop – and now, thanks to a few individuals, our country and its people have once again been played for a nation of hateful, thoughtless fools.
Something else worth considering at this time might be the following: that it is not necessarily about who starts it… Instead, it might just be about who has the strength of character and wisdom to end it.
Personally, I think Former President Nelson Mandela understood that better than most… Remember him, anyone? Spent 27 years in prison, practically stopped a civil war in its tracks upon his release, was famous for his spirit of forgiveness and astounding lack of bitterness… oh, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize and later became a global icon and sterling example to all… But yeah, what’s there to really take from a South African citizen like that, eh?
Furthermore, I was annoyed because not only was it once again our seemingly favourite ‘white vs black’ scenario, worse still for me was the fact that it came at a time when we are supposed to at least show some kind of goodwill towards our fellow humans and try be a little bit better than we were the year before… Congratulations to everyone who has already failed most richly on that score… Way to start the New Year, people!
Finally, I was disappointed by (and indeed in) my fellow South Africans and let’s face it, humanity as a whole because honestly, it’s all getting pretty stale now, all these racial slurs and racial groupings. Though I must say, the full scope of vileness and intense hatred we hold for one another, founded primarily on the colour of our damned skin and little more than that, never ceases to shock and horrify me.
Still, you’d think that by now, nearly twenty-two years on from Apartheid (that colossal, permanent stain upon our nation… anyone still remember that?), we would know better… or at least have the basic common decency and nobility of spirit to at least pretend that we do – but clearly, we don’t. We’re a nation of false pretenders… but not when it truly counts. Though honestly, it would be nice if we didn’t have to pretend to accept or like each other too…
I was utterly sickened and infuriated when I first heard on TV and later, on the radio, what the now-infamous (and rightly so) Kwa-Zulu Natal estate agent, Penny Sparrow, had to say about black beachgoers on Facebook.
Her comments (and indeed those of other social media users both around that same time and afterwards) were as unthinkable, demeaning and repulsive as possible and again, came at a time when our country least needed that kind of animosity and vileness to spew forth.
Certainly, #Sparrowgate was another failure on the part of S.A. whites but here’s the thing, contary to popular belief, white South African are not all racist, not by a long shot, so please, don’t paint me with the same tainted brush you will now use for Ms Sparrow and all other racist whites from this day forward.
As I have said before, I am ashamed to be placed in the same racial grouping as someone like that because truthfully, no one makes racial comments or uses racial slurs by accident.
There’s no ‘whoops’ moment she or anyone else who uses racial slurs or shamefully passes racial comments can employ in defence of their speech, conduct or even online behaviour. You don’t ‘accidentally’ use the hateful ‘K’ word anymore than you ‘accidentally’ call someone a racist white bastard…
We are all too well-aware of what we really mean or think in relation to others, of the hidden malice and contempt contained behind these carefully uttered phrases and above all, we all know exactly what we are saying (or even intentionally ‘not saying’) when we use any kind of racial term. You don’t ‘accidentally’ type out a 140-character tweet about another racial grouping anymore than you unthinkingly use a forbidden deroggatory term for another human or ethnic group.
So what’s the point in deleting a tweet, apologising for a Facebook post or trying to make amends on behalf of someone caught red-handed or left red-faced when that user was perfectly conscious of their words and the effect they could have at the time of their inception?
Because, unless mind-altering gremlins hijacked Ms Sparrow’s consciousness at the precise moment when she made those comments, then we must assume that she was perfectly in control of her capacity to think (though very clearly, she did not) before acting or ‘talking’, so to speak, and as such, she was and still is wholly responsible for what she ‘said’ there because she knew exactly the kind of reaction it would create and I’m inclined to think that it was thus a purely intentional act on her part, with the obvious desire to stir the already angrily bubbling cauldron that is South Africa at this present moment in time.
It was inexcusable – as was every single racist word or statement that followed in its wake, including the utterly hateful comments Mr Velaphi Khumalo (who, at that time, was being employed as a sports promotion officer by the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation) made on his own Facebook profile, which I later read about in the Cape Times.
Perhaps obviously, these were targeted at white South Africans… The less said about his comments the better, though I will mention the fact that he said he wanted to “cleanse this country of all white people,” Nazi genocide-style.
What are we to take from this sorry state of affairs other than that they were yet another exhausting and appalling showing of ‘white vs black’ warring?
Well, for starters, I feel it is safe to say that for once both whites and blacks (and every other racial grouping involved) were in the wrong and equally racist…
For me, it also shows that none of us actually know better, which is a truly sad reflection upon our country and its rainbow residents.
Nevertheless, I feel it would be insulting of me to suggest that Mr Khumalo – and everyone else who lashed out after #Sparrowgate, irrespective of their skin colour – should have simply turned the other cheek or held their peace because I know that if the shoe had been on the other foot and it was Mr Khumalo who had in fact sinned first as Ms Sparrow did, there would have been a similar outpouring of anger and vicious retorts from the nation, led, no doubt, by its white occupants. (Though, just so we’re clear here, many South Africans were frothing at the mouth following Ms Sparrow’s comments and they weren’t all so-called ‘people of colour’ either.)
So I won’t bother to imply that he should have been the bigger person (though it would certainly have earned him my deep respect alone) and rather said something just as impactful but far less damaging both to himself and our country in general like: “I don’t believe that every white in South Africa is racist but it is a shame that there are still Penny Sparrows to be found.”
In my opinion, it would have sent out a far stronger and greatly needed message and shown that just because someone can make a hurtful, hateful and unmistakably racist comment even in this day and age, not all of us will be drawn into that same racist trap or will repeat the mistakes of our forefathers.
The fact that social media is giving more people a voice, especially with internet access growing and spreading even to South Africa’s most nether reaches, is not necessarily a bad thing and yes, we should all have the right to freedom of speech… but nothing gives anyone the right to incite hatred or sow discourse among our people or to use hate speech. Absolutely nothing. Not ever.
If you do, on your head be it… and you probably deserve whatever comes your way as a result of it, be it nation-wide condemnation and outrage or the stripping of every inch of your social standing, career achievements/prospects and above all, your previously held respect.
Here’s the thing that really gets to me about this type of trouble though… It’s not just going to reflect negatively on you or make an impact on your personal life, it affects the people around you too (most especially, anyone associated with you) – including every single citizen of the Republic of South Africa.
Oh, and here’s my final parting sentiment on this latest, utterly deplorable racial broil… Don’t post racist comments on social media… better still though, don’t think them at all because even if we only occasionally entertain a racist thought in the inner chambers of our minds or utter a mild, only vaguely racial comment (and completely ‘by accident’ at that… yeah, riiight!) among a group of friends at a relaxed social gathering, we are just as guilty as Ms Sparrow and Mr Khumalo, even if we’re the only ones who ever know it.
Above all though, remember this: racism – much like fire – cannot be fought with more of the same so let’s be bigger than those racists going forwards and refuse to stoop to their impossibly low and shameful level(s).
Many thanks to the Cape Times (January 8, 2016) and Quinton Mtyala for the additonal facts and partial quote used in this post.
[Please note: All opinions and views expressed herein are entirely my own and do not reflect upon any person or institution other than myself. Thank you.]
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